All Hail the
For the duration of my career, I’ve viewed inde- pendent grocers as underdogs. And I’ve always rooted hard for them, largely because of my earnest admiration for the part they play in their local communities, the sum of which I believe symbolizes all that is good about food retailing. It’s not a stretch to say that all I ever needed to know about the grocery business I learned from indies, which dates back to my first job out of
college at a statewide grocers trade association. I was
very fortunate that the entry-level communications
department role, which evolved over my seven-year stint,
provided me with an incredible opportunity to absorb a
wealth of knowledge from the association’s then-robust
and diverse base of retailer and wholesaler members.
It was a far different world back then, and the
shakeout in the ranks of indie grocers over the course
of the waning decades has been dramatic.
Accordingly, it’s with great pride and pleasure to
present our 2019 slate of Remarkable Independents,
each of which have etched a distinctive niche in the
neighborhoods they serve while contending with an
imposing and sophisticated base of mega-retailers.
The 15 retail companies showcased in our cover
story were selected from a pool of nominations
submitted either on their own behalf or from their
suppliers and wholesalers. They’re a divergent lot that
ranges from midsized regional operators to single-store owners, each of whom share similar underdog
qualities and characteristics alongside estimable
underdog stories that make their achievements all the
more impressive. Moreover, not unlike the large chains
with whom they compete, this year’s indie honorees
portray a highly adaptable contingent that embraces
and invests in technology; use their nimble size and
close community ties to the fullest advantage; and
generate favorable word-of-mouth reviews on social
networks and online business review sites.
To double the pleasure and double the fun of our
inside profiles of this year’s honorees beginning on
Page 24, we will also enhance coverage of our 2019
Remarkable Independents on our website throughout
the month of February, including expanded interviews
with company execs and photo galleries.
Speaking of fun, special shoutouts are in order for
two of our indie all-stars, both of whom hail from the
In-Store Experience winners’ circle: Paula Janssen of
Wilmington, Del.-based Janssen’s Market, who cleared
the decks in the heart of the harried holiday season
to accommodate our splendid cover photo shoot; and
Jim Bonaminio of Jungle Jim’s International Market
in Fairfield, Ohio, who is, has, and will forever be an
irrefutable Remarkable Independent on anyone’s ledger.
As a longtime fan and first-time interviewer of
Bonaminio, my conversation in January with the
pioneering grocer—more commonly known by his one-name moniker, Jungle—for this month’s Endcap on Page
82 reinforced my belief that all I ever needed to know
about the grocery business I learned from indies.
As one of the most fiercely independent retailers of
all time, Jungle says he fashioned his makeshift first-generation food empire strictly on “the love of the game,”
which he says, “is by far the most important thing”—as
opposed to the money, “which is the byproduct of loving
the game.” While he elaborated on the latter, it was
impossible to miss the determination and pride Jungle
still has as a two-store operator squaring off day in and
day out with his preferred “big boy” adversaries.
“As I recently told my crew, ‘After the big Christmas
season we just had, 99% of our customers passed by one
of the big monster stores—which are powered by huge
IT and marketing departments—to come to you. And it’s
something you should all feel very proud about.’”
As we dedicate this issue to America’s independent
grocers, we hope you concur that their stories give us
something we can all applaud.
It’s not a stretch to say that all I ever
needed to know about the grocery
business I learned from indies.
VP Content, Grocery
@meg_major | firstname.lastname@example.org