GREENVILLE / BIRMINGHAM – Oct. 18, 2016 – John M. Wilson, president, chief operating officer and co-owner of two grocery stores in small south Alabama towns, today earned the Gold Alabama Retailer of the Year Award in the Annual Sales More Than $20 Million category. Wilson and his 45-year-old family business also were recognized in 2002 as a Gold Retailer of the Year but in a lesser sales category. Big Bear of Luverne Inc. currently operates a Super Foods / Food Depot store in Luverne and a Super Foods in Greenville.
“Super Foods does all their business locally,” said Francine Wasden, executive director of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, who nominated Wilson. The chamber named the Greenville store as its 2016 Distinguished Business of the Year. “They bank local, shop local and invest local. The dollars and goods donated by Super Foods annually allow the wheels of business opportunities to continue rotating,” she added.
Wilson said his late father and founder of the family business told him, “You can’t expect people to trade with you and shop with you, if you don’t give back to the community.” Wilson and his 95-year-old mother, Alyce, carry out that giving back philosophy in the stores they own jointly. “She is still very involved in the business,” Wilson said. Three generations of Wilsons play a role in the company. John’s wife, Lillian, serves as human resources director, while his four daughters also work alongside their father, mother and grandmother.
Wilson attributes the company’s success to those working with him. “The people who work here day in or day out, they are the ones who make the business,” Wilson said. In his entry he noted, “We currently have three new store managers who all came from within the ranks of current employees.” Wilson believes in supporting those working with him by providing scholarships to help both college-bound store personnel as well as children of store employees. The business offers up to four, $500 scholarships annually.
Commitment to community and his industry manifests itself in positions that Wilson humbly claims fell into his lap, including leadership roles in the Alabama Grocers Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, his Rotary International district along with board membership in the Alabama Retail Association (ARA) and the Crenshaw County Chamber of Commerce.
Keeping the business current also drives Wilson. “We are going to have an online shopping program to where people can order their groceries, send us their order, then tell us what time they want to have it picked up. We’ll have everything ready and all they have to do is pull up in the parking lot,” he said. He expects that service to be up and running this month.
Big Bear of Luverne Inc., an Alabama Retail member since 1989, was one of 13 retail businesses honored today as Retailers of the Year by ARA, in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business. This year’s winners came from a pool of more than 70 nominees. The Retailer of theYear judges chose Wilson as the sole winner in his sales category.
Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown said, “John Wilson is a retailer of the year EVERY year to the customers of Super Foods and Food Depot, its 102 employees and the three communities the business serves.”
The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,100 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.