Alabama Grocers Association Honors Industry Standouts
The Alabama Grocers Association held its annual convention earlier this week at the Sandestin in Destin, Fla. A number of awards were presented, including the 2012 Spirit of America Award, which went to Gerry Totoritis, president and CEO of Associated Grocers of the South.
Totoritis, who accepted the award from Tom Wenning of the National Grocers Association, recently announced his upcoming retirement from AG of the South. He has led the Birmingham-based cooperative for the past 12 years. He will retire Aug. 30.
Among the other awards presented during the convention:
Spirit of Alabama Award
Patrick McWhorter of The McWhorter Group
This award, presented by Alabama Grocers Association President Ellie Smotherman Taylor, was given in honor of McWhorter’s accomplishments to support the mission of the association by promoting the growth and success of the food industry by representing its members before legislative and regulatory bodies.
McWhorter has a vast background in politics and local home grown products. He grew up in Kentucky in the family farm store and farming operation and was heavily involved in the tobacco business. In Kentucky he held numerous political positions including being CEA in the Department for Local Government under Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. and Assistant Insurance Commissioner under Gov. Martha Layne Collins.
In June 1989, he went to work for The Tobacco Institute and was regional director sharing responsibility for all government relations on behalf of 13 major tobacco companies in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. After the Master Settlement Agreement, The Tobacco Institute was disbanded and he came to Montgomery as a legislative consultant. He has served under six governors including Guy Hunt, Jim Folsom, Fob James, Don Siegelman, Bob Riley and current governor, Robert Bentley. He has been the legislative consultant to the Alabama Grocers Association since 1993.
The Alabama Grocers Association Spirit of Alabama Award was established in 2006 to honor those that support the association and have commitment to the state of Alabama food industry.
Broker of the Year Award
Jeff Forman, Advantage Sales and Marketing
Jeff Forman of Advantage Sales and Marketing was presented with the Alabama Grocers Association Broker of the Year Award.
The award, presented by Taylor and Harold Garrett, association chairman, was given in recognition of Forman’s outstanding service and devotion to the Alabama Grocers Association and the grocery industry in the state of Alabama.
Forman started his career with Presto Products and moved from his hometown in Wisconsin to Dallas, Texas, to open its district office. He held various positions with Presto Products both in Dallas and in Atlanta, Ga. In 1980, he joined Welch Foods as its regional sales manager and in 1982 he moved into the food brokerage business in Oklahoma City as partner/GM of McVey-Henley Co.
In 1987, he and his wife Nancy moved to Birmingham to work for Marketing Specialists, which later became the Budd Mayer Co. and is now Advantage Sales and Marketing. Forman has held various positions with Advantage and has served the last 12 years as the sales manager in Alabama.
Forman is past president of the Food Sales Executive Club of Alabama and currently serves on the Alabama Grocers Association Board of Directors.
The Alabama Grocers Association Broker of the Year Award was established in 1996 to honor those that support the association and have commitment to the state of Alabama food industry.
Wholesaler of the Year
Frank D’Amico III, BTC Wholesale Distributors
Frank D’Amico III of BTC Wholesale Distributors was presented with the Alabama Grocers Association Wholesaler of the Year Award.
The award was presented by Taylor and Garrett and given to D’Amico in recognition of his outstanding service and devotion to the Alabama Grocers Association and the grocery industry in the state of Alabama.
D’Amico graduated from the University of Alabama in 1979 and in the same year joined BTC Wholesale Inc. BTC is a family owned business that was started in 1927 and is a wholesale distributor that services grocery stores, convenience stores and drugstores with items such as cigarettes, candy, tobacco, groceries and snacks. It services customers in nine states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. The company is headquartered in Shelby County and employs 110 people. During D’Amico’s 33 years with the company he has held many positions including sales representative, sales manager, VP of sales, EVP and currently serves as president.
D’Amico has served as president of the Alabama Wholesale Distributors Association and currently serves as treasurer. He also currently serves on the board of the Alabama Grocers Association and the Petroleum and Convenience Marketers Association. He is a member of the University of Alabama Alumni Association Commerce Executive Society and recently has been nominated to the University of Alabama Board of Visitors. In addition, D’Amico is vice chairman of the Regions Tradition, which has been an annual event in Birmingham for 21 years. He also is a founding board member of the Vestavia Hills School Foundation and is vice president of the Vestavia Hills Athletic Association.
