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New FreshDirect Prez to Bring Supermarket Savvy to Strong Web Pure Player

LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y. – Supermarket and consumer goods marketing veteran Steve Michaelson told Progressive Grocer yesterday that he is set to apply the best practices from brick-and-mortar stars Wegmans and Weis Markets in his new role as president of FreshDirect, one of the nation's leading online fresh food manufacturing and delivery services.

Michaelson most recently held the position of s.v.p. of marketing and merchandising at Sunbury, Pa.-based Weis Markets, in which he responsible for the supermarket chain's merchandising, marketing, and corporate brand initiatives. While at Weis, which he joined in 2002, Michaelson contributed significantly to the chain's improved comparable-store sales growth through an emphasis on fresh and prepared foods.

From from 1994 to 2001 he was s.v.p. of marketing for Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans, the $3 billion retailer with more than 60 locations. As a member of Wegmans' senior team, Michaelson was responsible for marketing, advertising, and select merchandising, as well as a $50 million production facility and 350 employees.

When asked how his past experience will influence his tenure at Fresh Express, Michaelson said: "The merchandising and marketing principles are going to transfer very well to this Internet ordering and home delivery business. Customers lead busy lives, and if we can lead them to solutions that work better for them than what they're currently getting, we have a chance to earn and keep their business, and we will do that in just the same way as it's done in the brick-and-mortar merchandising and marketing world. Simple ideas executed with gusto have a tendency to work."

Commenting on the recent strides FreshDirect has made with perishables, Michaelson said: "As you would expect, our sales play heavily into the fresh produce, meat, and seafood categories, and we're continually building our strength in those areas."

Citing two examples, Michaelson pointed to the recent addition of an organics store-within-a-store, which he said offers a full variety of perishable and packaged organic products, as well as what he termed "a very exciting addition of a catering department. But [the latter] has a tendency to be bulky products, so the fact that FreshDirect delivers, in addition to the fact that we produce all the products fresh to order, really is a one-two punch of quality and convenience."

Dean Furbush, c.o.o. of the online grocer since 2003, was named new c.e.o. Furbush formerly served as e.v.p. of NASDAQ Transaction Services, a $380 million business line, where he managed business operations, product development, policy and strategy, marketing strategy, and market sales. Prior to that, Furbush was managing director of NASDAQ InterMarket and s.v.p. and chief economist for both the National Associations of Securities Dealers and NASDAQ.

Jason Ackerman, co-founder of FreshDirect, will continue in his role as c.f.o. and take on the additional role of vice chairman of the company's board of directors.

--Meg Major
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