Senior-Level Stars

Melanie Agopian
Vice-president, divisional programs & strategy, discount division, Loblaw Cos. Ltd.
Melanie Agopian joined Loblaw as a project manager in 2006, and quickly worked her way up to her current position as vice-president, divisional programs & strategy, discount division. “My career has been grounded in strategy, critical thinking and large-scale program management,” she says. One of her greatest impacts at Loblaw—and one of the things she’s most proud of—is the work she’s done for the chain’s sustainability initiatives, “including our sustainable seafood commitment and the removal of chemicals of concern from various products,” says Agopian. “I’m also really proud of having run a significant portfolio of fresh businesses for our discount division during a time when we were changing our approach and strategy.” And on a more personal level, she takes pride in mentoring others at Loblaw as a way to “pay it forward” for all the mentorship she’s received in her career. “It’s amazing to see team members grow and progress in achieving their full potential.”
Michelle Benoit
Vice-president, commercial finance, Walmart Canada
Michelle Benoit’s tremendous impact on the grocery business can be summed up with one figure: $100 million. That’s how much the industry veteran has extracted in waste at various companies she’s worked for, through process improvements and improved commercial flow. A Halifax native, Benoit began her grocery career at Loblaw in 1998, when the company expanded in Atlantic Canada. Three years later, she moved on to Nestlé and held various roles in finance and supply chain. In 2013, she rejoined the retail world as vice-president of finance for Sobeys Ontario and later vice-president of financial planning & analysis, Atlantic & Ontario business units. Last July, she joined Walmart Canada as vice-president of commercial finance. Benoit feels strongly about the role finance can play in the future of the grocery industry. “I firmly believe finance has the ability to contribute to this industry as a business co-pilot and make a significant difference to retailers,” she says.
Diane J. Brisebois
President and CEO, Retail Council of Canada
“As long as I can remember, even as a young student, I was somehow connected to retail,” says Diane J. Brisebois, recalling that one of her first part-time jobs was at Eaton’s in downtown Montreal. Today, as president and CEO of the Retail Council of Canada—a role she’s held for 24 years—she takes great pride in “being able to bring a growing number of retailers of all sizes and shapes, from every region of the country, together to build a strong voice for the industry.” Brisebois is known for being a determined, driven and passionate advocate for retailers. And one of the things she loves most about her job is the constant change. “There’s always something new, something unexpected, something disruptive,” she says, noting that working on behalf of retailers is the best job there is. “Yes, you have to work hard and yes, there are high expectations, but you are highly rewarded by the feedback you get, and by the passion that the industry shows toward the effort that you make for them.”
Michi Furuya Chang
Senior vice-president, public policy and regulatory affairs, Food and Consumer Products of Canada
After working in grocery (Sobeys) and the CPG industry (Kraft) for a combined total of nearly two decades, Michi Furuya Chang joined Food and Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC) in 2016 as senior vice-president, public policy and regulatory affairs. Here, she gets to build on her corporate achievements to help the food industry as a whole. “Being that strategic enabler, not just for one company but for the industry overall, has been extremely rewarding and satisfying,” she says, adding, “We’ve made some great strides in a lot of public policy and regulatory areas.” Much of her FCPC work has focused on Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy: ensuring Canada’s policy/regulatory proposals on front-of-package labelling, marketing to children, sodium reduction and ongoing revisions to Canada’s Food Guide are balanced, meaningful and science-based. As a foodie and dietitian who holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition, she’s grateful to work in a role that pulls together all of her passions: not only food, nutrition and science, but also “being able to contribute and have an impact.”
Rosa Checchia
Vice-president, marketing, cheese, Parmalat Canada
Rosa Checchia began working for Parmalat as a summer student 24 years ago. Now, she’s an expert brand builder whose portfolio generates more than $750 million in sales and drives nearly a third of the company’s total profit. After graduating from university in 1997, Checchia took a full-time role in trade marketing at Parmalat and quickly moved into marketing. She worked across all dairy categories and was promoted to vice-president in 2012. As vice-president of marketing for cheese, Checchia’s portfolio includes dairy-case cheese and tablespreads, as well as deli fine cheese. One of her proudest achievements is being an integral part of the success of the 20-year-old Cheestrings brand, a Canadian innovation that has been rolled out throughout the world. Checchia is an avid supporter of youth initiatives including Healthy Active Living and the annual Kids Help Phone Walk. She is also on the committee for The Grocery Foundation’s Toonies for Tummies campaign. “I am fortunate in my life and I want to give back so others can have opportunities to realize their full potential.”
