Taking Stock

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Local Notes

On December 9, Weis opened its new 65,800 square foot replacement unit in Fogelsville, PA(Lehigh County), the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) unit in its 162 supermarket fleet. It’s a great looking store (I really like Weis’ new prototype) that’s priced right and merchandised beautifully…Giant Eagle has acquired two formerly franchised stores in the Johnstown, PA market. The Pittsburgh based retailer will acquire units from owners Basil, Edward and Carmen Trovato, whose relationship with Giant Eagle dates back to 1986. Of Giant Eagle’s 230 supermarkets, about 55 stores are franchised…Village Super Markets saw its first quarter earnings dip 13 percent to $5.9 million in the period ended October 27. Overall sales increased 4.5 percent to $358.2 million. Same stores sales also rose 2.8 percent. The Springfield, NJ ShopRite operator attributed the decreased earnings to higher expenses and lower gross margins, even with a boost in revenue from Superstorm Sandy. Village currently operates 29 stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland and is the second largest member of Wakefern and its only publicly-traded retailer…UNFI, the largest natural and organics wholesaler in the country, and a distributor who has also seen its specialty foods division grow exponentially in recent years, posted a 42 percent earnings jump in its first quarter which ended on October 27. The Providence based firm earned $21.5 million on sales of $1.41 billion (a 16 percent gain). While expressing satisfaction with the solid results, UNFI CEO Steve Spinner had some concerns, too: “Despite moderated inflation and higher than anticipated product shortages, strong consumer demand continued to drive steady growth for our products and services during the quarter.We anticipate growth for the holiday season should remain strong as consumers continue to move towards a healthier lifestyle.” ….in the obit column, I’m very sad to report the death of one of the most influential jazz pianists of the past 50 years, Dave Brubeck. Brubeck, who died one day before his 92nd birthday earlier this month, recorded one of best selling jazz albums of all time “Time Out” (1959) which produced the crossover hit “Take Five.” However, the album’s first track “Blue Rondo a La Turk” is, in my opinion, the best song on the record – a tune that blends folk, jazz and a touch of Mozart. Also passing on was Ravi Shankar, a man who did as much for his instument (sitar) as Brubeck did for the piano.The Indian born virtuoso passed away last month in San Diego at the age of 92. Shankar influenced dozens of famous musicians including George Harrision (who nicknamed him “The Godfather of World Music”), David Crosby and even John Coltrane. Shankar was also the father of American pop singer Norah Jones…from the food industry, Berthold Aldi has died. Along with Theo Jr., the brothers presided over an international empire of grocery stores (Aldi, Trader Joe’s) that made them among the richest men in the world (the brothers’ fortune has been estimated by Forbes at $17.8 billion). Berthold Aldi, who only 58 years old, earned his money the hard way – he inherited it from his late father, Theo Sr. and uncle Karl, 92 (who is reported to be the richest man in Germany with an estimated net worth of $25.4 billion). The elder Aldis founded the company in Essen, Germany shortly after World War II ended…also leaving us was Mark Hollis, 78, former president of Publix. According to Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw, Hollis made “significant contributions to the growth and success” of Publix, adding that Holllis was “a Publix icon.” Hollis began his career at Publix in 1946 as a potato bagger. He worked in a variety of roles, including company president from 1984 to 1996. He was elected to the Publix board of directors in 1974 and served there until 2005, when he was honored as director emeritus…Howard Stoeckel, chief executive of Wawa, will retire at the end of the year and before I close this month’s entry, I’d be remiss if I didn’t salute Howard’s contributions that helped make Wawa the finest convenience store retailer in the industry. His steely passion for the business, his tremendous leadership and people skills, his unflinching work ethic, overall intelligence and integrity has not only made Howard one of the best CEOs in the food industry, but one of the top chief executives in the country. His successor, Chris Gheysens, will have big shoes to fill.