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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The May 8 episode of ABC's hit show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" will have special meaning for Price Chopper, based here: The regional 43-store grocer with locations in Kansas and Missouri was closely involved in helping a local family's dream of a better place to live come true.
The subjects of the episode is the Johnson family, headed by Stephen Johnson, a heroic firefighter as well as a single father raising several children, both natural and adopted. Johnson was nominated by a fellow firefighter, who, when their unit was responding to a fire alarm, was shot in the chest by a sniper. Johnson risked his life pulling her to safety.
"Price Chopper was recruited to help by the local contractor rebuilding the home, Kevin Green," explained Price Chopper senior group sales manager Rick Haberland. "Kevin has built several homes for Price Chopper executives and is well known and appreciated in the community."
According to Haberland, "Price Chopper agreed to do 'the normal' asked of 'Extreme Makeover' partners -- in this case, stock the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer -- then offered to go two big steps further: provide the Johnson family with $200 per week in groceries for a year, to be presented to them after the production leaves town, and provide Price Chopper and Best Choice [the dominant grocery brand of Price Chopper parent Associated Wholesale Grocers] beverages and snacks for the 300-plus workers reconstructing the home.
"It didn't matter to Price Chopper whether or not the Johnsons were customers, [although it was likely] that they were, with two out of three KC shoppers choosing Price Chopper as a primary or secondary grocery," continued Haberland. The family turned out to be regular customers at Price Chopper's Blue Ridge and Brookside stores.
There were some barriers to traditional publicity, however, that Price Chopper had to find ways to overcome. First, there were many "partners" involved, with a large number contributing many thousands of dollars for the local effort, but only the national sponsors got any publicity on the show, other than a rolling credit at the end and a link on their web sites. Second, local partners were asked not to try to get local publicity until after the show aired, though Price Chopper was aware that with the large number and variety of players, even local publicity wouldn't be likely. Third, the production company strictly controlled product identification on the show.
According to Haberland, "We understood this upfront, so we took the approach of making sure our customers, since they’re two-thirds of the market, anyway, knew of our participation, and we [gave them] the opportunity to help the Johnsons. We did this with bag stuffers, one side with the story and the other side with directions to the home makeover site. Likewise, we got our product placement out to the local customer base by supporting the hundreds of volunteers with our branded products. We would have done the same with the thousands of spectators, but that was prohibited by the production company."
Haberland added: "Also, we're buying a spot market spot for the Sunday night showing of 'Extreme Makeover,' again thanking our customers for the opportunity to help."