by Mary Margaret Stewart / staff writer
The year 2021 will mark EVP of Food Depot Jamey Leseueur’s 40th year with the company. He started in high school, worked through college and never left. “I’ve loved every minute of it,” he said.
Asked what’s kept him there, he said he enjoys the dynamics. “This industry, if nothing else, is always challenging. And this year, it’s proven to be that in spades,” Leseueur said.
“The pandemic is just one of those challenges that you never really thought much about. The supply chain itself has always been very stable, and we’ve never had this issue before, until this year. It became a real issue in March…I buy from UNFI…and they could only pick and pull 27,000 cases a day to pick and deliver. And that was to all their customers.
“Well, when we first started this, we were ordering two-and-a-half to three times as many cases as they could pull. I never thought I would have to be canceling departments and deciding which departments I needed the least on one particular day.
“It was just very interesting watching the trickle-down effects of the supply chain, all the way down to the retail end.”
And these effects taught the Food Depot executive new things about the business.
“We learned where to purchase things. We were fortunate in the respect that when the meat supply was running slim, we were able to find alternative sources,” he explained. “Unfortunately for the restaurant industry when they closed down, you had foodservice suppliers that had many a product but didn’t have any customers.
“We were able to buy meat from U.S. Foods or Gordon Food Service or Sysco…and us being independent, we were much more flexible about where we could buy from to take care of our customers, so that was an advantage for us.”
Advantages for independents also came from GFIA and its consistent advocacy and flow of information amidst the pandemic. Food Depot has been a member for several years, and Leseueur has served as chairman for the association this year.
“[GFIA] always has done an excellent job representing the independents in the industry as a whole, but this year, they did it better than ever.
“With their daily phone calls with information on regulations and everything else that was ebbing and flowing and changing with guidelines and all, I mean, they really stepped up and did a lot. They should be commended highly for everything they did.”
Going forward, Leseueur said that 2021 is going to be an interesting year, particularly when it comes to things such as budgeting.
Food Depot traces its roots to Stockbridge, Georgia, where in 1975 the owners acquired an existing store formerly known as Kenney’s Market. The Food Depot name and concept arrived in 1988 in Conyers. The company has since grown to 42 stores, one of which is a conventional store concept called Food Depot Marketplace that opened in March.
Asked what’s next for Food Depot, Leseueur has plans to continue to better the existing locations.
“We expand by opportunities. If any opportunities come up, we are in a position that, if we feel like it’s a good opportunity to take advantage of, we will,” he said. “Otherwise, we are in a remodel phase in our company and our stores, and I will continue to do that.”