Angela Doro
Vice-president of operations, Freybe Gourmet Foods
Since joining Freybe in 2007, Angela Doro has played an integral role in how the company’s organizational structure has shaped up as it’s grown from a small, family-run business to a much larger organization (owned by Premium Brands since 2013). As vice-president of operations, a variety of departments—not only operations, but also supply chain, product development, quality assurance, innovation, marketing and customer service—all now report to her. With marketing under her portfolio for only the past year and a half, she’s particularly proud of the role she played in the recent launch of Freybe’s first sub-brand, Freybe Wander, a line of innovative meat snacks including ham chips, chicken meat bites and mini salami sticks. Known for her supportive, motivating and team-oriented leadership style, Doro says she emphasizes being prepared for the constant disruption inevitable in today’s food industry. “Embracing and being strategic about change and how the world is evolving, and coaching the team to prepare for that in a pretty traditional industry, is a big part of my style.”
Heidi Ferriman
Vice-president, people & communications, Save-On-Foods
One of Heidi Ferriman’s biggest achievements has been spearheading an inter-departmental team to create Share it Forward, a three-day fundraising event, to raise funds for food banks across Western Canada. The inaugural event, which took place in June 2018, reached its goal of $250,000. Over the years, Ferriman has also built and maintained strong philanthropic partnerships with children’s hospitals throughout Western Canada, as well as Ronald McDonald House. As a certified HR professional, Ferriman provides genuine support and mentorship to her team, which has resulted in some of the highest departmental leadership scores in the company in its annual team member survey. What Ferriman is most proud of, however, are the relationships she’s made throughout her 19 years at the company. “Relationship building is incredibly important to me,” she says. “No matter how busy I am, I’m never too busy to take the time to get to know the people I work with and show them they are valued. People are what make companies successful.”
Anna Kolakowski
Vice-president, merchandising, grocery for Super C, Metro Richelieu Inc.
Anna Kolakowski joined Metro in 2001 as a category manager for the Loeb banner in Ontario, and quickly worked her way up through procurement and merchandising roles to her current position as vice-president, merchandising, grocery for the Super C banner (Metro’s discount banner in Quebec) which she took on in 2018. Her standout successes over the years are numerous: she played a key role in the implementation of Metro’s loyalty program in Quebec, Metro & Moi; and in 2016 she led a team of category insights managers called the “Maverick team,” whose objective was to create an enhanced customer shopping experience using customer data—a project so successful it’s been rolled out to other divisions within Metro. Overall, she’s known at the company for fostering successful teams by emphasizing the importance of clear communication. “I believe it’s very important as a leader to be clear in our communications as to our objectives: why we’re trying to achieve certain objectives, and how we think we’re going to get there,” she says.
Tara Longo
Co-founder, The Healthy Butcher
Tara Longo was an investment banker on Bay Street and her partner, Mario Fiorucci, was a lawyer—but they gave all that up 14 years ago to open Toronto’s The Healthy Butcher, a store focusing on healthy, high-quality meats along with organic produce, sustainable seafood, curated grocery items and more. After opening their first store in 2005, they opened another in 2008 and launched their online business in 2011. “It’s been a steady stream of growth since then,” says Longo. Year-over-year sales were up in the original Queen West store by 18.3%, and in the Eglinton West store by 13.1% in the last year. Longo has also become known for helping small food producers succeed through initiatives like her engaging YouTube videos. One of the best parts about her job, she says, is just being out grabbing a coffee and overhearing a complete stranger tell a friend about something great they bought at The Healthy Butcher. “That makes me smile every time.” (Toronto’s Fresh City acquired The Healthy Butcher at the end of May, with Longo and Fiorucci joining Fresh City’s senior management team.)
Fran Mulhern
Vice-president and general manager, The Minute Maid Company Canada
Fran Mulhern has had countless wins in her 30+ year career in CPG, but one of her proudest achievements is becoming the first woman to lead Coca Cola’s central field sales team, which kick-started her role as a mentor to women. “There were a lot of pre-conceived notions about working in field sales for a DSD company, and it was very male-dominated,” says Mulhern, who’s been in various roles at Coca-Cola for the past 20 years. “It was an opportunity for me to break down barriers as to why women couldn’t be successful, and recruit them into believing they could have a career within field sales.” In 2015, Mulhern led the re-establishment of The Minute Maid Company, forming a standalone, end-to-end business within Coca-Cola. Since then, she has accelerated innovation in the juice portfolio and expanded into new categories such as dairy and plant-based offerings. Another proud moment for Mulhern was Minute Maid’s 2018 Canadian launch of Fairlife, Coca-Cola’s first dairy brand. The innovative product is lactose free, with 50% less sugar and 50% more protein than other milks.
