Five grocers inducted into A.D.A.’s hall of fame

11/6/2011

In the magical, picturesque setting with the Laurentian mountains as the backdrop at the Fairmont Tremblant in Mont-Tremblant, Que., five Quebec grocers took their place among other legends this past Saturday.

At the annual awards dinner for the Association des détaillants en alimentation du Quebec, five grocers were inducted into the association’s hall of fame: Yves Marcoux, Beau-Soir; Martine St-Georges, Provigo; Danielle St-Georges, Provigo; Guy Pelletier, Metro–GP; and Michel Bouchard, IGA.

The evening was filled with emotion as each grocer’s biography and accomplishments was read by Quebec TV personality, Melanie Maynard, who kept the crowd laughing throughout the night.

Then each grocer was introduced by a close colleague or industry friend who explained why he/she was deserving of the honour.

Afterwards, each grocer was invited on stage wherein a short, informal interview with Maynard took place. Then to cap off the tribute, each grocer’s favourite song was performed by the live band while pictures of the grocer at work and play were presented on the four large screens in the ballroom. Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience by the time the evening festivities concluded.

Yves Marcoux, a Beau-Soir corner store owner, was recognized for winning over a primarily Anglophone clientele with his customer-centric approach and variety of goods. He was praised for his longevity in the industry–some 33 years. In November 1979, Marcoux and his wife Lorraine, bought a 2,000-sq.-ft. grocery store in Pointe-St-Charles southwest of Montreal, and quickly converted it into a corner store that carried everything from Aunt Jemima pancake mixes to hammers and nails, it was the variety of products that was the secret to the store’s success. In 1982, the couple opened a second store in the Rosemont neighbourhood of Montreal, a stark economic contrast to its first store’s neighbourhood where there was a lot of poverty. The second store carried a variety of cosmetic products, which Lorraine decided to package in gift baskets and sell at a lower cost than elsewhere. Today, the Marcoux’s  children Bianca and Jean-Francois have taken over the helm of the business. Upon receiving his honour, Marcoux said that he was very touched to have been chosen as one of the inductees and thanked his wife who “has been supporting me since the beginning–some 40 years.”

Michel Bouchard began his career in 1969 at age 16 as a bagger at Steinberg in Rimouski. Even though he was a student part-timer, he made sure to get experience in all departments of the grocery store.  In university, Bouchard studied administration getting the knowledge necessary to later manage grocery departments. By 1972, he started working full time at a Steinberg in Sept-Iles where Bouchard managed three departments: produce, service and grocery. Then when Steinberg opened a store in Haute-Rive, Bouchard was ready to take the reigns at age 23. By 1980, Bouchard was managing four stores in a highly competitive environment. With his knowledge, he became regional supervisor travelling across Quebec to support store directors from Charlevoix to Sherbrooke, some 70,000 km per year. Then in 1992, an old colleague who left Steinberg for IGA called wanting him to lead a consumer cooperative in Lorette. He accepted the challenge and began to turn the morale and business around. “I didn’t want a hierarchical pyramid with staff, but more a circle wherein each person occupied an important place,” he said. Since 1994, Bouchard has held the position of director on the advisory committee of grocers in the Laurentian basin; as well as well as part of the governance committee of Sobeys and vice-president of the Federation of Cooperative Grocers of Quebec 1994–2005. Upon accepting his award, Bouchard thanked all the talented staff members who supported him throughout his career, as well as his mentor Pierre Brodeur of Steinberg.

Guy Pelletier was born to be in the grocery business. He said jokingly, that he was born March 14, and new what he wanted to do on March 15. When he was born in 1965, his parents, Germain and Rolande, had been operating a small grocery store in Mont-Joli called Marché GP Market Inc. Other stores soon followed and Pelletier was anxious to get through his studies and get into the business. He wanted to take advantage of his parents’ expertise as long as possible. But before getting into the family business, Pelletier wanted to work for other companies to “gain credibility”; as well he wanted to improve his English. He worked at Super Carnaval Food Store in Toronto in 1987 for six months, doing everything from operations, buying, private label and even price comparisons. By age 22, Pelletier and his brother Marc become co-presidents of the family’s business, which comprised of both food and real estate with annual revenues of $35 million, five stores and 350 employees. The next twenty years, the family business grew and by 2009, it consisted of 15 supermarkets, 1,800 employees, and annual revenues of $320 million. By 1988, Pelletier had signed a deal with Metro Inc. to debut the Metro GP banner. In 2009, Metro Inc. purchased Les Supermarchés GP Inc. comprised of 15 supermarkets in Quebec City and Eastern Quebec, including 8 under the Metro and Metro Plus banners, and 7 under the GP banner. In 2002, Pelletier received the Mérite national de l’alimentation from the Ministry of Food in Quebec, which recognizes his contribution to improving accessibility to regional products in food distribution. From 1997–1999, Pelletier served as A.D.A. president.His lasting legacy Pelletier hopes is the importance he places on human resources. “Human resources, it’s the key (to success),” said Pelletier. As for a future return to food, Pelletier said “I sold my stores, but not my passion (for grocery).”  Pelletier thanked his parents for having faith in him from the beginning and for all those who helped him achieve his dreams.”

Danielle and Martine St-Georges aren’t only sisters, they’re best friends in business. They’ve taken over the business from their father, Julien, who bought his first grocery store in the village of St-Michel. Danielle entered the business in the 1980s after she grew tired of her administrative job. She loved the public relations aspect of the busienss, “I loved meeting clients rather than being couped up in an office all day,” said Danielle. The timing couldn’t have been better as her father was planning to renovate the store and become a Provigo banner as well. Over the next 15 years, Danielle took over all the departments in the business from ccustomer service to administration. By 1998, Martine and Danielle started collaborating in grocery; Danielle comes up with ideas; while Martine isn’t as nervous about trying new things. In 2001, their father was looking at retirement so the sisters planned out the succession of the business. Always involved in their community, the sisters ensure that their store is the heart of the village of St-Michel. “Running a business is different when you’re in such a small town as ours; we don’t have a choice but be close to our clientes, but we like it this way,” said Martine.

Along with the grocers being honoured, the A.D.A. officially announced its new president, Daniel Choquette of Provigo in Marieville, Que. Choquette will have a term of three years, and takes over the reigns from Christian Jasmin.  One of Choquette’s mandates going forward will be to continue to strengthen the ties between the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers and the A.D.A. Choquette is a big supporter of learning exchanges between CFIG and A.D.A. staff wherein best practices can be shared and taken back to home provinces.

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