LORAIN — For the second year in a row, the Ohio Grocers Association has honored a Lorain County supermarket with its highest honor.
Fligner’s Supermarket in Lorain received the OGA’s 2014 Pinnacle Award. In 2013, the association recognized Village Market in Wellington with the honor for a multi-store operation.
Known for its custom-cut, full-service meat counter as well as specialty foods from Poland, Italy, Mexico and Germany, Fligner’s won the honor in the single-store category.
Ben Fligner, president and co-owner of Fligner’s Market, which was started in 1924 by grandfather Morris Fligner and great-grandfather Harry Fligner, credited the recognition to several factors including merchandising, creativity, human resources and community relations.
“We have always been very community-oriented and we care about our employees,” Fligner said. “We always look to bring the freshest products to market.”
Chief examples of that include buying beef from cattle raised on farms in the Oberlin area, as well as a recently added smokehouse for the store’s new smoked meat business.
“Those are the difference-makers for us,” Fligner said. “We strive to utilize the whole local economy. When people buy meat from Fligner’s, a lot of people benefit. The money stays in the county and goes back to local farmers.”
The familiar Broadway store opened as the Lorain Cut-Rate Fruit Co. before changing its name to Fligner’s as part of an expansion of its food items in 1933.
Known as one of the last independent supermarkets competing against today’s mega-chains, Fligner’s 35,000-square-foot operation underwent a notable expansion in 2009 with the addition of Great Lakes Smoked Meats, a $1.5 million, 7,000-square-foot meat processing operation whose nine workers make 1,200 pounds of sausages and smokies each day.
Located adjacent to Fligner’s Supermarket, the smoked meats venture was itself recognized by the Ohio Department of Agriculture in 2013 as an exemplary example of the state’s 1,100-plus food processing firms that employ some 60,000.
Great Lakes Smoked Meats anticipated an eventual doubling of production and creation of more jobs thanks to an interstate commerce agreement executed in 2013 between state and federal agriculture departments allowing sales outside Ohio by small and/or specialty meat processing firms inside Ohio that employ 25 or fewer workers.
The smoked meat business counts the region’s 60-some Marc’s stores at its biggest customer.
With about 110 employees between the supermarket and smoked meats business, Fligner’s has worked to keep employees around for long periods of time by paying medical insurance costs and providing a retirement program.
“Based on the whole industry, you keep people a lot longer that way,” Fligner said.
OGA President Nate Filler will present the Pinnacle Award to Ben Fligner and his father, Kel, during a March 4 presentation at the store.