Sophie Ruel
Vice-president, commercial strategies, Agropur
A 22-year CPG veteran, Sophie Ruel has built a solid reputation for developing high-performing teams, shaping strategies and integrating best practices into business processes. Ruel started out as a sales rep at Heinz, and moved up to roles in sales, customer and consumer insights and strategies at Heinz, Colgate-Palmolive and Campbell Company of Canada. In 2016, she joined Ultima Foods, which was acquired by Agropur in 2017. She held various management positions in insights and strategies at Ultima and Agropur for two years before being promoted to vice-president commercial strategies in September 2018. Ruel developed a robust business alignment process that encompasses Agropur’s key commercial departments, generating cross-functional alignment, efficiency, cost savings and increased profitable sales. She was also instrumental in transforming the sales function into being more strategic and consultative. “My role is to empower my team and support them by providing the right tools, the right direction and the right expectations to set them up for success,” says Ruel.
Jana Sobey
Vice-president of merchandising, community, Thrifty Foods and field, Sobeys
As a fourth-generation member of the Sobeys grocery family, Jana Sobey has been immersed in the grocery world for as long as she can remember. “I started as a cashier at the age of 14, which, at that time, was where you started in my family,” she says. Over the years, she’s worked in practically every facet of the business, from marketing to store management to HR to operations. As part of Project Sunrise, the company’s ambitious organizational transformation, she was made vice-president of field merchandising; and just this spring her role broadened to vice-president of merchandising, community, Thrifty Foods and field. She says her proudest career moments include overseeing the chain’s 100th anniversary festivities in 2007, becoming a store manager for the first time, and getting her first vice-president role in 2016. “The grocery industry is a pretty special one, indeed,” says Sobey, who is known for her friendly, genuine, and calm-yet-confident leadership style.
Ratana Stephens
Co-CEO, Nature's Path Foods
Ratana Stephens is a visionary and pioneer in the natural and organic foods industry. She began her career as a college lecturer in India and moved to Vancouver after marrying her husband, Arran Stephens, who is co-founder and co-CEO of Nature’s Path. Nature’s Path, which grew out of the couple’s vegetarian restaurant, was founded in 1985. Today, the family-owned company has more than 150 products in its portfolio. In 2012, it acquired Que Pasa Mexican Foods. Aside from being trailblazers in the organic space, the Stephens are known for their philanthropic efforts. Nature’s Path has donated more than $27-million worth of food to food banks and charities across North America. Arran and Ratana have personally donated millions of dollars to organizations including the Vancouver General Hospital, BC Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the University of British Columbia. “I am so grateful that I am co-founder and co-CEO of a company that lives out its values,” says Ratana. “Nature’s Path operates on the triple-bottom line of social responsibility, environmental sustainability and financial viability.”

Rising Stars

Norma Boyle
District manager, Southwest Ontario, Metro Ontario
With 31 years at Metro under her belt, Norma Boyle has worked her way through a diverse variety of roles: part-time cashier, assistant store manager, front-end specialist, franchise accountant, store manager, and even director of retail execution, with impressive results in every role. But in 2017, she had the opportunity to become a district manager and jumped at the chance. “I always wanted to be a district manager, because of my love for the store; as a district manager, that love gets magnified by 21 stores,” she says, explaining she now manages the Southwestern Ontario area, which encompasses 21 stores from St. Catharines to Windsor. Under Boyle’s leadership, her London, Ont. stores earned Metro the title of No. 1 grocery retailer voted by the readers of the London Free Press last year—a position that had been held by the competition for the previous five years. She’s known at Metro for encouraging strong community and charitable involvement in all her stores, as well as going above and beyond to foster excellence in customer service. “For me, it’s all about listening to the customer.”
