A Family Tradition: Staying True to Roots Keeps Metcalfe’s Ahead of the Competition
Metcalfe’s Market may be nearing the century mark, but this is a family-owned business that always seems to be a step ahead of what’s next. A hot topic of late has been grocery delivery. Metcalfe’s Market has been doing that for 15 years. Grocers these days are putting a strong focus on perishables, including beautiful displays with lighting that enhances produce, but Metcalfe’s Market has been winning awards for doing the same thing for well more than a decade. This is a progressive grocery retailer that has thrived by keeping to its roots. The company was started by an immigrant from Hungary who brought what he knew to America. Henry Hesz made his mark, and his descendants continue to seek and find the best there is in retailing so they can bring it home to the Midwest. That innovation, combined with the freshest possible perishables—with an emphasis on local products—and a deep commitment to community keep Metcalfe’s Market ahead of the pack. Above left, Vern Metcalfe, second generation; at top, Jerry and Tom Metcalfe at the meat case, third generation; and above right, Tim and Kevin Metcalfe, fourth generation.
Darlene Murphy, marketing director; Matt Lauderdale, Hilldale store director; Kevin Metcalfe, co-owner; Jessica LaPhilliph, Madison West Towne store director; Tim Metcalfe, co-owner; Rich Lewandowski, Wauwatosa store director; Amanda Metcalfe, director of employee development.
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OCTOBER 2016 • The Shelby Report of the Midwest
A Family Tradition: Caretakers of the Brand
rothers Kevin and Tim Metcalfe are COO and president of family-owned and -operated Metcalfe’s Market, respectively. They assumed the roles when their father, Tom, retired some 47 years after he and his brother, Jerry, took over the family business. Tom and Jerry Metcalfe ran the business together until 1989, when Jerry left to pursue other interests in Hawaii. Tom and his wife, Margaret, whom he had married in 1958, continued to operate the family business until 2000. That is when the baton was passed to current co-owners Tim and Kevin. An entrepreneurial seminar at Cornell University in the early 1990s helped the family choose the appropriate role for each Kevin Metcalfe brother. “We were working on the succession plan. Tim and I are equal partners, but from a knowledge and industry training perspective, he’s also 10 years older than I am, so he was more prepared for the role of president,” Kevin Metcalfe said. “We went to that particular seminar just to define roles, and, at the time, my brother was a more seasoned manager at a different organization. There was a clear path that I was coming through, but he definitely had the training and the years behind him to take the company in the next direction.” It was never predetermined that the brothers would take over the company. “We don’t think it’s a birthright, per se,” he said. “It’s been the best person for the job. Ultimately we had to prove that to our father.” Kevin Metcalfe further defines his and his brother’s place in the history of the company by describing a trophy the family received in 2006 for being named Wisconsin Family Business of the Year. It features two human figures Tom Metcalfe passing a globe or ball. He and brother Tim use it as a metaphor. “It’s the way we look at our business. We really think that The Wisconsin Family Business of the Year trophy. it symbolizes our company,” Metcalfe said. “It was my grandfather’s job to take this gift that my grandmother’s parents had started, massage it, grow it and shine it and then pass it along. Then it was my father’s and my uncle’s job to make sure that they were putting their mark on the ball and making sure that carried on.” The two brothers believe that now is their time to nurture the company, to ensure that it flourishes so that it will be ready to pass to the fifth generation when the day comes. “Our father saw that we took it seriously. It’s our job to make sure we put our mark on it and grow it and that it’s there for the next generation,” he said. “It may stay in the family, but this continues on. We’re working right now with my brother’s daughter, Amanda (see more about her on page 25), and my niece. She’s the fifth generation. We’re very excited about that. She went to college, had a career outside the business and decided to come back. We welcomed her into the business, and now she’s director of employee development.” Kevin Metcalfe has two children, a 15-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, who both work for the company now. One Amanda Metcalfe and her father, Tim Metcalfe. is in produce, and the other is in bakery. “They’re enjoying their time here working at Metcalfe’s, but we also encourage them to find their career, find their path, and if it ends up coming back to the company, that would be wonderful,” Metcalfe said. “I would love nothing more if my children wanted to be in the grocery business that they get their education and their own careers, or for that matter go work five years in New York City at some of those premiere grocers and bring some of that experience back and move us in the next direction.”
