Taking Stock

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Local Notes

Last month we reported that Chris Lane had been promoted from VP-grocery divisions to executive VP at Wakefern, giving industry analysts reason to believe that he is the likely candidate to someday succeed current president and COO Joe Sheridan. In his new post, Lane didn’t waste any time in restructuring his new team. Those changes include promoting Paul Patten to group VP-center store (from VP-grocery division); elevating Parag Shah from sales manager, grocery marketing to VP-grocery; naming Cathy Magistrelli VP-HBC (she was grocery procurement manager); Steve Henig, who was VP-corporate merchandising, will now move to a new vice president post in Wakefern’s digital commerce and innovation division where he will oversee ecommerce and data analytics; Chris Skyers, most recently VP-HBC, becomes VP-corporate merchandising; Kelly Schaefer-McSpirit now becomes director of corporate advertising (she was advertising manager); Charlie McWeeny has been promoted from director of the computer information services division (CISD) to VP-CISD; Bob Cerullo, formerly Wakefern’s “appy/seafood” manager is now director of seafood; and Natalie Menza-Crowe, who was manager of health and wellness, has been elevated to director of that department. Those reporting directory to Lane are Bill Mayo, senior VP-logistics, technology and engineering; Jeff Reagan, senior VP-marketing; Dave Howlett, VP-dairy/frozen; Geoff Wexler, VP-foodservice; Terry Murphy, VP-fresh bake; Terry Sharkey, VP-appy/seafood; Joe Gozzi, director of distinctive products and the aforementioned Patten and Menza-Crowe. More Wakefern/ShopRite news: despite strong pushback from some local residents, it appears that there will be a new 70,500 square foot ShopRite in New Milford, NJ (Bergen County). Opposition forces argued that developing the 14-acre site would create additional traffic problems and that its proximity to the Hackensack River could cause flooding problems…one of the busiest Fresh Grocer stores, on 40th and Walnut Street in Center City Philadelphia (on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania) is fighting to retain the rights to renew its lease. According to published reports, a Penn spokesman said that Fresh Grocer did not renew its lease (which expires on April 1) in a timely fashion in accordance with terms of the lease, adding that the college is now working on a “smooth and orderly transition” to a new operator (believed to be Acme). Fresh Grocer is fighting back, however. A groundswell of local support through social media has arisen from Penn students and residents who live near the store. There’s a facebook page devoted to the effort facebook.com/TheFreshGrocerWalnut) and a Twitter hashtag (#SavePennFroGro) for those wanting the Wakefern member to continue operating one of its signature stores. Additionally, the Burns Family (Pat Burns is the company’s CEO) has distributed a flier stating: “The more people who voice their support for our store to the University, the more likely it is that they will work with us to renew the lease.” This sounds like it’s headed for litigation…interesting piece in the New York Times recently about how Met Food owner Paul Fernandez was essentially forced to close his Mulberry Street location (in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood) on New Year’s Eve because he could not work out terms for a new lease. When the store opened in the early 1990s the rent was $9,000 a month. Now the landlord is seeking $90,000 a month, a price that Fernandez could no longer afford. It’s a sad but accurate snapshot of the challenges that most independents face, particularly in urban areas…Michele Buck has been promoted from COO to chief executive at The Hershey Co. Buck, who’s been with the big Central, PA chocolatier for 11 years, succeeds John Bilbrey, who will remain on Hershey’s board as non-executive chairman…a tip of the hat to one of my industry buddies – Rick Morse – who recently retired after 35 years with McCormick. Rick has held a variety of sales posts at the big spice maker including VP-sales. For the past six years, Rick, who now resides in beautiful Charleston, SC, has been VP-global customers. A talented salesman and a gentleman of intelligence and passion, we wish Rick all the best in his future endeavors. …in a year with too many notable people passing on, our December obituary list includes mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. Reynolds, 84, once termed “America’s Sweetheart” for her wholesome girl-next-door look, died a day after her daughter succumbed to a heart attack. Reynolds’ film breakthrough came when she was 19, in the 1952 mega-hit “Singin’ in the Rain,” co-starring Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. All told, Reynolds appeared in 82 film and TV roles in addition to numerous Broadway appearances. Her daughter, Carrie Fisher, may not have had the stellar career of her mother, but certainly led a very interesting life, too. Her name and character became iconic after she played Princess Leia when the first “Star Wars” movie was released in 1977. Fisher also appeared in such popular movies as the original “Blues Brothers,” (1980) and “When Harry Met Sally,” (1989). Fisher, whose father was popular 1950s crooner Eddie Fisher, also displayed a great affinity for writing. Her first novel, “Postcards From the Edge,” (1987), drew on her real life battles with drug addiction, bipolar disorder and her often fractious relationship with her mother, and was later developed into a film starring Meryl Streep and Shirley Maclaine. In 2008, she wrote another highly personalized book, “Wishful Drinking,” which continued to chronicle her ongoing personal demons and dysfunctional family life (watch the HBO special of the same name “on demand;” it’s both hilarious and sobering). Fisher was 60 when she passed…we are also sorry to report the death of Robert Hulseman. Robert Hulseman? He was the former CEO of the Solo Cup Company, who succeeded his father Leo, who founded the company in Chicago in 1936. It was Robert Hulseman’s invention of the 16-ounce red Solo cup in the mid-1970s that changed the drinking habits of many Americans. “Nobody was drinking 16-ounce beers at that point,” said his son Tom. Other smaller sized cups and different colors were developed, but it was the 16 ounce red that stuck. If I’m not giving you a complete picture of the importance of the red Solo cup in American society, perhaps some of the lyrics from Toby Keith’s 2011 song can convince you: “Now a red solo cup is the best receptacle; For barbecues, tailgates, fairs and festivals; And you sir do not have a pair of testicles; If you prefer drinking from glass; A red solo cup is cheap and disposable; And in 14 years they are decomposable; And unlike my home they are not fore-closable; Freddie Mac can kiss my ass woo; Red solo cup I fill you up; Let’s have a party let’s have a party; I love you red Solo cup I lift you up; Proceed to party proceed to party; Now I really love how you’re easy to stack; But I really hate how you’re easy to track; ‘Cause when beer runs down the front of my back; Well that my friends is quite yucky; But I have to admit that the ladies get smitten; Admiring how sharply my first name is written; On you with a sharpie when I get to hittin’; On them to help me get lucky; Red Solo cup I fill you up; Let’s have a party let’s have a party.” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKZqGJONH68)…and I’d be remiss if I didn’t shed a tear for a notable grand finale – the closing of “The Greatest Show on Earth” – Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. After a run of 146 years, the big top will be coming down in May for good. Although attendance has been declining for years (even more so in the past year after elephants were eliminated from the show), there was always something special about the entire circus experience – taking your kids to see the gymnasts, clowns and animal acts – as our parents did. Even though I know it is politically incorrect to sing the praises of seeing elephants parade in formation, bears on roller skates and roaring lions and tigers jumping through flaming hoops for their trainers, there was a certain electricity and family bonding experience that was forever memorable. As P.T. Barnum once said: “To me, there is no picture so beautiful as smiling, bright-eyed, happy children; no music so sweet as their clear and ringing laughter.”