BIRMINGHAM – The Alabama Retail Association (ARA) in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Business today recognized 19 outstanding Alabama retailers representing 13 retail businesses as “Retailers of the Year.” The presentations were made at The Club in Birmingham during the 2011 Retail Day Luncheon. This marked the 12th presentation of the Retailer of the Year Awards since 1999.
James C. Lee III, owner of Birmingham-based Buffalo Rock Co. Inc., one of the country’s largest single-family privately owned Pepsi-Cola bottlers, earned the Silver Retailer of the Year award in the Annual Sales More Than $20 Million Category. Tricia Ford, executive director of the Homewood Chamber of Commerce, nominated Lee. He adds Silver Retailer to a list of awards, including the Birmingham Business Journal’s 2010 CEO Award.
Buffalo Rock began 100 years ago this year, with the founding of the wholesale Alabama Grocery Co. by Sidney W. Lee. It moved into the soft drink business when Lee and a Selma chemist, Ashby Coleman developed Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale. Besides honoring its fourth-generation owner as an outstanding retailer, ARA and UAB also honored the company as an Alabama Centennial Retailer.
In 1985, Buffalo Rock began full-line vending operations in Birmingham and has expanded these operations throughout its 14 distribution centers. It now operates and services cafeterias, food lines and snack bars, provides coffee and tea service and offers catering services. Its vending line includes an array of snack choices, including lower calorie, better-for-you snacks and sandwich meals. It has become one of the region’s largest providers of vending and food services and is the largest General Foods distributor. The Retailer of the Year judges commended Buffalo Rock for its increased product mix and improved customer service. The company this year added Gatorade to its brand portfolio, which helped propel sales.
“We are very proud of our retail customer base, and we intend to help our retail partners grow their traffic and their transaction size in 2011 and beyond,” Lee said in his entry
The company employs 2,150 at its distributions centers, nine in Alabama cities, two in Florida and three in Georgia.
In 2010, Buffalo Rock was one of the nation’s most successful Dr. Pepper bottlers in terms of volume growth. Although the company is old, it keeps up with today’s technology, equipping its sales management team with tablet PCs and its salespeople with hand-held devices, allowing them to have instantaneous information readily available for the customer.
“Being one of the oldest family-owned companies left, the Lee family has followed the one rule for the key to success and the reason for being: the customer. Pepsi Buffalo Rock has always been considered a partner in everything we do as a chamber and as a community,” Ford said in her nomination.
Under the Pepsi Refresh Project in 2010, Buffalo Rock Co. contributed more than $68,000 to “refreshing our communities.” Company grants have gone to such causes as Habitat for Humanity and the Boy Scouts.
Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown said, “James Lee is a retailer of the year EVERY year to his customers, employees and the communities in the three states where the company operates”
James C. Lee III, Buffalo Rock Co. Inc.| 205.942.3435
Nancy Dennis, Alabama Retail Association | 334.263.5757 Ext. 101 | 800.239.5423