Taking Stock

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Local Notes

Sadly, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has upheld the legality of Philadelphia’s beverage tax. That ruling essentially dismisses complaints from The American Beverage Association (ABA), which argued that the soda tax duplicated the state’s already existing sales tax. “We are deeply disappointed in today’s ruling. But no ruling can obscure the pain Philadelphia’s beverage tax continues to inflict on families and local businesses,” said Anthony Campisi, a spokesman for Ax the Beverage Tax. Shanin Specter, ABA’s attorney, said that the ruling would be appealed to the State Supreme Court. Our market study indicates that supermarket retailers in the city of Philadelphia have suffered sales declines of three to seven percent since the beverage tax was implemented in January 2017. And earlier this month, the Seattle, WA city council approved its own soda tax. This one calls for a whopping 1.75 cent per ounce tariff on sweetened beverages, including soda, energy drinks and other sweetened drinks. However, unlike Philly’s levy, the tax would exclude diet drinks. If passed, Seattle would join a growing list of cities, which includes Chicago and San Francisco that are implementing more discriminatory taxes on the food industry… several obits to note this month including that of Adam West, whose film career lasted more than 60 years. However, West will always be best remembered as the star of the campy TV series “Batman” (1966-68). West bounced around Hollywood for more than a decade playing bit parts before being cast as the Caped Crusader (aka Bruce Wayne) for a show many thought unlikely to be renewed for a second season. After the first episode aired in January 1966, an instant cult was formed with West and his sidekick Burt Ward as Robin fighting caricature-like criminals such as The Penguin, The Joker, Catwoman and The Riddler. But overnight success came at a cost – West found other roles over the years hard to come by. But West never became bitter, which is one of the reasons he was so admired by his fellow actors. “When you wear a mask and funny tights, it gets a little frustrating from time to time,” West once said. A good guy and one of my childhood favorites, Adam West was 88 when he passed. Bam!! Zonk!! Pow!!… I’m sad to report the passing of Stephen Furst, the movie and TV actor who gained fame playing Kent Dorfman (aka “Flounder”) in the iconic comedy “Animal House” (1978). As Flounder, the hapless beanie-wearing frat boy nicknamed by the movie’s star John Belushi (aka “Bluto”), Furst was on the receiving end of one of the funniest lines in cinema history, when Faber College dean Vernon Wormer addressed the horrific grades of members of Animal House. In his assessment of Flounder’s report card he uttered: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” Furst was only 63…I was also devastated to hear about the death of Gregg Allman, 69, co-founder of the iconic Allman Brothers Band (ABB). The group that Gregg began with his late brother Duane created a distinct niche – Southern rock & roll that was tinged with soul and the blues. Gregg Allman’s deep, rich voice made him one of the most distinctive rock singers of the past 50 years and his bass-driven Hammond B-3 organ playing helped define ABB’s powerful and emotional sound. If you haven’t read his 2012 memoir, “My Cross To Bear,” it’s worth the effort and will help you better understand the complicated and amazing life Gregg Allman had. And if you don’t own a copy of ABB’s 1971 live “At Fillmore East” album, buy one immediately. …I was very troubled and saddened to hear of the tragic news at Weis Markets. Earlier this month, an employee at its Tunkhannock, PA store shot and killed three fellow associates before taking his own life. Sometimes I think I’m becoming too inured by workplace violence in this country (there seem to be multiple episodes every week). But when a tragedy of this magnitude hits home, it makes you shudder. My condolences to the families of the three victims. May they all rest in peace… as you may have read on page 1, the leadership change at Ahold USA’s Giant/Martin’s division is very noteworthy with current president Tom Lenkevich retiring at the end of the year and Nick Bertram, who joined the big retailer in 2013, replacing him in January 2018. Bertram will report directly to AUSA COO Kevin Holt. He is currently senior VP-merchandising, and most recently Bertram has been concentrating on the company’s commercial strategy as it relates to its shift to a more brand-centric organization. As for Tom Lenkevich – he’s simply one of the best retail executives on the planet with great leadership skills, a deep-rooted and diverse knowledge of the business, a tireless work ethic and off-the-charts people skills. Good luck to Nick on his new endeavor and to Tom with all of his future plans…and just before press time, we learned of two other CEO departures. Ian McCloud has resigned as top dog at Southeastern Grocers (SEG). McCloud, who is Scottish, but gained stature for turning around Australia’s Coles business, was hired by SEG’s principal owner Lone Star Funds to head the struggling Jacksonville, FL chain, whose stores trade as Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo and Harveys. He will be replaced on an interim basis by our old buddy Anthony Hucker, former president of Giant/Landover. Good fortune to the intellectual and entertaining Mr. Hucker – he’ll certainly need it. Also leaving a top job is Rick Anicetti, who has departed as CEO at The Fresh Market (TFM). No surprise to me, especially when considering that shortly after Anicetti was named to overhaul the beleaguered Greensboro, NC-based upscale operator, Apollo Global acquired the specialty grocer. An excellent operator with strong people skills, Anicetti is indeed a talented merchant, but his entrepreneurial abilities and the rigidity of working for a PE company never seemed like a good match. Current CFO Brian Nicholson has been appointed interim CEO. TFM operates 176 stores in 24 states.