The path to today’s Metcalfe’s Market
Henry and Theresa Hess started the company in Butler, Wisconsin, in 1917. Henry, a blacksmith, shoed horses out back while Theresa ran the store. The couple had a daughter, Mary, who grew up and married Vern Metcalfe. They had two sons, Tom (Kevin and Tim’s father) and Jerry Metcalfe, the third generation of grocers in
the family. “My father and my uncle were born above that store, because there were apartments above it,” he said. “My grandpa was a butcher. He and his wife, Mary, would run the store and do deliveries. They were innovators in their time in terms of getting fresh and local produce and meats and delivering them where and when they needed to be. Once they were of age, (Vern) would send the boys down to the dock to get fresh vegetables and fish and meat.” In the 1950s, a new franchise was opening up called Sentry Foods, and the Metcalfes opened one of the first. It also was located in Butler, at 132nd and Hampton. The former Hess Grocery transitioned to a hardware store with Vern Metcalfe as landlord. “The story goes that when they were about 18, my grandfather walked in and handed the boys the keys and said, ‘I’m going to the lake,’” Kevin Metcalfe said. “My grandfather went to the lake, and my father and my uncle ran that store. “What I remember of my grandfather is that he was a foodie in his own right. He loved to bring what you’d be doing at home into the market,” Metcalfe said. “He was a very strong individual and heavy into the butcher shop side of our business; produce, as well. He had his own garden at his lake property, so he was always bringing the fresh, best quality produce and meat to market. That’s something that he did himself as well as in the business.” In the mid-1960s, Tom Metcalfe moved his family to Monona, a suburb of Wisconsin, where there was an opportunity to take over a Sentry Foods store. Kevin Metcalfe was born a few years later. Tom Metcalfe continued to run the store in Monona until 1979. That is when A&P pulled out of the Madison market. The Godfrey family, who owned Sentry Foods at the time, saw the opportunity and offered a store to Tom Metcalfe. He closed the Monona store and moved to the company’s Hilldale location. “From that point, we had the Hampton store that was originally one of our first stores, the Sentry Foods store and then the Hilldale store,” Metcalfe said. “In the 1980s, my uncle wanted to pursue some other ventures, so my father bought him out.”
The former Cub was transformed into Metcalfe’s Market West in Madison. Seven years after Kevin and Tim took over the family business, they closed the Sentry— Hampton in Butler, sold that building and set up a new store in Wauwatosa. It was converted to the same upscale format as the Hilldale store. The next Metcalfe’s Market would be a second Madison store. The company’s partnership with its wholesaler, Supervalu, came into play with that location. Their partnership has lasted for generations, going back to when Godfrey sold to Fleming Cos. Supervalu acquired Fleming Cos., including the Festival Foods and Sentry Foods franchises. “Our west side store was a Cub and Supervalu gave us the opportunity to expand on the west side,” Metcalfe said. “They’ve been a great support arm for us. They’ve helped us grow.” Metcalfe’s Market locations today include Madison Hilldale, 726 North Midvale Boulevard; Madison West, 7455 Mineral Point Road; and Wauwatosa, 6700 West State Street.
Innovation and the customer experience
Henry and Theresa Hess likely would be very pleased with how their descendants have taken care of the family business. “Maybe coming from Hungary, I’m sure (Henry) brought some ideals from where he grew up and saw an opportunity in Butler for bringing some of that to that city. We continue to do that as well,” Metcalfe said. “I think they were always innovators, and a lot of things may have stayed the same—delivery, taking care of your customers. “But as new ideas erupt and new groups of people come in, we continue to innovate and evolve to make sure that we’re giving our customers what we believe they are looking for. We follow the market very closely, and we look at what’s going on in other parts of the country, not just in our own market,” he added. “Where a lot of the innovation is happening is on the East and West Coast. We’re following those closely. I think that has made us successful, so I think (Henry) would be very happy to see how we continue to meet the needs of the customers and are on the leading edge.” Touring other grocers has played a large part in setting Metcalfe’s Market apart from the competition. When the Metcalfe family members were in Ithaca at Cornell University for the succession planning seminar back in the 1990s, they visited grocery stores in New York City. “We toured some Wegmans stores, and they were absolutely beautiful. It was a concept that you hadn’t seen in the Midwest as much,” Metcalfe said. “They were heavy on the perishables Please see page 28
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The Shelby Report of the Midwest • OCTOBER 2016
A Family Tradition: A Legacy of Service
