Nine Finalists Vie to Be Named One of Three Grand Prize Winners

ARLINGTON, VA — May 4, 2010 — The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced today nine finalists in FMI’s 11th annual Store Manager Awards competition. Three grand prize winners will be selected from the finalists and announced at FMI 2010 on Wednesday, May 12, 2010, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV.

     “Store managers are responsible for enhancing business operations and providing excellent customer service. This important award recognizes those truly outstanding leaders who train and mentor their associates, are actively involved in their communities and are connected to their customers,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, FMI president and chief executive officer.   

The finalists were selected based on their ability to develop programs that created positive growth and customer satisfaction in their stores during the past 12 to 18 months. The finalists were also recognized for:   

  • Leading, mentoring and motivating store associates

  • Demonstrating a balance between people skills and operations skills

  • Communicating company goals and store milestones to associates

  • Improving the financial performance of the store

One grand prize winner will be chosen from each of three categories by size of the company: Category A (1-49 stores); Category B (50-199 stores); and Category C (200 or more stores). The list of finalists:

Category A:

  • Michael MacRae, store manager at Byerly’s in Eagan, MN

  • Dave McCleery, store director at Russ’s Market in Lincoln, NE

  • Jeremy Ruppel, store director at Niemann Foods, Inc. in Dixon, IL

Category B:

  • Sharon Boyett, store director at Brookshire Grocery Co. in Monroe, LA

  • Phyllis Scott, store manager at Food City in Vansant, VA

  • Ed White, store director at Raley’s in Elk Grove, CA

Category C:

  • Jamie Franck, store director at Hy-Vee, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA

  • Walt Leonard, store manager at a Publix Super Market in Smyrna, GA

  • Molly Stiles, store manager at The Kroger Company in Farragut, TN

Finalists were selected based on stories submitted from their supervisors or store associates. The entries were judged on originality and creativity and the person’s impact on sales growth, customer satisfaction and community service.

     All nine finalists will receive two complimentary registrations for FMI 2010, three nights of hotel accommodations in Las Vegas and an engraved award. The three grand prize winners will each receive a $1,000 check.

The 2009 grand prize winners were Bob Gillick, ShopRite Supermarket, Yonkers, NY; Henry Falcon, Sweetbay Supermarket, Plant City, FL; and Jeff Barricks, Safeway, Corvallis, OR.

More detailed information on the nine finalists for the FMI Store Manager Awards follows:

Category A

Michael MacRae is the store manager at Byerly’s in Eagan, MN. He is recognized for fostering an environment of learning and professional development within his store. MacRae coaches his managers during weekly one-on-one meetings. He is known for his respectful communication, personal involvement and his self-deprecating sense of humor. He encourages creativity and publicly recognizes employee success. MacRae’s team often surpasses company-wide sales goals. During a popular rotisserie chicken promotion, he worked to make his entire team aware of the promotion and let them develop different ways to let customers know about the deal. As a result, MacRae’s store was able to consistently achieve 400-425% unit sales lift on the chicken sale. His store helps the community in many different ways including providing free diabetes and cholesterol screenings in the store, sponsoring a local art festival, and helping local charity organizations, including Second Harvest, raise needed funds.

Dave McCleery is the store director of Russ’s Market in Lincoln, NE. His can-do attitude and his passion for the grocery business have earned him the respect and trust of his associates and customers. McCleery is a relationship builder who takes an interest in his team and his community. His store supports the Food Bank BackPack Program. They help fill more than 2,000 backpacks each week with nutritious foods for children who rely on the school breakfast and lunch program for their most nutritious meals of the day. Russ’s Market also supports Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters and other community organizations through in-store activities and fundraisers. His team conducts many special events throughout the year to promote sales including a Julia Child look-a-like contest and cooking demonstration and a petting zoo and Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest in the parking lot as part of a kid’s neighborhood festival. McCleery increased sales at his location 11.6 percent during the past two years. One of his greatest achievements came during Super Bowl Week 2010 when his team set an all-time weekly sales record through effective in-store promotions in every department. They broke the previous record by $40,000 — which had been in place for the past 48 years.

Jeremy Ruppel, store director at Niemann Foods, Inc. in Dixon, IL. He is nominated for recognizing the importance of team unity by implementing team building exercises, programs and appreciation days to inspire his store associates. Ruppel’s store was voted the best grocery store in the Sauk Valley by the local newspaper. Under his leadership, his store improved bottom line profits by more than 33 percent. Store sales are up more than 15 percent and customer count has increased 18 percent during Ruppel’s two years as manager. He has endeared his store with the community by offering events such as Customer Appreciation Breakfasts, Halloween Parades, and an early morning coffee club with Bingo every week at the store. The store has raised money on behalf of many local charities through special events such as a car show, holiday gift-wrapping, Hope Bags of groceries and weekly cookouts for different organizations at the store.   

