Soup To Nutz

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And, they’re off! Not only does the first weekend in May bring us the Kentucky Derby, it marks the beginning of the golf outing season in our market, and the Mid Atlantic Food Trades Organization (MAFTO) always starts us off on the first Monday in May with a magical day of golf (it never rains) and great food, not to mention libations and prizes. The scores aren’t exactly what most players would want, but hey, it’s only May and the clubs still have dust on them from sitting in the closet all winter. Bill Carter of Knauss Foods has chaired this event for many years and he makes it look so easy, but organizing more than 125 golfers, putting the prizes together and creating the menu is monumental. Mike Marano, Force One Merchandising, took first place with a low gross of 77. Charlie Schuster, RMG, had the low net score of 69. By the way, Charlie told me he is officially retiring in October. Longest drives came from Ed Elborne, Acme Markets, on the 1st hole and Peter Ammons, Ammons ShopRite, on the 13th. Bill gave us some interesting stats from this outing: no eagles, 22 birdies, 71 pars, 471 bogeys and more than 500 double bogeys. Like I said, it’s only May! The next scheduled MAFTO event is the Phillies game on July 8. Scholarship applications are also being taken until August 30 for college students. For more information and to register go to: www.mafto.org

Here’s some scoop…I recently read that retired Wawa CEO Howard Stoeckel is writing a book about the company he led for many years. It should be a good one. Look for it on bookshelves and virtual shelves in 2014.

Speaking of Wawa, I recently visited two of the new Wawa stores in Central Florida. One in Tampa strategically located between University of South Florida (USF) and Busch Gardens and the other in Pinellas Park on the beach side of Gandy Bridge right near the entrance for I-275. As I pulled into the parking lot of the Pinellas Park store, I was astounded by the number of cars filling up and even more surprised when I went inside and saw customers lined up waiting for sandwiches and take-out food; and all of this at about 11:00 at night! I visited the USF store close to lunch time and, oh, the crowds at the gas pumps and the sandwich bar! It’s just like being in the Northeast Wawa stores, well…almost. There are some differences. First, let’s talk about what IS familiar. They have six touch screens for orders in each store. The brands on the shelves include: Snyder’s, Herr’s and Tastykakes. And, all stores have the no-surcharge PNC ATMs (PNC has many branches in Florida). The rolls are from Amoroso’s in Philly and the Wawa associates are more than willing to brag about the fact that the rolls are authentic Philadelphia. I spoke with Len Amoroso upon my return for an update. He said, “The rolls are par baked and frozen, shipped frozen to Florida and finished off in a regular oven. This way the customer is getting the closest thing to a fresh roll.” The not-so-familiar brands: Bacele, Bimbo and other Hispanic products, plus many facings of Wawa extra sweet tea. After all, this is the South. In addition, there is a separate refrigerated room for beer and wine and an end-cap filled with Boone’s Farm and Yellow Tail wines. The biggest difference is the layout of the store. One side looks like a fast food restaurant complete with self-serve fountain beverages, the famous Wawa coffee and fresh ready-made take out foods. There is only one checkout up against a wall where tobacco is also sold. Outdoor seating is available and from what I saw they could use a few more tables. They’re working the kinks out, but Wawa is a hit in Florida, and to tell you the truth, it’s like comfort food knowing they are around. Fifteen more stores are planned this year throughout Central Florida. According to Wawa associates the biggest request from customers is for…Philadelphia soft pretzels!

I had a chance to catch up with the Genuardis last month at the Genuardi Family Foundation (GFF) luncheon to celebrate the winners of scholarships to Saint Joseph’s University’s food marketing students. Both Tom Genuardi Sr. and Tom Jr. were in attendance. Tom Sr., who turned 90 this year, is still sharp as a tack and had everyone enjoying his stories from years gone by. Tom Jr. told me his son is living in Florida and is a photographer by trade. Missing were Larry Genuardi, who was in New York enjoying his first day of being a grandparent, and his father Frank, who is now in an assisted living facility. It must be those Sicilian genes that give the elder Genuardi boys their longevity (wink)! The GFF was formed by the Genuardi cousins after the chain was sold back in 2000. The GFF website describes the reason for the creation of this scholarship: “The Genuardi Family Foundation believes that creating opportunities for students to excel academically prepares them for success in their careers and lives, so that they may be inspired to enrich their own communities. Thus it is with pride that the Foundation annually partners with St. Joseph’s University Academy of Food Marketing to fund two (2) two-year scholarships to sophomores (or third year co-op students) pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Food Marketing.” This year, the winners of the competition are: Jess Nevins, from Hingham, MA, a double major in food marketing and leadership, ethics and organizational sustainability, and Michael Bucher from York, PA, a co-op student who has worked at the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market and will begin working his second co-op at Campbell Soup in the corporate social responsibility office this summer. Both of these young people are honor students, involved at SJU in community service and professional organizations and have bright futures in our industry and our industry will be better off because of them. Congratulations!