Jim Lee, president and COO of Stater Bros. Markets, plans to retire May 31. He made the announcement Thursday in Pomona, Calif., after being inducted into the California Grocers Association Educational Foundation (CGAEF) Hall of Achievement.
Lee joined San Bernardino-based Stater Bros. Markets as group SVP of retail operations in 2002, bringing to the company more than 30 years of supermarket experience.
Lee began his grocery career with Ralphs Grocery Co. in 1972 as a clerk’s helper. He was promoted to various positions during his 25 years at the company including store manager, district manager, VP of operations administration and VP of store operations, Northern Division and Southern Divisions. His last position with Ralphs was group VP of the Central Division.
Prior to joining Stater Bros., Lee was president and COO, from 1996-2001, of Wild Oats Markets Inc. based in Boulder, Colo.; at the time, Wild Oats was the second largest chain of natural foods supermarkets in North America with annual sales of more than $1 billion. During his time with Wild Oats, he helped the company “go public” and oversaw a 600 percent increase in sales.
Stater Bros. is a Fortune 500 company and the largest privately owned supermarket chain based in Southern California with 167 stores, nearly $3.8 billion in annual slae and more than 18,000 employees.
In addition to Lee, Vic Chiono, VP of sales, West U.S., Coca-Cola Refreshments, also was inducted into the CGAEF Hall of Achievement at the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel and Conference Center on Thursday.
Chiono, with responsibilities for the Central and West U.S., has been in sales and marketing for more than 36 years, just completing more than 26 years within Coca-Cola, holding numerous sales and management positions.
Chiono got started in the grocery industry at age 10 sorting bottles and sweeping the parking lots of his father’s Safeway store. He worked through high school and college as a checker and shelf stocker. After graduating from San Jose State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Chiono started his career by joining Unilever as a sales representative selling food, health and beauty products to 135 retail stores.
In 1987, after obtaining several management positions within Unilever, Chiono joined Coca-Cola where he has enjoyed a successful career selling all Minute Maid, Gold Peak, Simply Beverages and juice drink products. Most of his sales background has been working with retailers throughout the U.S. From 1996-1999, he shifted his focus to the foodservice division establishing Minute Maid products as a staple in restaurants, theme parks and hotel chains.
The CGAEF Hall of Achievement was created in 1993, and recognizes California grocery retailers and suppliers who have contributed substantially to the advancement of the grocery industry.
In the featured photo at top is Jim Lee and Vic Chiono.
See the June edition of The Shelby Report of the West for more about the CGAEF Hall of Achievement induction ceremony and Lee’s retirement announcement.