Category B

Sharon Boyett is the store director at Brookshire Grocery Co. in Monroe, LA. She is nominated for motivating employees and empowering them to be successful. Boyett uses contests to improve team performance, award employees and create a fun work environment. She is known to publicly praise her staff, who describe her as firm but fair. She conducts monthly classes for her team that focus on a particular product in the store to educate everyone about items from different departments. Despite the economy, Boyett’s store continues to show sales growth, finishing fiscal year 2009 with a 2.44 percent increase over 2008 while reducing labor expenses. She uses theme events throughout the store to increase sales including a tailgate demonstration day and Friday night wine and deli pairings. Boyett’s team is active in several charitable organizations including answering phones for the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon, providing snacks for the Adopt a School Program and sending care packages to troops in Iraq.

Phyllis Scott is the store manager of the Food City store in Vansant, VA. Scott has worked for Food City for 45 years, the past 27 years at her current store. She is recognized for her commitment to her team and her community. She manages the most profitable store in the company and is a leader in gross profit performance due to her innovative and creative merchandising strategies. Her store’s proximity to a local coal mine inspired Scott to begin serving breakfast at her store to three shifts of miners. As a result she was able to increase her bakery/deli distribution by more than 12 percent. Scott is described as a great leader throughout the community and assists many different organizations. Her leadership was on display during the snowstorm that buried parts of Virginia in December 2009. Scott and her team were able to keep the store open by generator power when most of the county had lost power. Her team served thousands of meals to area residents and emergency workers for several days by keeping their café and catering facilities open during the storm and through Christmas.

Ed White is the store director at Raley’s in Elk Grove, CA.   He is nominated for being a leader in customer and employee relations. White considers communication the key to success in the workplace and in his community. He walks every department on a daily basis and acknowledges his team’s performance. White challenges his management team to be “better than yesterday” and encourages them to have a sense of ownership in the success of their store. He has increased the store’s net margin, reduced labor costs and reduced shrink in the past year. White and his team promote sales at Raley’s by hosting a weekly wine tasting paired with fine foods available in the deli and bakery and many other special events. He demonstrates his strong commitment to helping the local community whether it is manning the grill at the opening day of Little League or organizing his staff to adopt residents of a local halfway house during the holidays. During his 41 years at Raley’s, White has exhibited a leadership style that inspires those around him.

Category C

Jamie Franck is the store director at Hy-Vee, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA. Franck is recognized for his leadership at the store and in the community. He has been described as a walking training manual for leadership. He is known for his ability to make operational decisions quickly. Franck spends a lot of time mentoring and training his employees and empowers them to be creative and smart operators. Sales at his store have increased 33 percent in four years and it consistently ranks as one of the top gross profit margin stores in the company. Promoting health and wellness is one of his passions. He was instrumental in organizing Food, Fitness and Fun, a major health event in Cedar Rapids. More than 3,000 people attended the event to learn more about healthy eating and exercise. He is active with several community organizations including Habitat for Humanity and the Kirkwood Community College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Program. Franck’s store has raised more than $58,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in the last four years.

Walt Leonard is the store manager at Publix Super Markets, Inc. in Smyrna, GA. He is nominated for the relationships he has built with his associates and customers during his 30 year career with Publix. Many have praised him for leading by example in his store and in his community. Leonard participates in the Publix Mentor Program and is proud to help his associates grow. He holds daily huddle meetings, weekly coaches meetings and quarterly store meetings. Under his leadership, his store has increased gross and net profit, as well as increased items per labor hour. Leonard has also established great relationships within his community and supports many local organizations. He has been a long-time supporter of the U.S. 10K Classic, which supports The World Children’s Center. His team provides equipment, food and fun family games to supply the Family Festival associated with the race. He is also actively involved in the United Way, serving on the Atlanta division planning team. Leonard’s store has raised more than $250,000 for the United Way over the past 15 years.

Molly Stiles is the store manager of The Kroger Company store in Farragut, TN. She is recognized for the impact her leadership has on her store and in the community. Stiles believes that supporting grassroots organizations is key to becoming the center of the community. Managers from her store teach marketing and business classes in the local schools. Her store also supports United Way, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, American Red Cross and other organizations in her community. Her goal within her store is to keep her team learning, having fun and working together to take care of customers. Stiles holds daily meetings with her team leaders to solve problems and identify opportunities throughout the store. Her store has assisted three other new stores in training associates in leadership, merchandising and team building standards and expectations. Under Stiles’ leadership, the Farragut, TN Kroger achieved double digit sales growth and reduced shrink.