Geneviève Dugré
Director of retail operations, Rachelle Béry and IGA corporate stores, Sobeys
Geneviève Dugré has been working for Sobeys since 2013, but she’s been working with Sobeys for much longer—she started her career in consulting at Secor, with Sobeys as a client. She left Secor for an HR role at the grocery chain, and soon decided she was interested in making a shift to operations. But never having worked in a store before, she lacked the in-store knowledge that could help her succeed in operations. She credits Sobeys for taking a “gamble” on her, letting her leave HR to work in-store for a year, doing everything from making sandwiches to working the cash at an IGA before trying a manager role at a Rachelle Béry store (Sobeys’ health-focused banner in Quebec). The training paid off and, in 2016, she became director of retail operations for the entire Rachelle Béry banner (she now also oversees operations for the corporate-owned IGA stores in Quebec, too). She’s achieved numerous successes, notably leading the development of a new Rachelle Béry concept store in Montreal last year, which has more than doubled on its sales targets since opening. “That is one of the [achievements] I am most proud of.”
Amy Fox
Director, customer development, Kimberly-Clark
Amy Fox hadn’t even finished her exams in her final year at university when she got hired on full time at Kimberly-Clark. Thirteen years later, she’s worked her way up from account manager to her current role, director of customer development. A turning point in her career occurred, she says, when she was put into a customer replenishment analyst role and Loblaw gave her some inventory-related challenges that, she admits, scared her at first. But the team at Loblaw was so impressed with what she brought back, they asked her to work at their head office as a dedicated customer replenishment manager. “It was a great learning experience—taking something that scares you and turning it into something of great value.” She’s since created winning joint business plans, won multiple awards from Kimberly-Clark and customers, and takes great pride in what she’s achieved in her current role. “We’ve had some exceptional results—we’ve grown market share in 80% of our categories—but I think more than that, we’ve figured out a wonderful way to work together internally and with our customers,” she says.
Tanja Fraser
Director of sales, UNFI
While she is a nutritionist by training, Tanja  Fraser has had a steady climb up the ladder in the sales world. “When I realized the impact I could have by bringing natural foods to the masses, rather than helping people one at a time, it completely changed my perspective on what I can achieve,” she says. In 2007, Fraser joined SunOpta, a natural and organic food distributor, as a sales rep. In 2010, the company was acquired by United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) and Fraser went on to hold progressively senior sales roles, with responsibility for major retailers including Whole Foods Market, Walmart and Sobeys. In addition to growing the UNFI business at brick-and-mortar stores, Fraser has grown UNFI’s e-commerce business by more than 300% over the past two years. “Going from the ground up in my career has been extremely fulfilling and rewarding,” says Fraser. “I think it’s proof that if you have good leadership behind you, and if you put in the hard work and determination toward your goals, you will be rewarded.”
Kelly Herdin
Food marketing manager, Federated Co-operatives Ltd.
Over the past 10 years, Kelly Herdin has steadily progressed through the ranks at Federated Co-operatives Ltd. (FCL). She started in 2009 as a university co-op student and was hired full time, as a food operations specialist, in 2011. Herdin then took on positions as research associate and consumer insights business analyst, where she helped FCL’s food department become fully data-driven. In 2015, Herdin was promoted to food marketing manager and has been instrumental in the development and execution of FCL’s local marketing initiatives, including Alberta Beef, Made By Us and Canadian Made campaigns. She was also a key driver in Co-op’s partnership with chef Dale MacKay, including tying Co-op to his 2018 appearance on Iron Chef Gauntlet. Most recently, Herdin spearheaded the launch of Co-op Table, a new in-store magazine featuring recipes, tips and culinary inspiration. “What I’m most proud of is my team,” says Herdin. “There is no mountain you can climb alone and I get to work with a great team that has passion for what they do every day.”
Carolyn Hungate
Marketing manager and category team lead, The Clorox Company
Carolyn Hungate has proven that doing good is good for business. She transformed Brita into a purpose-led brand with the goal of eliminating single-use plastic water bottles that could end up in landfills and waterways. To raise awareness about this issue, she oversaw the creation of a 12-ft.-high art installation in Toronto’s Union Station that was a replica of Niagara Falls made of 900 plastic water bottles. The idea was to highlight that one Brita Longlast filter can replace up to 900 single-use plastic bottles. When Hungate led Burt’s Bees, she tripled the size of the business and launched the brand’s natural cosmetics line. Hungate recently assumed additional responsibility for the company’s cleaning business, with brands such as Clorox, Pine-Sol and Green Works. What inspires her to succeed is the culture at Clorox. “One of the foundations of our culture is ‘do the right thing’ and that translates into the daily decisions that are made,” she says. “Everyone here feels very passionately about our brands and the Clorox mission to ‘make everyday life better, every day for Canadians.'”
