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Strack & Van Til Reorganizes Executive Management Team

Jeff Strack

Strack & Van Til President and CEO Ken Diehl has announced a reorganization of the Highland, Indiana-based chain’s executive management team. Hired last October to steer the 5,000-employee company operating 38 stores, Diehl said the staffing changes are part of a plan to better position Strack & Van Til for the future.

Ken Diehl
Ken Diehl

“I’m very excited and pleased to announce the hiring of several new members to our executive management team as well as the restructuring of responsibilities across the board,” said Diehl. “These changes will strengthen Strack & Van Til’s ability to excel in the highly competitive markets we serve. This team provides exceptional skills in the cornerstones of our stores, particularly store operations, financial management and customer service.”

Strack & Van Til operates 20 stores under the corporate banner and another 16 Ultra Foods stores as well as two Town & Country Fresh Food Markets. Its stores are located throughout the Chicagoland area and northwest Indiana.

The new Strack & Van Til executive team, which is now fully in place, includes:

  • Chris Bengtson, COO—With a career spanning more than 25 years in the industry, Bengtson arrived from Albertsons’ Southwest Division, where he held P/L responsibilities for 105 stores. His focus is on store operations, sales growth, store conditions and identifying and developing talent in Strack & Van Til’s store management teams.
  • Stan Swinton, CMO—Most recently VP of center store for The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., where he led center store marketing and merchandising for 301 stores, Swinton now oversees company-wide sales growth initiatives, innovation, profit margins and sales and merchandising planning. Like Bengtson, Swinton brings more than 25 years of retail food experience to Strack & Van Til.
  • Jeff Strack, chief marketing officer, public relations and customer relations officer—With experience rooted in Strack & Van Til’s history, Strack was part of the leadership team that grew the company from 10 to 38 stores. His responsibilities include all marketing and advertising programs and social and digital media initiatives, as well as customer and public relations and consumer affairs issues.
  • Phil Latchford, CFO—Formerly Strack & Van Til’s controller, Latchford ascends to replace the retiring Keith Bruxvoort. A CPA, Latchford manages shareholder value, budgeting, forecasting, internal and external audit and cash management.
  • David Negron, VP of fresh and perishables—With an extensive background in retail food operations in the Chicago market for more than 31 years, including his most recent tenure with Jewel, Negron will use his knowledge of the market and store operations as he oversees key components of store merchandising initiatives.
  • Andy Raab, VP of real estate—A senior business leader for the past 16 years with Ultra Foods, Raab now has responsibility of Strack & Van Til’s real estate portfolio, including acquisitions, new store and remodel construction initiatives and store facility maintenance.
  • Rex Mudge, VP of HR—Mudge has more than 25 years in HR associated with the retail food industry on top of a dozen years in operations. As VP of HR, Mudge is responsible for training and development, workplace diversity, recruitment and compensation and organizational development.
  • Derek Kinney, VP of labor relations and customer service—Most recently VP of HR and labor relations for The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Kinney has more than 31 years in the industry. He oversees key aspects of labor relations and customer service initiatives.
  • Tom Cohen, VP of IT—For more than two decades Cohen has delivered innovative technology solutions in the retail and credit industries, including his role as CIO with Toms.com. Cohen manages strategies in technology, systems integration, process innovation and emerging technologies.

In announcing these changes, Diehl also acknowledged the contributions made by retiring VP of Finance Keith Bruxvoort, who had been with Strack & Van Til since 1989.

“We wish Keith and his wife Bev nothing but the best as they move on to a more enjoyable pace after his many years of service to our stores,” Diehl said.

Regarding the restructuring, Diehl said, “What pleases me most about this new team is that so many of them started their careers in stores working as baggers and clerks, learning the business from the ground up. They have already established successful careers in our industry and many are leaving great companies to move to the Midwest, clearly embracing the vision we have for Strack & Van Til and Ultra Foods.

“Our customers, employees, suppliers and vendors will all benefit from the more than 200 years of accumulated experience that this team will now bring to every aspect of our operation,” he said. “With these changes, our front-line employees, shareholders and our valued customers can be assured that Strack & Van Til and Ultra Foods are well-positioned to be at the forefront of a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive industry.”

Strack & Van Til is a subsidiary of Central Grocers Inc., the nation’s seventh largest grocery distributor with consolidated annual sales of more than $2 billion.

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