Strack & Van Til Juggles Management Team

Highland, Ind.-based grocery retailer Strack & Van Til has reorganized its executive management team to “better position the chain for the future.”

President and CEO Ken Diehl, hired last October to steer the 38-store chain, said the changes - which include several new hires along with across-the-board restructuring of responsibilities, “will strengthen Strack & Van Til’s ability to excel in the highly competitive markets we serve. This team provides exceptional skills in the cornerstones of our stores, particularly store operations, financial management, and customer service.”

The new Strack & Van Til executive team, which is now fully in place, includes the following members:

Chris Bengtson, chief operating officer – With a career spanning more than 25 years in the industry, Bengtson arrives from Albertson’s Southwest Division where he held P/L responsibilities for 105 stores. He will focus on store operations, sales growth, store conditions, and identifying and developing talent on Strack & Van Til’s store management teams.

Stan Swinton, chief merchandising officer – Most recently VP of center store for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. (A&P), where he led center store marketing and merchandising for 301 stores, Swinton will own company-wide sales growth initiatives, innovation, profit margins, and sales and merchandising planning.

Jeff Strack, chief marketing officer, public relations and customer relations officer – With experience rooted in Strack & Van Til’s history, Strack was part of the leadership team that grew the company from 10 to 38 stores. His responsibilities will include all marketing and advertising programs, social and digital media initiatives, as well as customer and public relations, and consumer affairs issues.

Phil Latchford, chief financial officer – Currently Strack & Van Til’s controller, Latchford will succeed the retiring Keith Bruxvoort. A CPA, Latchford will manage shareholder value, budgeting, forecasting, internal and external audit, and cash management.

David Negron, vice president of fresh and perishables – With 31 years in Chicago-area retail food operations including his most recent tenure with Jewel-Osco, Negron brings knowledge of the market and store operations to his new position, which oversees key components of store merchandising initiatives.

Andy Raab, vice president of real estate – A senior business leader for the past 16 years with Ultra Foods, Raab will assume responsibility of Strack & Van Til’s real estate portfolio including acquisitions, new store and remodel construction initiatives, and store facility maintenance.

Rex Mudge, vice president of human resources – Mudge has more than 25 years in HR associated with the retail food industry on top of a dozen years in operations. Mudge will be responsible for training and development, workplace diversity, recruitment and compensation, and organizational development.

Derek Kinney, vice president of labor relations and customer service – Most recently VP of HR and labor relations for A&P, Kinney’s resume covers more than 31 years in the industry. He will oversee key aspects of labor relations and customer service initiatives.

Tom Cohen, vice president of IT – For more than two decades, Cohen has delivered innovative technology solutions in the retail and credit industries, including his role as CIO with Cohen will manage strategies in technology, systems integration, process innovation, and emerging technologies.

200 years of accumulated experience

Diehl also acknowledged the contributions made by retiring VP of Finance Keith Bruxvoort, who has been with Strack & Van Til since 1989. “We wish Keith and his wife Bev nothing but the best as they move on to a more enjoyable pace after his many years of service to our stores,” Diehl said.

“What pleases me most about this new team is that so many of them started their careers in stores working as baggers and clerks, learning the business from the ground up,” Diehl continued. “They have already established successful careers in our industry and many are leaving great companies to move to the Midwest, clearly embracing the vision we have for Strack & Van Til and Ultra Foods. Our customers, employees, suppliers and vendors will all benefit from the more than 200 years of accumulated experience that this team will now bring to every aspect of our operation.  

“With these changes, our front-line employees, shareholders, and our valued customers can be assured that Strack & Van Til and Ultra Foods are well-positioned to be at the forefront of a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive industry.”

Strack & Van Til operates 20 stores under the corporate banner, 16 Ultra Foods stores and two Town & County Markets throughout the Chicago area and northwest Indiana. Strack & Van Til is a subsidiary of Joliet, Ill.-based grocery distributor Central Grocers Inc. 

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