Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Supermarket owner surprises employees with partnership

Published:Sunday | May 3, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Supermarket owner Frank Budwey is giving away the store, and his employees couldn't be happier.

Budwey, 66, surprised his full-time workers with the news, he is bringing them on as partners as he begins to ease into retirement. He said on Friday that he hopes the move will ensure that the 90-year-old market, begun by his grandmother, makes it to 100 and beyond.

He broke the news to his employees Thursday night at a mandatory meeting.

"They didn't know whether the store was closing, being sold, or what," Budwey said. "When I told them they were going to become my partners, they were shocked."

For now, the 33 full-time employees will split 45 per cent of ownership shares and Budwey will retain the majority and continue at the helm. When he retires in 10 years, Budwey will divide his shares among selected employees.

The new partners will receive profits in proportion to how much stock they hold. If they leave the store, the company will buy back the stock.

"That way, I feel stronger that the store will succeed, that there no non-working shareholders," Budwey said, stopping on Friday to greet longtime customers by name and ask about their families. "I really want it to go on."

In the produce department, Budwey called over assistant store manager Patti Edwards, revealing how he had hired her as a teenager 37 years ago because the store's softball team he still coaches needed a shortstop.

"He has done wonders for me," said Edwards, who described a stronger sense of security now that she has a share of what will be relaunch as a new corporation.

"I can actually retire here," she said.

Budwey, who got married on April 25, said his new bride and two daughters support the succession plan, though advisers like his lawyer and accountant were at first taken aback.

"They said, 'Wait a minute. You've got to get money for it. What are you doing here?'" he said.

He added that one of his daughters said to him: 'Thank God, Dad. Now we don't have to worry about the store'."

- AP