Hi Nabor, a three-store grocery chain in the greater Baton Rouge, Louisiana area, is growing. Two new stores are planned, with property purchased for one of the locations.
Founded by Sam Crifasi on Jan. 1, 1963, Hi Nabor converted to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan in 2020. President Jim Crifasi, one of Sam’s nine children, has been in the grocery business “since I was born, pretty much. I started getting paid when I was 15.”
He said the decision to become an ESOP was “pretty easy” after doing some research on the process. “We would be able to continue the business as my father wanted us to and keep the name of Hi Nabor, the employees would own it and the family would get paid. It’s been working out real well so far.”
Hi Nabor has been a member of Associated Grocers Inc. of Baton Rouge for many years. Crifasi said his father had served on the wholesaler’s board for a number of years. When Crifasi decided to run for the board, he asked his father why he chose to go with AG “way back when AG was very young, and we were just starting out.”
“He said it was very simple. He said it was the character of the people who work there. And I can say, from personal experience, that the character remains there, and they’ve got excellent leadership with Manard Lagasse.”
In 2016, Hi Nabor’s Winbourne Avenue store in Baton Rouge experienced a “terrible flood.” The company’s oldest location, it was a first for the site.
“We never had water in the store, even come close to the store,” Crifasi said. “That year, we had three feet of water in the store from front to back. And you talk about a mess. You walk in and see this and say, where do I even start? We went to AG, and they helped us with recovery.”
Associated Grocer’s disaster team came in, and the store was back in business in about a month. As Crifasi recalled, “They roll their sleeves up and get down there and help you with it.”
Crifasi, 68, said what he enjoys most about being an independent grocer is being there for the customers.
“After the flood, the people were so happy that we came back and rebuilt. We stayed; we didn’t leave the store. We stayed with them. We’ve stayed with them all these years.
“You have customers come in all the time and tell you how happy they are to have a nice store like this in this area of town…but we’ve stayed here, and it still is our best store.”