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So it looks like we’ve survived the winter of 2014’s “snowmaggedon” and we’re on our way to a beautiful spring. Please feel free to remind me in the dog days of summer not to complain about the heat. I celebrated this much anticipated spring by attending the Philadelphia Flower Show earlier this month. This year’s theme was “Articulture,” a mix of art and horticulture that didn’t fail to impress. For native Philadelphians, this event is an annual “rite of spring”; for those who aren’t it is worth the trip to ogle the massive floral displays and browse through the Reading Terminal right across the street. As for me, I purchased many bunches of tall pussy willows, took plenty of photos, got ideas for my house and breathed in the fragrant air. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty and plant!

On March 2, Weis Markets opened the doors to its fifth store in New Jersey. Located in Flanders, the 58,500 square foot supermarket employs 200. As is tradition, Weis donated $10,000 to community organizations and charities as part of the opening ceremonies, and formally cut the red Weis ribbon, flanked by local dignitaries. “This store in Flanders marks our first grand opening of the year, our fifth location in the state of New Jersey, and the 166th store in the Weis Markets chain,” said Kurt Schertle, COO of Weis Markets. “We look forward to being a good neighbor and serving the local Flanders community with our affordable prices, welcoming atmosphere and large selection of products that will surpass customers’ expectations.” The new store, located in the SuttonPlaza shopping center on Rt. 206, includes advanced refrigeration and climate control technologies designed to lessen the store’s impact on the environment and global warming. These technologies will reduce the store’s refrigerant usage by 60 percent compared to a conventional supermarket. As a result, it is expected to achieve the U.S. EPA’s GreenChill Gold-Level Certification. The store opened just as Kurt was promoted to COO, a much deserved step up. Congratulations all the way around.

Wawa Inc. and Sheetz, two of country’s leading convenience store retailers, teamed up to provide more than 5,000 lunches to attendees at the commissioning ceremony of the USS Somerset in Philadelphia on March 1. “This is an enormous enterprise that would not be possible without the support of such experienced companies in food preparation and service,” noted Thomas Metzger, president of the Philadelphia Council of the Navy League, which sponsored the ceremony. “Funding for the ceremony is dependent on private donations and good corporate citizens like Wawa and Sheetz.” The complimentary box lunches featured popular items from each company’s menu. Guests included nearly 2,000 members of the Somerset County, PA community, 500 members of the ship’s family, 500 family members of those who were on flight 93, as well as local officials and leadership from Wawa and Sheetz. The commissioning ceremony is a time-honored tradition that marks a ship’s entry into the naval fleet. This vessel, which is currently moored at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River waterfront, commemorates Flight 93, which crashed in Somerset County, PA after the crew and passengers thwarted a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Joe Sheetz, president and CEO of Sheetz said, “We at Sheetz are truly grateful to come together with Wawa in support of the USS Somerset Commissioning Ceremony. The entire Sheetz family is humbled by this extraordinary opportunity to honor the families of Flight 93 and recognize those who dedicate their lives to serving this great nation.” Representing Wawa was president and CEO Chris Gheysens, who commented, “On this solemn and extremely meaningful occasion, all of us at Wawa feel privileged to be a part of this ceremony, honoring those who serve our great nation and those who sacrificed during this tragic moment in our history. As a proud Pennsylvania-based company, we are honored to join together with Sheetz and pay tribute to these brave men and women of Flight 93. They will never be forgotten.” One of the passengers on flight 93 on that tragic day had a local food connection. Louis Nacke II, director of distribution for Kaybee Toys, was once an employee of Super Fresh. He was one of the four men who stormed the cockpit forcing the plane to crash. Fittingly, on the side of the newly commissioned ship is written, “Let’s Roll!”

The Eastern Produce Council held its rescheduled winter dinner in Hackensack, NJ at the Stony Hill Inn on March 4. Trish James, vice president of Produce for Kids, gave an informative and educational presentation on the need to help parents introduce and continue to make healthy meals for children and more importantly how to prepare them. In 2013, Produce for Kids has partnered with 14 retailers with a larger goal set for 2014. The emphasis is on mobile friendly tips, recipes and resources for parents to start their kids off making healthy eating choices and keeping them on track to live a healthy lifestyle. For more information, go to ww.produceforkids.com

The next application deadline for the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA) scholarship program is April 1, 2014. The IDDBA offers scholarships to employees of IDDBA-member companies in amounts ranging from $100 to $1,000 for college or vocational/technical school students in business, marketing, or food-related fields of study. There are four application deadlines each year: January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1. More information and an online or printable application are available at www.iddba.org/scholarships. Do not pass up this opportunity for your family members.

The New Jersey Food Council (NJFC) has announced a new program agenda for the annual Trade Relations Conference coming up on June 3 at the Borgata in Atlantic City. John Phillips of  PepsiCo will be the featured speaker followed by an all-star panel of food industry e-commerce experts who will focus their discussion on the explosion of new technologies and devices fundamentally changing the way consumers shop and how retailers and manufacturers do business. It’s a very hot topic this year. Following his presentation, Phillips will moderate a panel featuring technological pioneers in the food industry, including Cheryl Williams of Wakefern, Dan Glei of Ahold USA and one other regional online shopping expert. The panel will discuss the latest trends reshaping the way consumers shop for food products, including home delivery, mobile shopping and other advancements. Also at the event, Kevin Walker of Canada Dry of NY will be honored with the New Jersey Food Council Max Stone Trade Relations Award. “Kevin’s longstanding business relationships and partnerships with NJFC members and his continuous dedication to the advancement of the beverage industry made this year’s decision to honor him an easy one,” said NJFC president Linda Doherty. “Kevin has forged long lasting relationships in our industry and is a prime example of an effective trade relations leader.” As is tradition, the event will conclude with a golf event at Galloway National Golf Club on June 4 in Galloway, NJ. To register please go to njfoodcouncilmeeting.com.

