The Ohio Grocers Association (OGA) has named the winners of its 2018 Pinnacle Awards. These are the most prestigious awards given by the association and they recognize overall excellence in retail operations. Winners are selected based on creativity, merchandising, innovation, human resources, community relations and overall successful operations.
Each year the association recognizes a large and small (single-store) operator in the state. The companies are nominated by OGA members and voted on through the organization’s executive committee.
The 2018 large operator winner is Findlay, Ohio-based Fresh Encounter and its president and CEO Michael Needler Jr. Fresh Encounter is a supermarket management company founded in 1995 by Michael S. Needler Sr. and the late Susan Cheek Needler. It operates stores in Ohio and eastern Indiana under banners that include Great Scot, Community Markets, Sack n Save, King Saver and Chief Supermarkets.
The company previously was honored by the association when it was under the leadership of Mike Needler Sr. OGA President and CEO Kristin Mullins told The Shelby Report that the association’s nominating committee felt strongly about recognizing the company again due to its astounding growth.
In June last year, Generative Growth II, owned by Needler Jr. and his sister, Julie N. Anderson, purchased 15 former Marsh locations. The company reopened 14 of them under the new Needler’s Fresh Market banner. The other store, located in Van Wert, adopted Fresh Encounter’s Chief banner.
Needler is CEO and a partner in Generative Growth II. Anderson is VP of marketing as well as a partner in the company. Generative Growth owns more than two dozen supermarkets in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Fresh Encounter manages all Generative Growth locations and now oversees 59 retail locations.
“They’ve grown to a 60-store independent operator,” Mullins said. “Now they’re starting this new format. It is just a fabulous store. You go in there, it’s bright. It’s fresh. And the community really appreciates the quality store that they provide.”
Leo Braido of Oberlin IGA in Oberlin received the small operator honor.
“You walk in there and the community support around this store was unbelievable,” Mullins said. “He’s a kind and conscientious owner. He really gets involved in the community. He’s been so successful. It’s something that we easily and happily awarded this year.”
The 2018 award winners will be recognized and featured in a video on April 14 during the OGA’s annual Trade Relations Gala in Columbus at the Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center.
“We’re really proud of both of those members. They are two great OGA members,” Mullins said. “We are happy to recognize them and at OGA’s gala, they will be the highlight of that evening, so we’re looking forward to that.”
OGA also will recognize Pepsi-Co/G&J Bottle Co. as associate member of the year.
The annual gala’s theme for this year is Havana Nights.
“We’re calling it ‘One Hot Night,’” Mullins said. “It is a great networking night for Ohio. And we always try to put a fun spin on it. I won’t give away too much but look for cigars, look for a sangria bar, look for some fun times, maybe a little dancing. It’s going to be a great time and we hope to see everyone out there for that.”