The Alabama Grocers Association Wholesaler of the Year Award was established in 1996 to honor those who support the association and have commitment to the state of Alabama food industry.
Manufacturer of the Year
Phillip Ray, Wells Blue Bunny Dairy
Phillip Ray, Wells Blue Bunny Dairy, was presented with the Alabama Grocers Association Manufacturer of the Year Award.
The award was presented by Taylor and Garrett and given to Ray in recognition of his outstanding service and devotion to the Alabama Grocers Association and the grocery industry in the state of Alabama.
Ray has spent his entire career in the grocery industry. In the fall of 1962, at the age of 15, he starting working at Hills Grocery in Gardendale as a grocery bagger, produce clerk and stocker making 75 cents per hour. Winn-Dixie acquired Hills and he worked there until graduation from Mortimer Jordan High School in 1965. He started Jacksonville State University in the fall of 1965 and starting working at Western Supermarket in Gardendale until his graduation in 1970.
Following college, he served as a staff sergeant in the Alabama Army National Guard and began his early career at General Motors Acceptance Corp. and Ed Mollison Chevrolet. In 1973, he began working with Economic Laboratory Inc. as a sales representative and was later promoted to Alabama district manager. During his 21-year career with Ecolab/Benckiser Consumer Products, he received the District Manager of the Year Award several times. In addition, he was the recipient of the “Make a Difference Award” from Benckiser Consumer Products.
In 1995, he joined Wells Dairy as a sales representative for the Birmingham market. In 1996, he was promoted to Alabama/Georgia regional manager and in 1993 was promoted to Southeastern regional manager. In 2004, he received the Gallup Regional Manager of the Year Award and was the winner of Southeast Presidents Club in 2007. He managed the sales team that gained distribution for Wells in the following accounts: Food Lion, Harris Teeter, MDI, Ingles, Lowes Foods, Associated Grocers of the South, Mitchell Grocery, Supervalu, Piggly Wiggly Alabama Distributing, Piggly Wiggly Charleson, K-VAT, Winn-Dixie, Harvey’s, C&S Birmingham and Ira Higdon Grocery.
The Alabama Grocers Association Manufacturer of the Year Award was established in 1996 to honor those that support the Association and have commitment to the state of Alabama food industry.
Retailer of the Year Award
Robbie Norman, Norman Foods
Robbie Norman of Norman Foods was recognized as the Alabama Grocers Association Retailer of the Year. This award was given in recognition of Norman’s outstanding service and devotion to the Alabama Grocers Association and the grocery industry in the state of Alabama.
Norman began his retail career at age 18 working at Wyatts Supermarket in Ramer, Ala., while attending Troy State University. While at Wyatts, he learned a great deal about the grocery business, managing the front end of the store, and developed a passion for the retail business.
After graduating from Troy State in 1993 with a degree in accounting, he sent on to work for the grocery warehouse Scrivner. Three years later after more knowledge of the accounting of grocery stores he went to work for Taylor Chandler in Montgomery where he learned in depth about retail grocery accounts and was able to develop relationships with independent grocery store retailers.
After these years of training and gaining more experience he was looking forward to opening a store of his own and got that chance in Thomasville, Ala., when a landlord needed a tenant and was interested in helping someone young and eager be in the grocery business.
Norman opened his first store in Thomasville on Nov. 20, 2000. He spent many hours in the stores—generally staying at the store past 9 p.m., closing the store himself. After four years of continually learning more and developing a system that worked, he opened a second stores in Waynesboro, Miss. Since then he has opened four stores, including the Millbrook Food Outlet in Prattville.
The Alabama Grocers Association Retailer of the Year Award was established in 1996 to honor those that support the association and have commitment to the state of Alabama food industry.
The Alabama Grocers Association is a state trade association representing the grocery retail industry since 1990. It has more than 125 retail members operating nearly 1,000 stores nationwide, as well as more than 225 manufacturers, brokers, wholesalers and other members.
In the featured photo at top: Jeff Forman of Advantage Sales and Marketing, left, accepts the Alabama Grocers Association Broker of the Year Award from Harold Garrett, association chairman.