September 16, 2014

Elyria
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Local grocers receive top statewide honor

Steve and Tammie Krakomperger of Cascade Management display their award Monday at their Wellington Village Market. The Pinnacle Award was presented to them by the Ohio Grocers Association, which annually recognizes the best grocers in the state. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

WELLINGTON — The daily business of ringing up and bagging groceries took a backseat Monday at the Village Market where owner-operator Steve Krakomperger and his wife, Tammie, were given top honors by a statewide grocers group.

Owner-operators of six supermarkets in Lorain and Huron counties that employ about 500 people and operate as Apples Markets, Village Market and Mor For Less, the couple accepted the Pinnacle Award from the Ohio Grocers Association.

“You are at the top of your game,” Nate Filler, president and CEO of the OGA, said as he presented the award bestowed annually by the business group’s board of directors.

Filler cited the company’s “operational excellence” as well as cleanliness of individual stores and community involvement that includes donations to area food banks and working with local schools.

Krakomperger began acquiring stores in 1998 when he purchased two supermarkets in Elyria and Norwalk.

The award presentation was attended by several dozen people including employees and regional vendors for the stores’ major food suppliers.

Today, the couple own and operate supermarkets in Elyria, Wellington, Sheffield Township, Sheffield Lake, Oberlin and Norwalk, all of which are operated by the couple’s Cascade Management Services.

Tammie Krakomperger serves as the firm’s personnel manager.

Steve Krakomperger has been in the grocery business since he was 16 when he took a job at Cleveland’s West Side Market.

He told the gathering that he and Tammie “live this business 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

With the exception of the Wellington store, which they built, all of the other supermarkets acquired by Krakomperger were shuttered businesses.

Most had previously operated as major chain supermarkets under the Giant Eagle, IGA, Kroger or Topps banners.

“We typically take six weeks to re-open them once we’ve acquired stores and get inside them,” Krakomperger said.

He likened the rapid re-dos to homes that are “flipped” for re-sale.

“It’s pretty intensive,” Krakomperger said.

“We usually spend from $400,000 to $600,000 in upgrades” for the revamped stores, which range in size from 16,000 square feet to the company’s 66,000-square-foot supermarket in Sheffield.

“The optimum size is 30,000 to 40,000 square feet,” which is the approximate size of the Wellington Village Market, Krakomperger said.

Asked what sets his stores apart, Krakomperger said “hiring good people” and working to keep prices low.

“Customers all want local stores,” he said, noting the ongoing struggle to compete with huge chain supermarkets or supermarket-sized operations inside huge box stores.

“We’ve tried to grow at a slow, steady rate,” Krakomperger said. “And that’s not easy when it’s done without corporate backing.”

In accepting the award, Krakomperger told employees and food vendors who supply the six supermarkets “this award goes to all of you.”

While increasing sales are an obvious key component of success, Krakomperger said, “it’s about a lot more than sales.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.