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Industry legend and company patriarch Robert Wegman died last week at age 87. Numerous MNB users offered some thoughts…

MNB user Ted Wakabayashi wrote:

He was not only a great achiever but also a beloved one among the people at Wegmans. An executive assistant replied to my e-mail saying " It is a very sad day for us but people are sharing stories to celebrate his life. There is laughter through tears. Thank you for your sympathy."

How good to be remembered as such.

MNB user Bob McMath wrote:

We did know Bob Wegman, personally, together with his wife, Peggy, who had a home on Canandaigua Lake near where we lived for a time some years ago. A really nice person! And, together with his son, he really made the Wegman chain what I consider the best supermarket chain in this country. As you know, we have semi-retired, but we still travel cross-country between New York and California, and we still shop in stores all over the US. We have seen stores from Minneapolis to Florida and Washington to Florida and all over California. The atmosphere of a Wegmans store stands out from all the rest. Even with rugs on the supermarket floors of some groups, none come close to what the family has put together here in Upstate New York. We have entertained foreign business friends and associates from all over the world. Again -- almost without exception -- when they visited a local store, they have all expressed the wish that they could shop all the time in such a store no matter where they lived. As one Japanese woman said to us some years ago, "Wegmans stores are seductive!"

It is wonderful to know that what he put together from the humble meat shop first in Rochester, will continue with his son and granddaughter carrying on the innovative spirit group he (and they have) built the chain to be.

MNB user Steve Sullivan wrote:

Please pass my condolences to the Wegman family. Like you, I never met the man. I've never been in one of his store. But the comments and reputation engendered by the way he ran his company make me wish I had. The one comment that you included - "'I would much prefer to keep a customer happy than to beat a competitor,' he once said. 'That's the way I look at the world.'" - says a lot to me. If more retailers would have that attitude, they would be surprised at the success that they would have. And how much more joyous their life would be.

We had two mom & pop stores in my town when I was growing up. These were the places that were the forerunners of the modern convenience store, where we would grab a coke after a sandlot game or where we would buy and trade our baseball cards. One store was run by Old Man McGrath. He'd answer the door opening with a growled "What do YOU want?" The other was run by Mr. Charlie. A warm, respected man who was as adept with a butcher's knife as he was in charming the housewives into trying a new product. Always smiling, with a kind word to all no matter what age, carrying the hard-pressed on his books until they could pay, he was a character straight out of a Capra movie. These comments are made looking back with the experiences of my life and the appreciation that comes from knowing WHO Mr. Charlie was. Can you guess which store was open for 30+ years under the same management? When Mr. Charlie died, the whole town turned out to give him the send off he deserved. He was successful on many levels. Sounds like Robert Wegman and Mr. Charlie would have gotten along just fine.

The Wegmans have a lot to be proud of and a great legacy to carry on.

It so happened on Friday that our top story was the passing of Robert Wegman, and the second story was the tentative agreement to sell Marsh Supermarkets to an investor group, a decision reached after months of bad decision making and questionable ethical moves by the Indiana-based and formerly family-owned chain.

MNB user Ryan Bass saw a connection:

Long time reader, first time writer.....

You missed a golden comparison opportunity here--or maybe you just felt a little too PC to make it. The first two articles struck a core with me. As a former Marsh employee way back in High School, long time Indiana resident, frustrated Marsh shopper, and now in Marketing for a Supermarket Distributor, I thought the similarities and discrepancies between Wegmans and Marsh were striking.

On one hand, you have Wegmans (a family owned chain with 70 stores) with a top line of $3.8 B, and on the other, Marsh (a family owned chain with approx. 70 stores, plus numerous stores of other formats & channels) being purchased for $88 M. I think this perfectly underscores the differences in business savvy of the management of the two companies. How is it possible that this type of discrepancy exists? Only one possibility in my mind--Customer Focus!!!!

Sure, some might argue that Wegmans stores are situated in areas with much greater population density than any Marsh store, therefore much greater sales potential, but come on, not to the tune that Marsh could be sold at 2% of Wegmans total revenue --with basically the same profile (if not better for Marsh). Something stinks here, and the only explanation to this MNB'er is Marsh's lack of Customer Focus and the corresponding management strategy that Wegmans employs! As you so eloquently quoted Robert Wegman's core belief "'I would much prefer to keep a customer happy than to beat a competitor.' 'That's the way I look at the world.' This outlook - and this only - is what separates one company from another. All companies should take a page from Mr. Wegman's playbook here and learn that if they focus on the customer, beating the competition (or in this case slaughtering the competition) will be an added benefit or simply a side effect of focusing on what really matters. Focus is king!

Ask Tiger Woods if he constantly thinks about "beating his competition" when he's right in the middle of playing a tournament or conversely if he focuses on making each individual shot the best it can be. I already know the's obvious.

You're right about this.

We weren't being politically correct on not making the connection, by the way. We just didn’t want to use Wegmans to beat Marsh over the head within hours of Robert Wegman's death…and we thought that the counterpoint between the two stories was enough to make the point without actually making it.

But you’re right. The counterpoint is stark.

By the way, if you’d like to read some wonderful stuff about Wegman, go to the company's website to see a celebration of his life:
KC's View: