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The past few days at the IGA Global Rally and the NGA Show were perhaps the busiest days I will see this year, but also the most fulfilling, as I was able to re-connect with old industry friends and meet new ones, learn a ton of new things, and experience the satisfaction of seeing the Progressive Grocer Independent’s brand continue to grow in acceptance among an industry whose participants I deeply respect.
As I made my way through the two events I snapped photos whenever I could so that I could share some of these great experiences with you. Many of the workshops and business-related events will be posted in our online news and in a special section of the April 2014 issue of PGI, but I’d like to use this blog to post some of the images I captured during the networking events. This is only a small sample of what I took, but it should give you a taste.
Not everyone had business cards with them, so please bear with me if I leave out some titles.
Here is IGA’s VP of brand development Jim Walz and I during the business session on the first day of the IGA Global Rally. Jim made a tremendous presentation using some of the data from our recent Technology and the Independent Grocer research study, which we produced in partnership with The Center for Advancing Retail and Technology and the National Grocers Association. (I did share one of the two cookies with him).
I also had the chance to finally meet Paulo Goelzer in person. He runs the IGA Coca-Cola Institute and he and I have collaborated on several occasions, and it was great to chat with him in person. He’s done an incredible job with the online learning center that is hosted by the institute and that many independents use to educate their employees.
Bob Buonomano of Windham IGA, an award-winning grocer known for its awesome meat department, writes PGI’s regular Butcher’s Block column – a must-read for any grocer looking to enhance its meat offerings. Here his is with his wife Susan, following the breakout sessions on various topics that IGA held as a part of its educational program. These sessions were divided up into four topics: Creating a Successful Path for Store Employees; Embracing New Technologies to Better Run Your Business; Competing Against Emerging Formats; and Marketing to Emerging Demographics. This was a new educational format for the IGA Rally, and was a great success, as the individual discussions were extremely engaging. Following these discussions a volunteer from each group (well, not really a volunteer – Mike Sansolo did give each one $50) stood up and summarized the learnings of each group.
During the NGA opening reception I ran into Jay Sweeney (left) and Joe Hall (middle) of Mercatus Technologies. Here they are with PG group publisher Jeff Friedman, who I’ve worked for on various brands – and as an editor and a sales person – for most of my career. I guess I’m just an unlucky guy (Just kidding Jeff!)
At the reception I also ran into Newport Avenue Market’s Debbie Dory (left) and Rudy Dory, with their daughter and new Head Cheerleader Laura Johnson. I’ve had the privilege of working with Rudy and Debbie on many projects over the past decade, and they are among my industry favorites. They are really great people and have an amazing love of the business, not to mention enthusiasm that matches my own. Here I finally had the opportunity to meet Lauren in person, and it’s obvious Rudy and Debbie have passed these qualities down to her.
My Monday morning began with boos from the crowd at the Asparagus Club breakfast as I walked in five minutes late. (Fortunately, I wasn’t the last one in – Kellogg’s Dave Jones, had that honor!). For those of you who don’t know, the Asparagus Club started over a century ago and does an awesome job raising money for college scholarships that go to students pursuing a career in the grocery industry. It’s a great service organization and one that all industry members should support. You’ll learn more about them as I cover their activities in upcoming issues of PGI. I’m really looking forward to receiving my Asparagus Club pin to proudly wear at industry events (hint, hint). Pictured here are the group’s officers (I’ll have a full caption of IDs shortly, but I know that the left most officer is J.H. Campbell of Associated Grocers, Inc., Dave Jones is the tallest of the group, and to his right is Dan Schaul, pres. of the Missouri Grocers Association.)
Here is Brick Meets Click chief architect Bill Bishop and I in between sessions at the NGA Show. Bill and I have worked on many technology-related projects together, and he’s a great resource for grocers looking to integrate their online and brick and mortar operations.
This year's NGA Show event featutred a TON of retailer-filled sessions, and even with three editors it's impossible to cover them all.
I also thought it was a great move on the part of NGA to insert a half hour of space between the sessions. It turned the hall into an additional networking platform as folks waited for the second workshops to begin, and gave us reporters some time to breathe between them!
Jim Nilsson, CEO of Geissler’s, had more badge banners that anyone else I saw at the show, so I just couldn’t resist taking this photo. I met him and his entire family when we did a cover story on them last year, and I had a blast during the visit. A truly great operator and another one of my favorites. I sat next to his son Eric during one of the Monday sessions, during which I showed him Jim’s quote in our Technology study, and he pointed out that I had inadvertently wrote that they had nine stores, when in fact they have seven (I did get this number correct in the cover story about them, however). Instead of correcting this number, though, I suggested to Eric that they just open two additional stores this year so that the number is correct in the story.
This was the first time I had the opportunity to spend time with Mike Sansolo, who did a fantastic job of emcee'ing the IGA Global Rally, and here is a shot of the two of us during the IGA Global Innovation Awards last night. He's a great guy and it turns out we have several personal interests in common. Many of you may not know this, but Mike was a former editor-in-chief of PG. Also at the table was Steve Holdiman from Mondelez, who it was great getting to know, as well as Ashley Page, the behind-the-scenes IGA communication guru who makes sure Mark Batenic's PGI columns make deadline. The awards event was truly heart-warming, as each winner came up with his or her family to accept the award, and really demonstrated their love for this great industry.
Last, but not least, here is one from the show floor with PG sales rep Mike Shaw (left) and John Abenne of BRdata, a tech vendor I refer to as the most popular unknown tech vendor among the independent grocer industry, as they tend to keep a low profile – but they have a TON of independent Grocer customers.