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Geissler's Supermarkets, a family-owned independent supermarket in East Windsor, Conn., is closing in on almost a century of successful food retailing that has spanned four generations of family leadership. The grocer turned 90 this past April, and is celebrating its birthday with its customers in a series of events in each of its seven stores.
Third-generation owner and President Jim Nilsson, well known for his active industry and community involvement, says that a key to the retailer's success over the years is a strong focus on the fundamentals, which he says are "hard work, customer service and keeping quality products," adding, "We're not going to just bring anything into the store to sell it out; you really have to listen to the customer and take care of them."
Nilsson is also a big believer in developing close ties to both the industry and the communities his company serves. He's been on the board of directors of the Connecticut Food Association for 30 years, and its chairman twice. Nilsson and Geissler's are also involved in many community organizations and events. "My philosophy has always been, take care of the customers and they will take care of you," he says. "This especially includes being involved in the community. I'm involved in many different things such as chambers, various rotary clubs and many other community organizations."
Other third-generation family members include Nilsson's brother and two sisters. As Nilsson prepares to retire in a few years, he has been getting the fourth generation of family members – including his two daughters and four nephews – ready to take over leadership of the company.
One of the nephews, Eric Nilsson, now managers the Somers, Conn., store, following a stint on the other side of the fence, working for a national brand selling to grocers. "I missed the grocery industry," he says. "There are long hours involved, but it's very rewarding. Family is always around. You are part of the community. Day in and day out, you are with your customers, and I love being around people."
He also loves the positive impact a grocer can make on people's lives. "If you look at what's going on in this country, we're starting to think about food more," he says. "That's something we get to be directly involved with – helping people decide on what they are eating and hopefully making their lives better."