Progressive Grocer Independent

FEB 2016

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10 | Progressive Grocer Independent | February 2016 SINGLE-STORE OPERATOR 2016 I N D E P E N D E N T S OUTSTANDING Cooke's Food Store, Cleveland, Tenn. Y ou can only be who you are. Tis is an adage that Dan Cooke, owner of Cooke's Food Store, takes to heart. Cooke's is the last remaining inde- pendent supermarket in Cleveland, Tenn., which has a population of about 40,000 in the southeastern part of the state. "I think we've succeeded because we just try to be who we are," Cooke says. "We don't try to be some- thing we're not. We don't try to be everything to every- body; we just try to do what we can do and excel at it." Part of what the store does well is meet the needs of its customers. Cooke's, which features a large deli, a bak- ery, a meat department with a butcher always manning the service counter, and a pharmacy, has added a large selection of natural, organic and gluten-free products as consumers' dietary needs have evolved. Committed to Local Local has become a hot trend across the country, but Cooke's has been committed to selling products from lo- cal producers and manufacturers since it opened in 1936. Te products are denoted with a From Our Family to Yours label. Local products run the gamut from produce to barbecue sauce. In addition to its commitment to ofering local products, Cooke's strives to be a vital part of the community. Te store often hosts events that draw the community at large into the store. For instance, Santa Claus puts in an annual appearance at Cooke's, his frst stop in the town. Children can have their photos taken and make holiday crafts, with a selection of refreshments available. Te Santa event also doubles as a toy collection for the Salvation Army. Another popular event is the fall festival, featuring pumpkin painting (each child gets a pumpkin free of charge), face painting, apple bobbing and ball tosses. Other events include the Cupid Drive Tru for Valentine's Day and Game Day Saturdays during football season. Cooke's additionally partners with a local radio station for a Duck Race, which kicks of in the store's parking lot and raises funds for a variety of charities. Te store also hosts an annual charitable golf tourna- ment to raise money for cancer research. To date, more than $250,000 has been raised and donated to organiza- tions like Susan G. Komen to help fght breast cancer. It Comes Down to People Part of what makes Cooke's special is its workforce. "If anything sets us apart, it would be people," Cooke adds. Te 35,000-square-foot store employs about 50 people, with an average tenure of about 10 years. Te focus is on service, which has been handed down through four generations of the Cooke family. Te commitment to service begins with hiring the right people and then training them properly. "It's part of the culture that you build from your own basic beliefs," Cooke says. "You hire people with a good attitude, and people will buy into the culture." Te store also strives to ensure that employees are recognized for their contributions. For example, the deli/ bakery specialist, Wendy Noleck, has won an Excellence in Merchandising award from the Nashville division of Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG) for fve straight years, and Director of Produce Tom Harris won the overall Excellence in Produce Merchandising award from AWG. Store Manager Keith Scott also played an impor- tant role in Cooke's winning the 2015 Reader's Choice Best Supermarket award from Te Leaf-Chronicle, a local newspaper. Further, employees feature prominently on the store's Facebook page. Te store's success is directly attributable to its people, Cooke asserts. "If there's anything, it is the people that work here that are meeting customers face to face every day, and the culture we've built in the store." - O t h From left: A.J. Arthur (store manager from 1956 to 2002 ), Mrs. Carl S. Cooke (Dan's Mother), Dan Cooke (3rd generation)

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