Linda Irvine
Senior manager, supply chain and operations development, Pusateri's Fine Foods
A Cambridge University grad and U.K. native, Linda Irvine held various operational and analytics roles at retailers Tesco and Marks & Spencer before moving to Toronto two years ago. She joined Pusateri’s in January 2017 as manager, merchandising operations and analytics and was promoted to senior manager, supply chain and operations development this past March. By continuously generating new ideas to innovate, Irvine has helped take the independent grocer to the next level. Among her achievements: reducing waste and shrink at the company by up to 40%; being a lead member in the planning and launch of Pusateri’s e-commerce platform; helping automate processes for merchandising; and leading demo programs for vendors, which is generating huge volumes of sales. Irvine also created an optimized ordering process that uses better analytics to more precisely match demand and reduce waste. “What I’m really proud of is being a bridge between the technical data world and the people world,” she says. “I have the technical skills, but I can talk to people and communicate those ideas in a very simple way.”
Valérie Mercier
Director of sales, A. Lassonde
Starting out at Lassonde in 2000, Valérie Mercier has achieved a lot during her nearly two decades with the company. She was director of marketing from 2006 until 2015, during which time she played a key role in launching the Oasis juice brand outside of Quebec “and building it as a truly national brand.” She made the shift to sales director three and a half years ago, and says, “I’m pleased to say that [in that time period] I successfully grew the business year-over-year and exceeded sales targets.” Known for being highly adaptable and solution-oriented, Mercier loves the ever-evolving nature of the business. “There are many challenges in the beverage industry these days—we’re always working hard to find items that are going to address the new consumer needs, like juice with less sugar, for example, or beverage solutions with more plant protein. Things are evolving very quickly, and it’s just so interesting to be following the trends and developing innovations.”
Cathy Roufosse
Regional director, Save-On-Foods
Cathy Roufosse started her career with Save-On-Foods 36 years ago. Working across multiple stores and banners, Roufosse has nearly every store role on her resumé, from cashier to supervisor to store manager. From July 2018 to January 2019, Roufosse was a valuable part of the Save-On-Foods’ people team, using her expertise as a store operator to help tackle challenges in recruitment and retention at store level. In February 2019, Roufosse was promoted to regional director for Save-On-Foods B.C., becoming the second woman ever to hold a regional director role with the company. Roufosse received the 2018 Anne Kidd Inspire Award, which recognizes one woman at Save-On-Foods who exemplifies the traits of the company’s only woman president, including influence, communication, dedication and leadership. “No matter what role I’ve been in, I’ve always been passionate about coaching, mentoring and training,” says Roufosse. “It’s really important for me to build relationships with my team and I love helping people within the company succeed and grow.”
Tressa Scorziello
Acting director, grocery, dairy frozen, Longo Brothers Fruit Markets
Back in the 1980s, Tressa Scorziello’s dad owned a No Frills store in Toronto. At age 14, she started as a cashier and worked her way up to customer service manager. In 2008, she moved on to Loblaw, where she held various roles including analyst, assistant category manager, and pricing and promotion manager. At Loblaw, she was on the committee that launched President Choice’s Black Label, helping to source products and do analysis and costing. In 2016, Scorziello joined Longo’s as a category manager, and was promoted to acting director, grocery, dairy, frozen in January 2019. With a passion for healthier products, Scorziello eliminated all oil-based frozen desserts at Longo’s, opting to only carry milk-based products. She also helped launch Longo’s Living Well section last year. In her three years at Longo’s, Scorziello has made a big impact with vendor relationships. “I try to come up with solutions that are mutually beneficial because a short-term win is short term,” she says. “If we come up with longer-term solutions, it’s a win-win.”
Amanda Sztanek
Director of sales, Greenhouse
A registered dietitian, Amanda Sztanek got her start in the grocery business in 2011. She joined Sobeys as an in-store wellbeing counsellor and worked her way up to national merchandising manager for health and wellness. At Sobeys, Sztanek led the launch of the Natural Source store-within-a-store concept nationally. In 2016, she joined Pinnacle Foods (now part of Conagra Brands), where she managed the double-digit growth of Gardein, a plant-based meat alternative brand. Now, just one year into her role as director of sales at Greenhouse, Sztanek has brought the startup cold-pressed juice brand into 250 retail stores in Ontario and Quebec and landed the company’s first national grocery retail deal with Sobeys. By year’s end, Greenhouse will be in approximately 1,000 grocery stores, including chains and independents. “Plant-based nutrition aligns with my own values,” says Sztanek. “I’m committed to working with my similarly passionate team and supportive partners so that we can continue to drive growth and awareness in such an innovative, rapidly growing space.”
