The Alabama Grocers Association held their annual Food Industry Finest Luncheon on Wednesday, October 26th honoring their retailer, wholesaler and vendor of the year award winners. Speakers included John Merrill, Secretary of State
and Dr. Kevin Elko, Motivational Speaker.
Grocery stores in Alabama generate over $3.6 billion in annual sales. They provide over 25,000 stable, reliable jobs with over $750 million in annual wages paid. They pay in excess of $300 million in state and local taxes and Alabama food product sales have a $2 billion economic impact on Alabama’s economy.
More than 200 people attended the event at The Club to discuss the work of the Alabama Grocers Association in 2016 and those in the food, beverage and grocery profession here in Alabama.
“Each of these fine individuals hold a special place within the Alabama Grocery Industry. They are committed to growing and improving the grocery industry in Alabama,” said Ellie Taylor, President Alabama Grocers Association. “We are thankful for the opportunity to honor them and their commitment today.”
Vendor of the Year
Vendor of the Year is Mr. Johnny Collins of Barber’s Dairy. Johnny Collins started his career in the grocery industry by sacking groceries at the Food Giant in Roebuck, Alabama. He also worked several summers as a helper on an ice cream truck at Barber’s, which led him to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. Johnny’s grandfather and mentor spent 45 years at Barber’s before he retired as VP, General Manager.
In 1995, the year his grandfather retired, Johnny started to work for the company. Over his 21-year career, Johnny has held the titles of Key Account Manager, Branch Manager, Division Manager, Sales Manager and his current position of General Manager. Johnny joined the Alabama Grocers Association in 2001 and has been an enormous asset to AGA.
Johnny is also proud to be one of the founding companies to start the Buy Alabama’s Best campaign 10 years ago. This campaign was formed to help promote products that are made, manufactured, produced or headquartered in the state of Alabama. Johnny truly has a love for this state and our industry.
Retailer of the Year
Retailer of the Year is Mr. Naseem Ajlouny of Piggly Wiggly. Naseem has worked in the grocery industry his entire life starting when he was at Ramsey High School stocking groceries in a local store after school.
By the time he was 16, he was running his uncle’s grocery store located behind the Birmingham International Airport. After 15 months of running the store, his uncle decided to move back to California and Naseem convinced his dad to buy the store. Within the first month he doubled the business of the store by adding additional shelving. After graduating high school, he bought a small store called Woodlawn Ice House. This store sold ice, beer, wine and snacks. In 1975, he remodeled the store and converted it into a convenient store.
In 1977, Naseem bought his first grocery store, Mundi’s Food Center on the Bessemer Super Highway. He convinced his father to sell their store behind the airport and his father and brother Basim came to work with him. In 1978, he doubled the size of Mundi’s and in 1979 he bought LaRocca’s Food Center store in Midfield.
In August of 1984, Naseem went to see Mr. Stanley Virciglio, who owned the Piggly Wiggly rights for Jefferson County. Naseem asked to join the Piggly Wiggly name and after the blessing from Stanley converted his then 3 stores to Piggly Wiggly’s. This began the growth of what is now an eleven store operation with their newest location in Crestline Village.
Naseem stays involved in several organizations. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Piggly Wiggly Alabama Distributing Company, sits on the Compass Bank Advisory Board and sits on the council and financial board for the Saint George Catholic Church. He is also a former member of the Alabama Grocers Association Board of Directors and has been a member of AGA since 1992.
Wholesaler of the Year
Wholesaler of the Year is Mr. Jack Carlile of Supervalu. Jack has been involved in the grocery industry since 1972 when he started as a bagger for Big Star Supermarket in high school in Cookeville, TN. He continued to work for the company for 6 years working his way through various positions until he graduated from college.
Jack continued his career in the grocery industry working for Wetterau, Inc. in Greenville, Kentucky as their produce buyer; Fleming Companies as Perishable Merchandising Manager in Johnson City, Tennessee; Food Lion as Area Supervisor in both Virginia and Tennessee and in 1994 Jack went to work for Supervalu. Jack started with Supervalu in Quincy, Florida as an account manager, moved to Kenosha, WI as Area Marketing Director and then in 2000 he moved to Atlanta, Georgia as Area Sales Director. Traveling is a requirement for his position as his territory includes Georgia, Alabama, Florida and the Caribbean.
Jack stays active in state associations throughout the Southeast. He serves on the Board of Directors at the Georgia Food Industry Association, is involved with the Florida Retailers Association and has been on the Board of Directors of the Alabama Grocers Association since 2012. Over the last 4 years, Jack has served on the AGA Convention Committee and Membership Committee.
Bagger of the Year
There are over 3,600 grocery baggers in Alabama. Four competed on Wednesday for the Alabama State Bagger of the Year, they are: Jerrico Everhart from Foodland in Guntersville; Denise Porter from Autry Greer & Sons, Inc. “Greers” Grocery in Pritchard; Angela Winters from Foodland in Tuscumbia; and Jamal Adams from Food Giant in Pinson. All four competitors were winners from their respective companies and thus allowed them to compete in the state competition.
The winner of the Alabama State Bagging Competition was Jerrico Everhard from Foodland in Guntersville, Alabama and will represent the state of Alabama at the National Grocers Association Competition in Las Vegas, NV on February 13, 2017.
About the Alabama Grocers Association: The Alabama Grocers Association is a state trade association representing the grocery retail industry since 1990. With over 125 retail members operating nearly 1,000 stores nationwide, as well as over 225 manufacturers, brokers, wholesalers and other members, the AGA is truly the voice of the industry in the state of Alabama. For more information please contact Ellie Smotherman Taylor at 205.823.5498 or firstname.lastname@example.org.