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Southeast Woman Executive of the Year

North Carolina Native Relishes ‘Dream Job’ With Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter
Tammy DeBoer

Tammy DeBoer, The Shelby Report of the Southeast’s Female Executive of the Year, has been in a leadership role with Matthews, North Carolina-based Harris Teeter for two years. But her experience with the brand dates back to childhood.

DeBoer grew up in the Tarheel State and started attending Appalachian State University in Boone before entering the grocery business. In early 2022, she became the first female president of Harris Teeter.

“I’m a local. A lot of times you meet so many great people, but not a lot of people are from here. It’s great to join a company that I have grown up with and know very well,” said DeBoer, whose grocery career began at Salisbury, North Carolina-based Food Lion.

“I have tremendous respect for Food Lion and all of our retailers,” she said. “I had the great fortune of working with incredible people. I had some wonderful mentors who gave me a lot of great opportunities to learn this business.”

DeBoer started at Food Lion in 1989, working in the corporate office with customer service, which gave her insight into the consumer’s perspective.

“I think that’s where I first developed a long-standing connection with the customer, really understanding what it takes to meet and exceed their expectations in retail,” she said.

The position at Food Lion was just a means to help pay for a car, according to DeBoer. She didn’t know it would lead to a life-long passion for retail grocery.

DeBoer has worked in many different capacities in her career, including merchandising, marketing, operations, mergers and acquisitions, human resources and finance.

“In order to be most successful, you have to understand how all of those work together to have the greatest outcome,” she said. “I really enjoy this industry. It’s dynamic. It’s ever-changing.”

DeBoer rose through the ranks at Food Lion, leading large teams as VP of merchandising and also a VP of operations. She managed 235 stores with about $2.5 billion in annual sales. In her last role, she was the VP of Bloom, a test concept which was very similar to Harris Teeter.

“It was a new prototype, focused on more premium offerings. I studied Harris Teeter quite a bit, and was very impressed. I even shopped there occasionally. Of course, it was for research purposes,” she said with a laugh.

She specifically noticed the merchandising. “Harris Teeter is known for an incredible variety and selection of quality products, especially in the fresh categories and specialty categories.”

In 2012, DeBoer accepted a position with Family Dollar as its VP of private brands and merchandise initiatives. In her time there, she took on new responsibilities with each promotion, including SVP of food merchandising, SVP of merchandising-consumables and eventually chief merchandising officer in 2016.

“I spent some time in China and Hong Kong, managing our import buying team there. It was exciting to learn that side of the business,” DeBoer recalled.

“I’d never been on the discretionary side of the business. So for me, it was a bit surreal when I was in a Christmas ornament factory and learning how they were made. Sourcing those directly was very intriguing to me.”

DeBoer remained in the dollar sector after the merger between Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. She worked two years post acquisition to help with the integration work. Afterward, she opened her own consulting firm, DeBoer Consulting, to have more flexibility and pursue some personal objectives.

DeBoer feels community involvement is important. She has served on multiple non-profit boards, including Network of Executive Women. DeBoer currently serves on the board of International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA), Carolina Food Industry Council (CFIC) and the advisory board for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina.

In 2020, DeBoer joined Harris Teeter as SVP of merchandising, operations and marketing, a position she became aware of thanks to a previous Harris Teeter president, Fred Morganthall II.

“I had always wanted to join Harris Teeter. This was a dream come true for me to work here,” she said. “Fred is the one who reached out to me a few years ago about this opportunity. I’m very thankful to Fred, and Rod.”

“I feel honored to have their advocacy and their support in leading the company that they care so deeply for. I came on board, got to know the people and visit all of our stores…Rod was here and answered any questions that I had. When he left, I was ready to take the helm.”

But her relationship with Harris Teeter alumni began a number of years ago before she joined the company. She had met Morganthall through a mutual friend. The friend thought it would be a good idea to have Morganthall mentor DeBoer, Morganthall said in an interview. The two would infrequently meet for lunch, he said. He was actually the one who recommended to Antolock and the Kroger executive staff that she be brought on.

