“Don’t call me Mister. Even in high school, my dad had my friends call him Eddie. There are no misters here.”
With that, Edward “Trey” Basha III – the eldest son of the late Eddie Basha, Jr. – walks guests through a maze of walkways and doors that is now the corporate office for Bashas’ Grocery Stores.
- More information: Details on Saturday memorial service, how to watch from home online
“Where we’re walking now was the warehouse. This is where I worked at in high school,” Trey Basha said of the Ocotillo-area building that housed the original "Bashas'" grocery store location in Chandler
It’s been a long month for the Basha family, Arizona pioneers who came here to start a new life and created a grocery store chain that spans the state, from northern American Indian communities to Tucson.
Heading into the weekend, scores of family, friends, community workers and Bashas’ employees were expected to gather Saturday for a memorial at Tempe’s ASU Gammage auditorium to honor the man who took over the business from his father in 1968 and helped it grow to where it is today.
Actually, Eddie Basha, who died last week at age 75, would probably refer to many in attendance as “family.” That was how he welcomed and connected to the thousands of employees and customers of the stores, Trey Basha said.
“Eddie never elevated himself above anyone else. … we’re in the service business and we’re grateful everyday for our customers and we’re grateful everyday for our members. We call our employees members, because without them we wouldn’t be in business,” he said.
Those lessons, and that idea, started with the company founders and continued on with its leaders, all Basha family members.
Trey Basha said the independent company will strive to continue that.
“On the business side, you have to give back to the community from which you have your business. Part of who we are is we try to give back. A community rises and falls together. It’s not like one element can do extremely well and have everyone else do extremely poorly and that continue in perpetuity. You just can’t,” he said.
And that’s one component of the company’s ability to compete against the larger, nationwide chains, Trey Basha believes.
In January, Trey Basha was quietly named president and CEO of the company. But Trey said at Bashas’ titles don’t matter much.
“We all just had a job to do,” Trey Basha said.
It’s a job that starts early in the morning and can go late at night for Trey Basha and three of his brothers, cousins and other family members who work for Bashas’.
“Working the family business is not the path of least resistance,” he said.
All six sons of Eddie Basha, Jr. were expected to work for the company at an early age, from bagging groceries to collecting produce and goods off the box cars that once delivered them to the warehouse in Chandler.
About 5 p.m. last Friday, just a few days after his dad’s death, Trey Basha said he was tired and about to leave the office, but he thought of what his dad would say.
“He would call at 6 a.m. and ask, ‘Where are you? Your competitors are already at work.’”
“I can’t tell you how many times in the last week I’ve reached for my cell phone to call my dad and he’s not there. That’s a loss,” Trey Basha said. “He casts a shadow that spans the Grand Canyon in my mind. For us and his sons, he cast a huge shadow.”
The past few years have not been easy for Bashas'. Just as the state and the country suffered through economic turmoil, so did the company. Bashas’ underwent Chapter 11 reorganization. At its peak, Bashas’ had 165 stores. Today, there are 124, with all but two located in Arizona.
“I think for my dad probably was the most difficult part was having to close stores and eventually lay people off. It was never about the number of stores he had. He was never enamored about that. But he was proud and privileged to provide jobs to people and to serve communities. And so I think, if there was anything during the process that was the most difficult, it was that.”
Since his father’s death, Trey Basha said there have been numerous stories of his dad’s good work, and even a few stories of his practical jokes, that family members have enjoyed hearing for the first time.
“There’s so much he probably did personally that we don’t know,” he said. “As a family, we’ve been humbled by the outpouring from the public. We’re extremely grateful.”
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