Sofia Thompson
Customer business lead, Kraft Heinz Canada
Sofia Thompson joined Kraft 32 years ago, having been recruited on campus. “At the time, there were very few women” in food industry sales, she explains, especially in rural Southern Alberta. “They were hesitant on how a female would handle the territory. But with a drive for results, attitude and perseverance, I built their confidence—not only for myself, but I like to think for those who would follow as well.” She moved from sales rep to senior account manager in Alberta, followed by a move to British Columbia where she worked her way up through various senior sales positions to her current role as customer business lead. Since the merger four years ago, she’s managed to grow Kraft Heinz sales in her market during a time of continual change. She has received a number of internal Kraft Heinz awards, and was a key part of the team receiving the UGI Vendor of the Year award in 2016. While Thompson is proud of all her accomplishments, it’s her success in mentoring future leaders that makes her most proud. “That has been my greatest achievement,” she says.

Store-Level Stars

Stephanie Harnock
Store manager, Sobeys
While doing a high school co-op placement in accounting, Stephanie Harnock realized she wasn’t a “sit at a desk in a cubicle” kind of person. “In grocery, I enjoy every day being different and I love the people and interaction,” she says. Harnock started at Sobeys as a cashier in 1999, and after graduating from college she became front-end manager. She climbed the management ranks and in 2015, Harnock was promoted to store manager of the Sobeys Fischer-Hallman store in Kitchener, Ont., where she propelled the store’s success, achieving significant sales increases year-over-year. In 2018, her store received Store of the Year (Central District) and Store Leader of the Year Award in Ontario. She was recently transferred to the Sobeys Columbia store in Waterloo, Ont. For Harnock, developing future leaders in grocery is paramount. “I’m very passionate about developing and empowering staff,” says Harnock, who also rallies her staff to support fundraisers for various charities and food banks.
Bethany Roberts
Store manager, Colemans
When Colemans was looking for a manager for its new store in the east end of St. John’s, N.L., in 2017, it was an admittedly unusual move for them to hire Bethany Roberts. She’s an MBA grad with more than a decade of impressive retail industry experience (most notably with The Gap and David’s Tea) but she had never actually worked in grocery. The folks at Colemans saw something special in the Newfoundlander, however, who had returned “home” after years of working in Montreal, ready to put down roots. Since the new Colemans location was in close proximity to a number of successful competitors, it was crucial to get it right. They decided to go with a “fresh market” style concept for the store, which the chain had never done before. Roberts took on the challenge with enthusiasm and skill, and the results have been fantastic. “The number of testimonials that we get from our amazing customers writing to our head office talking about the positive experiences they have with our team members—above and beyond anything else, that’s been huge,” she says.
Heather Savidant
Store manager, Sobeys
Heather Savidant credits that she’s a “people person” for her success at Sobeys over the past 25 years. She started out as a cashier, working part time when her three kids were young, but it was when she became a deli manager that her leadership skills really began to shine. “As a deli manager, my team led us to being No. 1 in Atlantic Canada for sales many times,” she says. “That opened up doors for other opportunities for me within Sobeys.” Last year, she was promoted to store manager in Montague, P.E.I., where she’s earned praise for building strong customer relationships and re-energizing the store with innovative offerings. Among other things, she introduced value-added hot meals in the deli section, added an in-store seating area, and developed a program for product demos and sampling—all of which led to year-over-year sales for the small location growing by more than 3%. “I really can’t wait to see what else we can do.”
Cindy Waytiuk
Store manager, Red River Co-op
Cindy Waytiuk isn’t just the leader of her store—she’s a leader in the community. In 2018, she led a fundraiser for a local homeless shelter. Across six Red River Co-op stores, staff and customers donated more than 27,000 pairs of socks. Waytiuk also runs a Red River Co-op group called We Care Crew, which volunteers for a number of local organizations. To have some fun in the community, she spearheaded a “Brews and Bites” event, teaming up with a local brewery. On the business side, Waytiuk’s store has achieved double-digit sales increases and double-digit basket growth for two straight years. Waytiuk is a mentor to her staff and has put numerous employees through Co-op’s management training program. “I want to help others see this business as a profession, not just a side job,” she says. “I’ve reached my goal of being a store manager, but there is a lot more opportunity for me in the future.”