Sobeys senior vice-president of merchandising and commercial programs Mary Dalimonte is retiring early next month after more than 40 years in the Canadian grocery industry.
Described as a “merchandising trailblazer” and a “force within the company and the grocery industry” by the company’s chief merchandising officer Lyne Castonguay, Dalimonte has spent the past 10 years with Sobeys.
She joined the company in 2008 leading Sobeys Urban Fresh, bringing the downtown store concept to market—there are now eight Urban Fresh stores in Toronto plus another in Ottawa—before taking on the role of VP, private label in 2011.
Prior to joining Sobeys, Dalimonte spent more than 30 years with Loblaw Companies Limited in increasingly senior roles, including senior director of store operations, general manager of retail operations and VP, store operations.
“ has shown she is an innovator, creator, influence and mentor,” said Castonguay in a memo announcing Dalimonte’s retirement, adding that she had made “significant” contributions to the industry.
“For me it was always about innovation,” Dalimonte told Canadian Grocer. “Somebody once said to me that it’s one thing to have an idea, but it’s another to see something that people don’t—to be ahead of the curve. It’s one thing to think it, but to bring it to life is what’s important.”
A 2017 recipient of Canadian Grocer’s Star Women Award, Dalimonte has long been committed to supporting the next generation of business leaders, estimating that she has mentored “dozens” of would-be leaders over the years. “For me it’s about putting my hand out to help the next level,” says Dalimonte. “You cannot be a leader without helping the next level up.”
READ: Star Women winners on the importance of putting the customer first
Dalimonte first entered the grocery industry as a part-time cashier at Loblaws while studying at York University, where she majored in sociology and studied languages including Italian and Spanish.
She quickly discovered that the job combined two of her favourite things: Meeting people, and food. “For me it’s always been about people,” said Dalimonte. “I am energized by being with people, and when you combine that with the food industry, it makes for an unbeatable combination of the two things I love the most.”
Her post-retirement plans include travelling and spending time with her family, though she said food—and the grocery industry—would never be far from her mind.
“I’m never going to travel and not walk into a grocery store —I will always do that,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where I am, I go into food markets, grocery stores—big or small, I don’t care. I’m always looking to enjoy the next great thing.
“I love food and I love innovation.”
Dalimonte also plans to maintain an active volunteer calendar , which includes roles with the Network of Executive Women and Women in Food Industry Management and one-to-one mentoring roles.
Her retirement comes amid a period of volatility for the grocery industry, but she said she is “absolutely” optimistic about the future. “I’ve been in this business for over 40 years, and it’s … continual transformation,” she says.