Family leadership keeps supermarket chain growing - East Valley Tribune: Business

Family leadership keeps supermarket chain growing

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Posted: Saturday, March 31, 2007 3:15 am | Updated: 5:36 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It’s a success story 75 years in the making. Bashas’, a company that started in 1932 as a general merchandise store in present - day Chandler by Ike and Eddie Basha Sr., is celebrating its 75-year anniversary.

Although its original founders have passed away, the company remains in the Basha family’s hands and is operated by CEO and chairman Eddie Jr., who’s kept the business thriving despite cutthroat competition from chains like Safeway, Fry’s and Wal-Mart.

“I think it’s a great tribute to our founders that we’ve been able to carry on in their tradition,” Basha said.

The past three-quarters of a century have produced a long and storied legacy for the Bashas, who were sons of Lebanese immigrants.

Using its own warehousing operations and trucking fleet, which Basha said are key to the company’s continued success, Bashas’ has staved off unionization efforts and unwanted overtures from other chains.

Today, the company is the East Valley’s fifth-largest employer, it has legions of fiercely loyal customers, and it operates about 160 stores across the state.

The company is still based on the same site as the 1932 adobe structure that housed the original store. Mike Proulx, the company’s president who started in the company as a bagger, said he passes by a part of the old adobe structure every day.

“When I walk down the hall into my office, I have a habit of touching that wall,” Proulx said. “It just kind of centers me on what Bashas’ stands for.”

Proulx said the company operates on the same five core values it has held since its founding: a focus on people including customers and employees, community, compassion for the poor, respect for humanity, and value of friendship. “Those values guide us, absolutely,” Proulx said. “It helps us differentiate ourselves.”

When asked what direction he foresees the company headed during the next 75 years, Basha is noncommittal.” I can’t even fathom,” he said.

Although he hopes it stays within the family, Basha said the company may eventually merge with another chain.

“It’s rather difficult for families to persist that long,” he said. But Proulx assured that it won’t be anytime soon. “We’ve been approached time and time again and the answer is always, ‘No, we’re not for sale,’ ” he said.

Proulx and Basha said they are focused on the more immediate future and will continue growing incrementally by five to seven stores annually. Although the company will continue to focus its energies on expanding the Arizona market, it may expand out of state, possibly to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, Calif.

Mindy McBain, a senior staff writer for the industry trade publication Shelby Report, said the landscape would be very different had Bashas’ never taken off. “I think there would be a big hole there,” she said.

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