Ascend Grocery, a group founded by a team of grocery and investment executives to acquire and open new Save A Lot locations in established and new markets, has promoted Dean Little from COO to president and COO.
A 40-year food retailing professional, Little is an owner and founding partner of Ascend Grocery, one of Save A Lot’s largest retail partners that currently owns and operates 33 stores in the greater Orlando, Fla., area. Over the past year, he helped establish clear operational standards to reinvigorate the Orlando locations. Little’s background also includes work with Vons/Safeway, Price Chopper and Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, where he served as COO.
“Since taking on the Orlando area Save A Lot locations in January, Dean has been instrumental in helping us to quickly elevate our operations and ensure we are delivering an outstanding experience for our customers,” said Chris Sherrell, Ascend’s CEO. “I’m thrilled that Dean is taking on this added responsibility as we build our leadership team to position Ascend for continued growth. I have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to execute our plan to expand our network and impact beyond Orlando.”
Norwalk, Conn.’s Planning and Zoning Commission has approved an application to open the first Wegmans Markets store in the Nutmeg State, according to a published report.
The planned 91,000-square-foot store at 47 Richards Avenue was originally revealed in March, with an as-yet-undetermined construction and opening timeline. The store, which will feature a two-story parking garage, is slated to be built at the current 100,000-square-foot site of MBI’s Norwalk offices, which will relocate to the Merritt 7 complex in the same city.
“What we see is that when Wegmans comes into the market, it’s a win-win for everybody,” Steve Leaty, the project manager for the grocer said during a July meeting of the commission. “Anybody that exists there today has to up their game, their experience needs to be better than Wegmans in order to compete.”
The Lee family is selling its two Jackson County, Miss.-based Jerry Lee’s Grocery stores to Ramey’s Marketplace, following the death of patriarch Jerry Lee this past February, according to a local report. Jerry Lee’s had been in business for 64 years.
Mark Lee, Jerry Lee’s son, told WLOX News, in Biloxi, that the Pascagoula and Gautier stores would close at the end of the day on Saturday, Sept. 17, and reopen Monday, Sept. 19, under the Jubilee Foods banner.
The Lees informed their 220 employees of the change in ownership on Sept. 7, during which they noted that the new company aimed to keep all current employees who wished to stay.
Richton, Miss.-based Ramey’s Marketplace currently operates 20 stores in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
Making it easier and faster for consumers to get meals on the table, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) is adding to its portfolio of meal solutions. The grocery wholesaler is now offering fresh meal kits from Cook•Able and flash-frozen meals from Corona, Calif.-based Cadence Kitchen.
Billed as being of restaurant quality, the new ready-to-assemble and ready-to-eat meals are available to more than 30,000 U.S. locations serviced by UNFI. Meal kits from Cook•Able include choices like Mediterranean Chicken with Olives, Feta and Rice; Weeknight Chicken Pad Thai with Broccoli and Peanuts; and Chipotle Chicken Tacos. With a suggested retail price range of $12.99 to $19.99, the shelf-stable kits come with pre-portioned ingredients and can be prepared for two to four people within 20 to 25 minutes.
The Cadence Kitchen meal offerings can be heated within 15 minutes or less for a price point of between $5.99 and $9.99. Entrées include Chicken Tikka Masala, Gluten Free BBQ Mac and Cheese, Lobster Tortellini, and Prime Rib Stroganoff. There are three side dishes, too: Four Cheese Mac and Cheese, Mexican Style Street Corn, and a Vegan Latin Bowl.
“With consumers continuing to favor eating at home versus away, retailers are looking to offer delicious and effortless products to time-challenged consumers that replicate the restaurant experience at budget- friendly pricing,” said Jody Barrick, VP of bakery/deli at UNFI. “These chef-inspired offerings from Cook•Able and Cadence Kitchen give retailers a fast, delicious and reasonably priced turnkey experience, affording their teams additional time to focus on serving their customers.”
Providence, R.I.-based UNFI delivers a wide variety of products to customer locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice customers. The largest publicly traded grocery distributor in America, the company is No. 49 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.
Great Place to Work Recognizes Gelson's for Work Culture
Great Place to Work, an organization devoted to workplace culture, has awarded a 2022 Great Place to Work certification to the Gelson's chain. Certification is based on employee surveys and independent analysis to quantify and validate the operating environment.
Gelson’s participated in the two-step certification process that sought feedback from employees. The research found that 78% of workers replied that it was a good place to work, and 85% said that they are given the resources and equipment to do their jobs. In addition, 85% agreed that customers would rate the store’s service as excellent.
The certification process also generated open-ended comments from team members. Among other remarks, associates shared sentiments such as “Working at Gelson’s is like being with family” and “There are great opportunities for employees to grow within the company.”
More than 2,500 people work for Gelson’s, which runs 27 specialty stores across Southern California. The Encino, Calif.-based company reports that almost a quarter of its employees (24%) have worked for Gelson’s for more than two years, and 43% are at least 10-year workers.
Earlier this year, Great Place to Work and Fortune magazine teamed up to publish the list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2022. Top-ranked grocers included Wegmans Food Markets Inc. (No. 3), Target Corp. (No. 12) and Publix Super Markets (No. 92). This month, Great Place to Work also shared a list of the top large retail employers for the year, which included Wegmans, Target and Publix, along with Aldi and Southeastern Grocers.
Tops Names Meat/Seafood Specialist for East Region
Tops Markets LLC has promoted Rusty Ames to the role of meat/seafood specialist in the grocer’s east region. Formerly assistant category business manager – seafood, Ames will now be responsible for the Rochester and Fingerlakes/Syracuse West districts in upstate New York, where he will oversee all aspects of operations and merchandising for the meat and seafood departments.
Ames joined Tops in 1995 and over the course of his career has held such roles as seafood manager, meat manager, assistant store manager, and meat and seafood specialist. He lives in Middleport, N.Y., with his family.
Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Markets LLC operates 150 supermarkets, including five franchise stores, and employs more than 14,000 associates in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. The banner’s parent company, Northeast Grocery Inc., is No. 44 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.