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Robert J. Shearer

BY CSA STAFF

While some entrepreneurs set out to build a better mousetrap, Bob Shearer and his brother decided they could build a better potato chip. That was 34 years ago, when fresh out of college and working in their father’s grocery business, they purchased a distributorship that delivered Wise-brand chips.

It was a trial-and-error learning process in the early days; neither brother had any real knowledge about what went into the making of a potato chip.

“We thought potato chips were made from basic table-stock potatoes,” Shearer, 56, said. “Fortunately, we learned early on that you needed chipping-stock potatoes.”

Their first objective was quite simple: create a potato chip that they liked to eat. When they began experimenting with kettle-cooked chips, they gave every employee five cases of chips to take home each week to sample and share with neighbors. “I knew we had a winner when I got a call from a woman in Florida telling me how much her family loved our chips,” Shearer recalled. “We had not distributed chips anywhere at that point so I asked how she managed to try them. She and her family were visiting relatives in Ohio, who just happened to live next door to one of our employees. They ate a case of our chips on the drive from Ohio to Florida and were hooked.”

Co-founder and CEOShearer’s Foods Brewster, OhioAnnual sales: $150 millionType of business: Manufacturer, distributor and retailer of snack foodsNumber of stores: One factory outletArea of operation: Nationwide

With annual sales topping $150 million last year, people around the country have gotten hooked on Shearer’s snacks, which have expanded to include popcorn, pretzels and tortilla chips, as well as numerous flavors of their signature kettle-cooked potato chips.

When the Brewster, Ohio-based company started, there were two kettles churning out 250 lbs. of chips on a busy day. Today, the company makes 20,000 lbs. of chips hourly and has two manufacturing plants, four distribution centers and approximately 700 employees.

“I didn’t think about it at the time, but we were building the culture of the company at the same time that we were developing chips and growing the business,” Shearer said. “I was focused on the vision, passion and commitment to create quality products and hire quality people. We’ve been blessed with great people and several of them have been here for more than 30 years, including some of our current managers who started with us 34 years ago.”

The company also has a “sharing and caring” committee that works with fund-raisers and charities to benefit employees in need as well as the local community.

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CompUSA may get a new look

BY CSA STAFF

ADDISON, Tx. After opening a new format store last month, CompUSA may be changing the format of its other stores, depending on customer demand and product interest.

According to reports, the elements found in the prototype store, located in Texas, will be incorporated into other CompUSA locations across the United States.

The nearly 7,700 square-ft. relocation site includes an Apple shop featuring Mac computers, iPods and Apple accessories, and a full-length LCD TV wall.

Additional expansions include extended gaming, which includes an entire wall devoted to the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 gaming platforms, plus a PC gaming setup to test equipment and play new titles.

While businesses can get their share of support with a specialized services section, all consumers can visit the store’s redesigned IT support area.

“This new store aligns CompUSA’s vision to better serve its three core customers, the technology enthusiast, educated professional and small and medium businesses,” said Gabriela Villalobos, the retailer’s sales and operations evp.

CompUSA announced in April that it would narrow its focus to three core customer groups rather than try to serve a mass audience.

The move was part of a comprehensive restructuring, initiated last February, that included an overhaul of senior management and the closure of half its store base as the privately held chain looked to improve sales and profitability.

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Walgreens withdraws from CVS provider plans

BY CSA STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. After many months of talks over low and below-market payment rates by CVS Caremark for four prescription plans, Walgreens has withdrawn as a pharmacy provider from the plans.

Patients affected include members of prescription benefit plans managed by CVS Caremark for ArcelorMittal, Johnson Controls, Progressive Casualty Insurance and Wisconsin Education Association Trust.

Most of the affected members live in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Trent Taylor, president of Walgreens Health Services, the managed care division of Walgreens, released the following statement:

“This is not where we wanted negotiations to lead,” he said. “We’re sorry that our pharmacy patients and CVS Caremark’s clients are caught in the middle, and we’ll do all we can to ensure a smooth transition for our patients to another pharmacy. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work on resolving this issue with CVS Caremark.

“Leaving a benefits plan is an extraordinary step for us, but it demonstrates how extraordinarily low our payments were from CVS Caremark. We can’t continue accepting reimbursement rates that are drastically below market, while offering patients needed special services such as 24-hour pharmacy access and drive-thru pharmacies.”

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