“Every leader is different. It’s good for her to have some fresh ideas,” Morganthall said. “Rod and I are a great team together but thought it would be good to have some new thoughts and some new ideas. Tammy clearly brings that.”


He noted how, when DeBoer is in a store, she will stop and speak with everybody.

“She doesn’t miss anybody – nobody. It probably takes her four hours just to get through one store during her walk throughs,” he said with a chuckle. “She listens to their ideas and gets some feedback. She takes what they tell her back to her senior management and makes decisions on what should be implemented or not implemented.”

Danna Robinson, director of corporate affairs, shared a ­story of DeBoer doing a store walk-through at a busy time of day.

“She saw that the lines were getting a bit long, so she just started bagging groceries,” Robinson said. “She didn’t tell somebody else to help. She did and did it for a while, too.

“Imagine that, the president of the company springing in to help. It wasn’t a planned photo op or news coverage. She saw associates that needed help and she did it. It’s something like that that makes her special.”

But DeBoer doesn’t let the term “first female president” trouble her.

“I don’t think of it honestly, it does not occur to me,” she said. “I’ve always worked hard, surrounded myself with great people and developed teams. I really love that. It’s my favorite part of any leadership role.

“For me, I haven’t ever thought about it as being a female leader, but rather just a leader, an effective leader,” she explained.

Harris Teeter

As its first female president, she did say she is proud of the company’s dedication to improving diversity. But there are more steps that need to be taken nationwide.

“Progress is being made, but I don’t think we’re done. I don’t think that we will ever be done,” she said. “Until we have much more diversity – women and people of color in general – on boards and in executive level positions. I think as a community, as a nation, we have a lot of work to do to further encourage and promote diversity at all levels. And there, I think, lies the biggest opportunity.”

DeBoer is continuing to foster leadership through Harris Teeter’s Leadership Development Program and Leadership Academy. LDP is the company’s store level and associate leadership training arm, while LA tackles leadership in the corporate environment.

DeBoer and Harris Teeter believe leadership comes from facing any challenge that may arise with “authenticity and inspiration.” They are making leaders, not managers.

As DeBoer guides Harris Teeter over the next few years, she sees technology playing the largest role in the company’s path forward.

“We’ve made tremendous investment in seamless technology, which enables the customer to shop how, when and where they want to shop,” she explained. “We are meeting the customers wherever they are in the shopping journey.”

She added that delivery and online shopping/pickup has been a large priority for Harris Teeter for some time. Still, consumers continue to want to shop in stores.

“We have a lot of customers that tell us that they want to shop in our stores because it’s more than just a shopping trip – it’s an experience,” she said. “They enjoy the engagement with our incredible associates. They like to go see the butcher, the produce manager or baker. They like to engage with them…we want to find ways to engage with our customers throughout the store.”

Even through her many accomplishments and accolades, DeBoer remains humble. In 2016, while still at Family Dollar, she was named to The Mecklenburg Times’ 50 Most Influential Women in Charlotte. She has also previously been named as a Top Female Executive in the Grocery Industry by The Griffin Report of the Northeast, a Shelby publication.

As for Female Executive of the Year, she said: “It’s an honor that is absolutely humbling. I am very appreciative of the acknowledgement and the recognition. At the end of the day, it’s about having an impact. What I want to do is have the greatest impact that I can in my life with those that I come in contact with and make a positive difference.”

To read the full Retailer of the Year section by The Shelby Report, click here.

About the author

Jack R. Jordan

Content Creator

Jordan joined The Shelby Report in May 2022 after over a year in the newspaper industry. A native of Marietta, Georgia, he studied writing and communications at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. He spends too much time in the grocery store trying to find recipe ingredients, so he looks forward to covering the industry.

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