On Monday, in front of several hundred of the next generation of grocery industry leaders in Chicago, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) recognized Debbie and Rudy Dory of Newport Avenue Market in Bend, Oregon, with its Robert B. Wegman Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence. With focus on a healthy diet and a sense of humor, the Dorys’ single-store, employee-owned operation epitomizes this award for grocery innovators, according to FMI.
FMI President & CEO Leslie G. Sarasin said, “Rudy and Debbie are as colorful as the vision they have for their community and they have kept their shoppers in Bend, Oregon, guessing since 1991. They are a small operation, but mighty in spirit, and they embolden their industry peers to push boundaries and delight consumers in inventive ways.
“I would argue that the store’s creative appeal stems from Debbie’s professional background as a florist, and the Dorys’ double-digit growth for five of the last six years could be attributed to the store’s diverse mix of specialty food offerings, housewares and a hands-on approach to delivering fresh products to the consumer.”
The Dorys epitomize shopper trends with a hyper-focus on local products, featuring more than 200 artisanal items, according to FMI. The business remains at the forefront of technology, investing $2.5 million over the course of five years. These investments yielded digital shelf tag technology in the aisles, energy-saving refrigeration technology and total store lighting, and giving their shoppers secure payment options like Apple Pay. The company also is a trailblazer with regard to equal wages and became an employee-owned company in 2015, which provides workers with an ownership interest in Newport Avenue Market.
The two are engaged in the community through environmental, community and industry stewardship. The company reduced its landfill waste by nearly 60 percent in 2012, and it continues to be involved in hunger prevention, raising more than $200,000 for the Hunger Prevention Coalition of Central Oregon. In addition to his tenure on the FMI Board of Directors, independent operator committee and past chair of the public affairs committee and share group, Rudy has been a past board member of the United Way, the Bend Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club; and, in 2000, he was named the Deschutes County United Way Volunteer Citizen of the Year. In addition, Newport Avenue Market was named Business of the Year by the Bend Chamber in 2014.
The Dorys have one daughter, Lauren Johnson, who holds the title of CEO at Newport Avenue Market and regularly earns acclaim in her own right.
Other FMI honorees
Also on Monday, FMI recognized Peter V. “Greg” Gregerson, president and CEO of Gregerson’s Food and Pharmacy Inc., for two decades of government relations advocacy for FMI and the food retail industry on Capitol Hill in both Washington, D.C., and Montgomery, Alabama. FMI honored Gregerson with its Glen P. Woodard Award for Public Affairs at the organization’s professional development event, Future Leaders eXperience.
Gregerson’s three-store operation with a stand-alone drug store has been a mainstay in Gadsden, Alabama, and, consistent with the Woodard Award, Gregerson has been committed to his community and the greater industry at large by serving in a significant leadership capacity with the FMI Board of Directors as its vice chairman of FMI Public Affairs.
FMI Chief Public Policy Officer & SVP of Government Relations Jennifer Hatcher said, “Greg was the first FMI member who greeted me personally when I came to work for FMI, as I had already known him and his stellar reputation from my work on Capitol Hill, and I’m witness to his deep dedication to our organization and the food industry—notably, in the two decades I’ve known him, he has not missed a single Day in Washington advocacy event. He is devoted to critical industry issues such as swipe fee reform, most evident in his willingness to come back to Washington for a special plea to then Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) to preserve the 2010 debit reforms, which we argue have increased competition, fostered increased security and helped to contain costs.”
Hatcher noted Gregerson’s sense of community in rallying around industry issues, even when some regulations he advocated for and against in Washington may not directly and immediately apply to his business.
She said, “Greg doesn’t hesitate to wear a broad industry hat when he represents FMI in Washington. For instance, even though Greg is an independent operator, he remains resolute in his stance against the application of a chain restaurant menu labeling rule that has sweeping business implications for establishments with 20 or more locations. Since his representative is a key member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Gregerson continues to play a strategic role in advocating for legislation that offers solutions for less costly and more flexible ways of sharing nutrition information with customers.”
Gregerson’s successes have been well documented. He received the Community Impact award in 2010 from the Gadsden Chamber of Commerce. He’s been named both Alabama Grocer of the Year (2011) and Retailer of the Year (2012) by the Alabama Grocers Association and Alabama Retail Association, respectively. He also was the Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Fellow.
In addition to his role with FMI, Gregerson continues to serve on a diverse set of boards that represent both business and community: the Alabama Grocers Association, WinSouth Credit Union, Gadsden Etowah Industrial Development Authority, Greenville, S.C., Shriners Hospital for Children and recently was reappointed by the governor to the Alabama Small Business Commission.
Gregerson and his wife Marcy have four daughters and eight grandchildren.
Michael R. Taylor was honored as FMI’s 2017 Esther Peterson Award winner. Similar to the award’s namesake, Taylor—”a stalwart champion of the consumer,” has long supported the right of every consumer to safe, nutritious, affordable food, a commitment for which he was recognized at an FMI event for future food industry leaders.
The Esther Peterson Award for Consumer Service historically has honored influencers across the fields of science, journalism, business, government and consumer advocacy. The award annually recognizes a leader who has served consumers in a significant way and, this year, Taylor becomes its 18th inductee.
Taylor began his public service as a staff lawyer at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and he served later as FDA’s deputy commissioner for policy and, most recently, as the agency’s first deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. He also served at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Taylor led the overhaul of USDA’s meat safety program following the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak in 1993, including making meat and poultry producers accountable for preventing pathogen contamination in raw products; and he led FDA’s implementation of the sweeping food safety reforms mandated by Congress in the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011.
Sarasin on Monday paid tribute to Taylor’s commitment to the rigor of food safety protocols.
“Mike strives to make food safer; he courageously fights for consumer trust and transparency along the supply chain, artfully negotiating with opponents who were not necessarily in favor of change,” she said. “We, too, in the food retail industry have definitely had our share of medicine to swallow, especially with regard to the laborious processes associated with the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, but Mike was committed to understanding our challenges and to finding new ways for us to work with government to identify appropriate remedies to make the regulations work for our businesses.
“Mike has consistently demanded accountability in business to meet the demands of the consumer. When he stepped down from FDA in 2016, Food Safety News recounted, ‘When the changes Taylor made during the Clinton Administration are combined with those he’s made during the Obama Administration, he is easily the most significant person in food safety to come along in the last century.’ Today, we celebrate Mike’s significance for the food retail world, and ultimately, the shopper.”
Taylor maintains that food safety, food security and the overall success of the food system are inextricably linked, which was his rationale for joining the Meridian Institute where he works today on projects that bring people together to make progress on food safety and food security. Taylor currently focuses his efforts in Africa. He also is on the board of STOP Foodborne Illness, which represents illness victims and their families in the U.S., advocates for effective food safety regulatory programs and works with food companies to support the development of strong food safety cultures.