The circle of life continues as we welcome Kit O’Hare into our world. Miss Kit, daughter of Melanie and Matt O’Hare of JOH, arrived on February 2 in Boston. Mother and child are doing well and Bobbi and Chip O’Hare are enjoying their new role as grandparents.

The food industry was saddened to learn of the death of IDDBA president and CEO Carol Christison on March 4. Born in West Virginia, she wound her way to Wisconsin where she settled, raised her family and left an indelible mark on the dairy-deli-bakery industry. In 1982, Carol had left an executive position with The American College of Sports Medicine to avoid relocating her family to join the International Cheese & Deli Association (as it was known then). Over the next 31 years as its president, Carol built the association into the leading organization in the industry. The Association later became known as the International Dairy Deli Association and finally the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association. She immediately embraced the vision of the association but then expanded that vision, which is now to be the essential resource for relevant information and services which add value to all food channels for the dairy, deli and bakery categories. Carol was committed to developing affordable education and research programs. she researched, wrote, and delivered a state-of-the-industry trends presentation at the annual IDDBA Seminar and Expo. That was really when Carol shined. As an avid reader and life long learner, she was interested in current trends and consumer demographics, lifestyles, attitudes and buying behavior. Her presentations were full of facts, but her wit always came through. One of the most anticipated moments of every speech was Carol’s delivery of the “word of the year.” Last year’s word was “NoMoPhobia,” that panicky feeling people get when they can’t locate their smart phone. She always hit it right on the head, never missed a trend, delivered an entertaining speech and always gave CliffsNotes. During the EXPO, if you wanted to find her, the place to be was at “Show and Sell,” the recreation of the departments represented at the show, of which she was so proud. Carol loved her job, and it showed. She was admired for her professionalism, creative mind, mentoring and friendship. As the association grew, Carol made sure that it kept its charm, going from about 300 booths before she arrived to more than 1,600 booths, relevant speakers and key retail attendees. She is survived by her daughter, and my dear friend, Lucie (Norm) Arendt; son David Christison; a daughter-in-law Julie Christison; grandchildren Lona and John Arendt, Eric (Nicholle) Christison, Joe (Barbi) Clementi, and Franci (Shawn) Gooldy; her sister (the “best gift my mother ever gave me”) Dinah (Roy) Smarr; and many step-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. While she loved her kids, she really, really loved her grandkids – she said they had a “common enemy” (the grandkids parents!). The grandkids were always in her lap, having tea parties, playing with Legos, going blindfold shopping (lots of shopping), cooking or just hanging out. She was called Grandy, Gran or sometimes just “G.”

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the UW-Madison’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology research fund which supports research in gynecologic cancers. UW Foundation Fund #12902096, Lock Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI53278-0807. I will really miss her.

We also send out condolences to the family of Ralph Chiodo, retired from A&P/Super Fresh, who passed away on February 27. He and his wife Carolyn were hit by an SUV in Fayettville, NC as they were crossing the street to return to their hotel after dinner. Ralph was killed instantly and Carolyn’s leg was badly injured in the accident. Carolyn was flown home to Abington Hospital where she continues to recover. Ralph served our country as an enlisted sailor in the U.S. Navy on the USS Prairie (AD-15) from 1959-1963. He had a long history in the retail food industry working his entire career of 47 years for A&P. I had the pleasure of calling on him at Super Fresh. He had such a huge smile and warm eyes, so even when he told me the slotting rate for a new item, it didn’t seem so awful. Ralph is survived by his wife, five children, 15 grandchildren, and a sister Angela Duffy. Services have not been planned yet. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in his name to the American Cancer Society or American Diabetes Association.

As we get older, we create a bucket list and we talk about the items on it, checked off, etc. I had a chat with my longtime friend Jim Giuffrida of Gourmet Food Brokers the other day and he told me that he has recently checked an item off of his bucket list. While on a recent vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico he caught a 108 inch striped Marlin. It took him 40 minutes to reel that bad boy in, and Jim did all the work himself. There’s proof, too, on Youtube. He expects the taxidermy mount to arrive at his house in May to be hung on the wall in his great room. Congrats!

A few get well wishes recently to some industry friends: Ralph Nagle of Albert’s Organics, Nick Loggia of Bimbo Bakeries and George Latella of Saint Joseph’s University. Looking forward to seeing you all in the trade sooner than later!

Birthday shout outs for the fickle month of March go to: Bill Sumas, Village Supermarkets; Jeff Brown and Sandy Brown, both of Brown’s ShopRites; Vince Pagano, McCaffrey’s Markets; Dan Croce, Acme Markets; Bill Carter, Knauss Foods; Bob Unanue, Goya Foods; and Jerry Bradley, Saint Joseph’s University. Buon compleanno a tutti!

Very special birthday wishes are in order as the iconic Philadelphia brand, the Tasty Baking Company celebrated its 100th birthday on February 25. As part of the festivities, 100 trucks were dispatched in and around Philadelphia carrying Tastykake products to first responders and charities. Lastly, the company announced, quite appropriately, a new, limited edition product: the Birthday Kake Cupcake. In addition, the world wide web turned 25 just before we went to press. What did we ever do without it?

Quote of the month: “Doing what you want is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.” Frank Tyger

 

Maria can be reached at mmaggio@best-met.com