Honest Weight Food Co-op’s new Chief Cooperative Officer (CCO), Mr. Rick Mausert, gives the idea of “locally grown” a new twist. Hired in July 2016, Mr. Mausert has lived in the Albany area his entire life. He grew up on Livingston Avenue just a few blocks from the Co-op, and describes himself as a “neighborhood kid.” He is no stranger to the grocery store industry, either. Before graduating from Siena College in 1979 with an undergraduate degree in finance, Rick was employed at Price Chopper on a part-time basis. He assumed a full-time position at Price Chopper as soon as he finished school. He worked for Price Chopper for 38 years, during which time he received a series of promotions, the latest of which was Director of Purchasing. Mr. Mausert married in 1982. He and his family live in Niskayuna with their three daughters, the youngest of whom is graduating from high school and preparing for college.
To say Mr. Mausert brings expertise to the grocery industry is probably an understatement.
With Mr. Mausert as Honest Weight Food Co-op’s CCO, the store has introduced a new model of leadership, one that has moved away from the prior Leadership Team model to one where the CCO serves as the chief point of contact. Mr. Mausert appears an ideal fit for the role, contributing professional expertise from his decades of experience in the food retailing industry—and seemingly just the right dose of commitment to the Co-op’s values—to help steer the community on the right path.
The Business of Selling Food
Like any competitive market sector—and the grocery store food sector is especially competitive in today’s market—food retail has low margins and high fixed costs. But what makes it a really unpredictable and a sometimes-volatile business is the frequency with which retailers have to contend with new waves of competition.
“Selling food works in a lot more diverse markets than people realize,“ Rick comments. “Wherever there’s an opportunity for profitable growth, someone will take it, and Honest Weight is not immune from these changes in marketing and distribution,” he adds. As one example, Amazon Fresh, based in Seattle, is now available in four cities, with plans to expand rapidly. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-mart is expanding its home delivery and test driving many different grocery formats. These two corporations have the capital, skills and will to dramatically alter the market and to inspire new purchasing habits among loyal customers. Companies that adapt and survive new forms of competition will come out the other side stronger. And these same companies that foresee consumer trends by offering discount or online formats of their own can lead this market with a lot of new growth.
Doing the Everyday, Better
“We need to keep getting the word out with the public regarding real nutritional value, and still keep addressing ‘Ways to Save’ for the products we sell. We are headed in the right direction,” Mausert comments. “Let’s look at what we do here every day and try to do it better. It doesn’t mean I am being critical, but the grocery business is about nickels, dimes, and quarters, and if you waste money, very soon it adds up. We can always focus on operating towards the most efficient ends in our day-to-day business while staying true to core values and our local connections.”
I asked Rick what his favorite part of the job is. “This is a foodie’s paradise,” he said, “what’s not to like?” Truth be told, however, he is not recommending the seaweed teriyaki to customers anytime soon. “But, if you want it we have it. I am sure some customers like it!” Food is obviously the stand-out item in the day-to-day operations of the store. Rick takes special pleasure in meeting with local vendors, producers, and farmers—all of whom are passionate about what they are providing to customers. Mr. Mausert also mentioned the satisfaction in daily interactions with customers and employees, and realizing the challenges and rewards behind the many components of Honest Weight’s operations.
“We still have a lot of rocks to turn over, but we are seeing the benefits of a more stabilized Board of Directors. We have a lot of smart people at Honest Weight Food Co-op, with skin in the game. I’m convinced this is the place to be.”
Stay tuned, Honest Weight Food Co-op community, for Mr. Mausert’s “State of the Store” overview at January’s Membership Meeting on January 29, 6 PM, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 405 Washington Avenue, in Albany. See you there!