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Big news came to the area when it was announced that Gino Palummo had left his position at Key Food to accept the role as President for Nebraskaland. As many of you know, Gino was an integral part of the executive team at Key Food, which under the leadership of CEO Dean Janeway, has been changing the retail banner landscape in Metro NY with the addition of more than 50 new Key Food stores over the last three years. Gino had been lured to Key Food from Porky Products by Janeway and fulfilled all expectations of helping open doors and dialogue to a significant number of independent retailers that he had come to know through his years of experience in the meat industry. And, while it came as a surprise to many that he was leaving Key Food, Gino would always tell anyone that his first love has always been the meat business. Since his days as a youth (or “yut” as Joe Pesci would say) in his Dad’s shop, Gino proved to be a consummate salesman for meat, fish and proteins and Nebraskaland CEO Richard Romanoff recognized that. Good luck in the new spot, Gino.

The Kings Food Market renovations got back under way a couple of weeks ago after taking a break for the holidays with the unveiling of their Midland Park, NJ store. While it didn’t seem as though the unit really needed overhauling, the end result was once again spectacular. The familiar new Kings additions were in place (mezze, soup and olive bars and spectacular produce/floral department) but this store seemed to raise the bar even more with an all-new meat section and a dedicated global foods section, too. The store will be managed by Dave Mesa and, as is customary at Kings openings, CEO Judy Spires and COO Rich Durante made a donation to a local charity to help in the battle against hunger. This time the recipient was the Center for Food Action.

Kudos to Fairway Market in developing a “6% for Sixty” program. The new program enables customers 60 years old and over to get 6 percent off their total bills at checkout on Tuesdays and Wednesdays by presenting a free ID card. Fairway is now piloting the initiative in its Woodland Park, NJ store before rolling it out to other locations. Interim CEO Bill Sanford said, “With our ‘6% for Sixty’ program, being 60 or over pays you back,” adding that the grocery chain wished to “show our appreciation to the loyal Fairway Market shoppers who are 60 and over. It’s on top of the terrific savings we have each week through our ‘Weekly Specials’ program – so there’s even smarter savings for our customers.”

A familiar site came back to the northern New Jersey landscape when the Marcal Paper sign was lit up again after being dark for many years. Marcal’s owner, Soundview Paper Co., turned on the lights on top of the factory right off of I-80 in early February prior to the region’s hosting of the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. A crowd of local dignitaries, Marcal customers and even members of the founding family, the Marcaluses, were on hand to witness the lighting.

Congrats to Ken Brickel who just accepted a position as store director with Nicholas Markets Foodtown. Ken joins Nicholas from Bozzuto’s where he was the perishables sales manager and he will be responsible for Nicholas’s Colonia, NJ store, which was acquired last year from Food Circus Supermarkets. Ken will report to Bob Lenthe and David Maniaci.

Best wishes in retirement go out to George Moskal of Wakefern Food Corp. George retired in early March after 26 years with the big co-operative. George looks great and tells us that he is in good health after a health battle recently and is looking forward to his retirement. He will be consulting for Wakefern on the banana category, so we will see him around the trade for a while.

And speaking of retirements, I heard from Jim Rogers, former CEO of the Food Industry Alliance, who is all of six weeks into his retirement. Jim asked if I could pass along his contact information for those wishing to reach out to him. Although he will maintain his FIA email of jim@fiany.com for the near future, his new email address is osurogers@gmail.com and his cell number is 518.369.5780. He also asked if he could share these parting thoughts: “After 26 years as FIA president and CEO, I extend my profound thanks and gratitude to the membership for allowing me the privilege to serve the grocery industry of New YorkState. Without hesitation, it has been an honor to represent some of the finest, most diligent business people possible. The adage goes, ‘You’re known by the company you keep.’ In that regard, you have made me more than I otherwise would have been – and for that I remain forever grateful.” As I said a couple of months ago when I first mentioned Jim’s retirement, class words from a class man. All the best, Jim.

Congrats to the team at RDD Associates on a recent honor from Belgioiso Cheese. Bob Carley, RDD’s deli division leader and his team were named broker of the year by the U.S.’s leading producer of authentic Italian style cheeses. Great honor RDD and Bob!

And while we’re mentioning some local food broker items, word on the street was that two local independent agencies were merging to create a mutual brokerage alliance. B&D Sales & Marketing and Douglas Sales Associates started working together effective March 3 to create stronger capabilities and service enhancements for their customers and principals. Longtime industry veterans Andy DeSalvo and Wally Bycsek of B&D and Ken Atkinson and John Pavlik of Douglas Sales were equally excited about the opportunities the new venture affords the new alliance.

And, finally, we heard that local industry sales figure Nat Argento has passed away. While Nat started in the food business in his parents’ small grocery store in Brooklyn, he was more well known to many from his years as VP of sales and marketing and trade relations for Marcal Paper Mills. An Army and WWII veteran, Nat was constantly seen at all industry events, always with a smile and good word for all. He is survived by his wife, two children, a granddaughter and many nieces and nephews. The family requests that any memories in his name be made to Treasure Coast Hospice, 1201 SE Indian Street, Stuart, FL34997. May his soul rest in peace.

That’s it for now all. Please feel free to drop me a line at kgallagher@best-met.com or give me a call at 201.250.2217. See you out and about in the trade.