When Roger Lowe Sr. is visiting one of his stores, there’s a good chance you will find him bagging groceries or greeting every employee (known as a teammate) or picking up trash in the parking lot.
His heart for people, attention to detail and impact on the grocery industry are just a few of the characteristics that led to his induction into Shelby Publishing’s Food Industry Hall of Fame.
Lowe’s Market is a family-owned supermarket chain that operates under multiple banners throughout the southwestern U.S., providing the capacity to cater to various neighborhoods.
Lowe’s opened its first grocery store in 1963 in the small town of Olton, Texas, but the family history in the grocery business dates to the late 1940s when E.M. “Bud” Lowe, Roger Sr.’s father, started selling candy and sundries in Littlefield, Texas.
Bud and Roger Sr. founded the company on the principle of taking care of the community, their teammates and their family. That philosophy has allowed the company to grow from its humble beginnings to 144 stores covering all of Texas and neighboring New Mexico, with additional locations in Arizona, Colorado and Kansas.
Man of faith
Many people told The Shelby Report their story of going to Lowe Sr. for mentoring. One of the questions they ask him is what books he reads. He always tells them there is only one book to focus on – the Bible.
Bringing life to the company’s core values of “God, Family, Groceries,” Lowe Sr. is consistently described in the pages that follow as one of the “godliest” men folks have met.
“He is the definition of everything that we preach…in the Bible it talks about ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ And he is a peacemaker,” said Tanner Wilson, Lowe’s chaplain and senior pastor at First Baptist Church Littlefield. “He truly makes peace in all situations. I think he is full of love because he treats every person the same.”
Lowe Sr. also taught Sunday school at the church for more than 50 years.
“He takes that very serious. It’s a volunteer position. But it’s very important to him. And he cares for it. He loves it,” Wilson said. “Even during the COVID (pandemic) he called me every Sunday afternoon to let me know that he watched the sermon that morning.
“And he wanted an update on his Sunday school class. He wanted to know how many people were there? Who was there? Who was not there? Who could he call to check on? That was his ministry. He really does and has done a phenomenal job with that.”
A third-generation company, Roger Lowe Jr., Lowe’s CEO and VP, continues to see his father’s passion as a grocer.
“My dad truly loves the business and has always loved the business from the day that he started it with my granddad back in 1963. My dad has always worked…he outworks everybody,” Lowe Jr. said.
One of the greatest lessons he gained from his father is that the company’s greatest asset is its teammates.
“He loves on people a lot and he has a big heart in hiring. And it’s amazing how many people he knows in the stores,” Lowe Jr. said. “Even if I was to take him to the stores today, he’s talking to every cashier, every sacker, he’ll go find everybody in the store.”
The family atmosphere also has led to a lot of long-tenured employees, such as VP and CFO Ronnie Rogers, who has been with Lowe’s for 30 years.
“I think what’s kind of unusual for me is he’s been my boss, but we’ve always been friends. And I say that in a respectful way. It’s more than friends…you enjoy what you do,” Rogers said.
Service to AFI
Lowe Sr. served on the board of directors of Affiliated Foods Inc. from 1972-2021 and was nominated as its chairman in 1982.
Randy Arceneaux, president and CEO of AFI, has known Lowe Sr. for 13 years. He credits him as being instrumental in Arceneaux coming to the Amarillo, Texas-based wholesaler.
“[Lowe Sr. is] the one that reached out to me to offer me the opportunity to come here. And I originally was the chief operating officer’s position…I got hired for chief operating officer and 18 months later, I became the CEO,” Arceneaux said.
Arceneaux mentioned Lowe Sr. will always be remembered for his integrity and looking out for the best interest of AFI as a co-op.
“As a board member, we always have to remember the board guy has to take his hat [of the retailer] off when he enters the boardroom and put on the Affiliated hat,” Arceneaux said. “[Lowe Sr.] absolutely did that without struggle…Affiliated Foods meant that much to him. The success of it, because it impacted so many independent grocery folks that we service through all the different states, they were important to him.”
Mike Murphy, Lowe’s director of advertising, agreed.
“He wore both hats very well. He couldn’t put us above Affiliated,” Murphy said. “He was very cautious not to allow us to get more than our fair share.”
In addition, Lowe Sr.’s relationships within AFI lead to several acquisitions for Lowe’s Market. When grocers were ready to sell, they trusted their company would be in good hands with him.
“They naturally think of Roger – that’s how we’ve kind of grown,” said Joel Griffith, director of HR. “As opportunities came up, he was in the right place at the right time and well respected and well thought of.”
“We really just don’t even have to go look anymore,” said Tim Cotton, COO. “People contact us…we don’t have to have an aggressive plan because people came to us so much that we just evaluated what came in. Then we tried to make good smart business decisions based off that information.”
Lowe Sr.’s retirement from his role as chairman last year was one of the most difficult days of Arceneaux’s career.
“I had developed more of a father-son relationship [with Lowe Sr.]. And so, it felt like I was losing my dad at the same time of losing a chairman,” he said.
Lowe Sr. credited his partnerships with Affiliated Foods and Amarillo National Bank to the overall success of the company.
“That has really facilitated our growth. We were with a good wholesale company. And we were with a good banker. And after that, the rest is history,” he said.
“I’ve got to say Affiliated and [Richard] Ware [Amarillo National Bank’s chairman] have been a great part of our success.”
Arceneaux described it as a real partnership.
“One without the other cannot succeed,” he said. “He knew that very well. He always referred to Affiliated Foods as ‘the goose that lays the golden egg.’ He truly understood what the warehouse brought to the table to help our membership compete in the marketplace and the profits that we returned to them on an annual basis has been millions and millions of dollars over the years.”
For more information, visit lowesmarket.com.
To read the full Retailer of the Year section on Lowe’s Market by The Shelby Report, click here.