This year's class honors five more innovating pioneers of the grocery industry.
Progressive Grocer is proud to continue a platform established as part its 90th anniversary celebration in 2012, by inducting five more distinguished members into its Hall of Fame of industry leaders for 2013. This year's slate continues our recognition, with distinct pleasure, of the prime movers of some of the nation's most innovative supermarket companies, whose leadership, guidance and vision have had profound influences on the U.S. grocery business. Collectively, the members of our growing Hall of Fame have enhanced the supermarket industry in immeasurable ways through their leadership, vision and influence.
The PG Hall of Fame Class of 2013 consists of the following inductees, all deserving of the highest esteem for leading some of the most well-respected banners in the supermarket business: Jack H. Brown, chairman and CEO of Stater Bros.; Steve Burd, chairman and CEO of Safeway Inc.; Dean Janeway, former president and CEO of Wakefern Food Corp.; Alfred A. Plamann, CEO of Unified Grocers Inc.; and, posthumously, Eddie Basha Jr., chairman emeritus of Bashas'.
These distinguished industry leaders join our Hall of Fame charter members: Neil Golub, chairman of Price Chopper/Golub Corp.; Ric Jergens, retired chairman and CEO of Hy-Vee Inc.; Craig Schnuck, executive chairman of Schnuck Markets Inc.; David Shapira, executive chairman of Giant Eagle Inc.; and Robert Weis, chairman of Weis Markets Inc.
EDDIE BASHA JR.
Chairman Emeritus Bashas'
It was with great sadness that the PG staff learned of Eddie Basha Jr.'s passing on March 26 at age 75, shortly after delivering notification of his selection to this year's Hall of Fame class. Certainly, the outpouring of tributes to Basha in the weeks since for his great work in the industry and community further solidified our selection as a wise choice.
Basha considered those who worked for him to be a part of his family — a family that has been part of the grocery industry for more than eight decades.
"He gave his heart and soul to Bashas' Family of Stores," Edward "Trey" Basha III, chief exec of the 120-plus-store, Chandler, Ariz.-based supermarket chain, says of his father. "Ironically, Eddie never saw himself that way. He considered himself to be a Bashas' member, no different than any other. His desire to serve the people of the state he loved so well, and to take care of the members that he cared for so much, always gave him strength in the face of adversity."
Born in 1937, Eddie Basha Jr. had retailing in his blood: His grandparents, immigrants from Lebanon, were pioneering merchants in the Arizona Territory of the early 20th century.
Struggling in the wake of their father's untimely death in 1932, Basha's father, Eddie, and uncle Ike opened a grocery store in the budding town of Chandler, near Phoenix. Despite the ravages of the Great Depression, the business grew and thrived, through the war years and into the '50s.
Having grown up working in the business, Stanford graduate Eddie Jr. found himself unexpectedly, at the tender age of 31, at the helm of a debt-laden company when his father died in 1968. Eddie Jr. forged his own management style and oversaw a rebirth of the chain, which then had 16 stores. His father had invested heavily in a farm-to-market concept; Eddie Jr. refocused the company on its core competency of selling groceries, and led its continued expansion throughout the 1970s, '80s and '90s, and into the 21st century. Basha demonstrated a flair for real estate, acquiring properties and developing retail space around an anchor supermarket.
While most Bashas' stores historically were in the Phoenix metropolitan area, many families had summer homes in northern Arizona to escape the summer heat of the desert areas. So Eddie opened stores in those locations to capture lost seasonal sales. "He started expanding into outlying communities to balance our growth," Trey Basha says.
In the mid-1990s, Bashas' acquired Food City, a Hispanic-focused market that met with so much success that the company converted several existing Bashas' locations to Food City stores "and grew the Hispanic concept into a chain," Trey explains. Another acquisition led to the creation of Bashas' gourmet-focused chain, AJ's Fine Foods.
Eddie was the first grocer to answer a call from the Navajo nation to open stores on its reservation, hiring and training Navajos to run the stores and share the profits for educational initiatives. Today, Bashas' has seven stores in the Navajo nation, plus locations on three other tribal reservations. "That was something all his life he was very proud of, to serve the Native American community," Trey says, noting that some of Bashas' first customers at the original store in Chandler were Native Americans.
That Western pioneer spirit carried over inside the stores as well. "We were one of the first stores in Arizona to put in a deli and a bakery," Trey recalls. Once considered foolish by other retailers, the concept is now "the norm," he notes, "but [Eddie] pioneered it and took a risk in doing so."
Trey says he expects his father will be remembered for his work as a community leader and supporter of education.
"He never put himself above anyone else. He had a genuine concern for our members, our customers and the community … [and] a true passion for the business," Trey says. "He didn't see himself as great — he saw himself as an everyman. For me, he cast a shadow big enough to cross the Grand Canyon."