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Anne Demchak, Stop & Shop store manager, discusses the many rewarding roles of a supermarket industry career – no bologna!
Anne Demchak, store manager at the Stop & Shop on Whalley Avenue in New Haven, Conn., may have been honored as one of Progressive Grocer’s Top Women in Grocery in 2011, but she’s not one to rest on her laurels. Instead, Demchak usually goes right on to the next thing, but in a recent chat, PG encouraged this ageless dynamo to take a brief look back to see how far she’s come.
Starting out at Stop & Shop back in 1981 as a “bologna slicer” — a gig that lasted all of two weeks, until she took a job as a meat wrapper to replace a woman who had broken her leg — Demchak eventually enrolled in the banner’s apprentice program to become a deli manager for seven years, and then did stints as a night manager and a deli trainer (specialist) before finding her ultimate calling as a store manager.
Still, Demchak remains modest about having risen through the ranks. “The career path chose me; I didn’t choose the career path,” she insists, expressing gratitude that Stop & Shop paid for the undergraduate and graduate degrees she earned while working for the company.
Summits of Achievement
It was while managing a store in the poorest part of New Haven that Demchak, along with fellow Connecticut Food Bank member Kate Walton, now with Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers of Greater New Haven, devised a program that became Stop & Shop’s Healthy Food Summit series. Walton wanted to start nutrition classes for kids, and Demchak offered her store to prepare the meals taught in the lessons. The first summit was held in that store in 2010, with subsequent events targeting seniors (2013) and teens (2014). The summits have even attracted the notice of nearby Yale University, which has contributed to various panels.
The teen program, which featured a “Hunger Games”-style scavenger hunt, has proved the most popular so far, according to Demchak, who subsequently hired two of the adolescent participants on the inaugural event’s panel.
Among her current and upcoming projects are a series of five to six small nutrition classes for diabetics of 10-15 attendees, which could become weekly, and the privately funded MOMs Partnership, created with the aim of helping single mothers deal with stress, for which Demchak has carved out dedicated space by her store’s entrance, to be staffed by volunteers.
‘Teaching Life Skills’
Another priority for Demchak is mentorship. To that end, she routinely steers promising workers to associate module training that enables part-timers to become full-timers. She notes that Stop & Shop is “extremely supportive” of associate development, describing it as “the backbone of how we grow” and observing that 90 percent of the banner’s managers come from within the organization.
According to Demchak, being a store manager is “a lot like being a teacher, except we’re teaching life skills, not arithmetic.” As recompense for her efforts, former associates often come back to thank her; one, who as a newly hired 18-year-old was always tardy, returned to report proudly, “I’m not late anymore!”
Inspired by such examples, Demchak attributes her longevity at the grocer to the fact that she loves what she does, particularly promoting other people.
Despite the fact that she plans to retire next year — an almost unthinkable prospect, given her boundless energy level — Demchak plans to remain involved with the Healthy Summit and MOMs Partnership programs, as well as retaining her various local board memberships.
Given all she’s been able to accomplish, what’s the secret of Demchak’s success at Stop & Shop? “They never say no to me. I tell them [what I want to do], and they let me do what I want,” she replies, only half-joking.