randon Scholz said he is president and CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association today because of the late Tom Metcalfe, the third-generation owner and operator of Metcalfe’s Market. Scholz now has been with the association as president and CEO for 19 years. He first knew Metcalfe as a supporter of Congressman Scott Klug, whom Scholz served as chief of staff. Later, Scholz was working at Wisconsin Power & Light as director of government affairs, “looking to stake my claim and learn the lobbying trade,” he said. He had always wanted to run an association. One day Metcalfe called Scholz to ask what the head of an association should be doing about a particular issue. Scholz gave him his opinion. A couple of weeks later, Metcalfe told Scholz to get his resume together. The head of the state grocers association was going to retire. “I put my hat into the ring with 125 other people. They threw half of them out, got it down to 24 and did those interviews and finally got it down to three, who made presentations to the board, and I was fortunate to get the job,” Scholz said. “Tom then became my mentor. Anytime had a question, I called Tom—and other people on the board, as well—but I’d always call Tom. ‘What about this?’ ‘What about that?’ ‘I’m frustrated with this; what do I do?’ He was always there to help.” Metcalfe told great stories, too. “‘Let me tell you about bananas in a grocery store,’” Scholz said, quoting Metcalfe. “‘Let me explain grocers to you. Bananas. Bananas get on the shelf, and they’re nice and yellow and green and they’re 68 cents a pound. And the next week they’re yellow, they’re 59 cents a pound. And the next week they’re getting a little brown and yellow and they’re 49 cents a pound. After that, banana nut bread is on sale. They don’t waste anything.’” Scholz then shared another one. “He said, ‘You get a grocer and a guy that runs a restaurant in the same room, and they each have a half a side of beef
on a hook. The “If you use a picture of Tom, restaurant guy make sure he’s got his tam looks at it and on, his red tam. It was his Kevin, Tom and Tim Metcalfe in the Wauwatosa store. says, well I can signature thing. That’s one of those mayor of Monona. He was elected and went on to sell those t-bones things I just remember about Tom. serve a record five terms. for $24.99, and That red tam.” “Dad was running a grocery store, and that was I can sell that —Brandon Scholz, president and CEO, really when Tim and I started to get more involved tenderloin there Wisconsin Grocers Association with the business,” said Kevin Metcalfe, who, with for $22.99, and his brother, Tim, are the fourth-generation ownerI can sell the porterhouse for $34.95, and I can sell this, and I can make this, operators. “Dad devoted a lot of time to being almost a fulland I can sell this New York strip here for $25.99, and I’ll make time mayor, which is unusual for a community like Monona. a good profit on this. The grocer looks at the same side of beef The city administrator usually runs the city, but when dad hanging on a hook. Looks it up and down, scratches his head became mayor, he kind of switched that around.” Tom Metcalfe also was a member of the Monona Grove and says to himself, I wonder how cheap I can sell this for?’ “Tom would always share these stories about grocers, the Businessmen’s Association and the Exchange Club of Madison, industry or when he was growing up,” Scholz said. “He was eventually serving as president of both organizations. He also just always there. He was always supportive. He was a great was a charter member of the Monona Chamber of Commerce, guy. He didn’t play favorites. I don’t know that I would have served on the Monona Board of Appeals and chaired the made much of myself in this business had it not been for Tom.” Community Development Authority in Monona. He was on Scholz said he was the “epitome of a grocer.” He was always the Monona fireworks committee for many years and was helping, giving away things people needed and never asking grand marshal of the Annual Monona Memorial Day Parade. for credit. One small example: in the days of pay phones, He was instrumental in the expansion of the Monona Library. “He made some very good strides in Monona,” Metcalfe Metcalfe had one at the store that senior citizens could use for said. “A lot of what you see there, he worked on.” free to call for a cab, Scholz said. He also served the boards of Johnson Bank in Madison, Metcalfe served on the WGA board of directors from 1991the Meriter (Hospital) Foundation (Madison), the Madison 2001 and was named its Grocer of the Year in 2004. Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin National Community Mayor Metcalfe Service Board and was president of the Madison Ballet. Tom Metcalfe and his brother, Jerry, worked together in the Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed Metcalfe to the grocery business from the time they were teenagers until the Educational Communications Board, and he served as chair mid-1980s, some 40-plus years. They ran the family’s Monona for four years. store until 1979, when they decided to close it and relocate to In the year 2000, Tom retired and turned the business over Hilldale in Madison. Tom Metcalfe bought his brother out in to his sons, Tim and Kevin Metcalfe. 1989 and became CEO. Tom Metcalfe remained in Monona until he passed away on In 1993, at the urging of a friend, Tom Metcalfe ran for March 26, 2006, at the age of 70.
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The Shelby Report of the Midwest • OCTOBER 2016
A Family Tradition: Food, Fun and Philanthropy
n 1983, a Pepsi salesman suggested to Tom Metcalfe that he should have a brat fry. The competition was doing it. Metcalfe made it a customer appreciation event and set up the first brat fry with a table, three chairs and a Weber grill under a 10-by-10 Pepsi tent in the parking lot of the company’s Sentry Foods—Hilldale location. Today, Brat Fest is so large that no grocery store parking lot could hold it. “It was Tom Metcalfe sitting in one of those aluminum lawn chairs with the straps and plastic armrests,” said Brandon Scholz, Wisconsin Grocers Association president and CEO. “He grilled some brats and hot dogs and offered soft drinks. It’s pretty amazing today, but it all started out with Tom yelling, ‘Brat and a pop for a buck!’” Metcalfe decided to donate proceeds Tom Metcalfe founded Brat Fest in from the event to the 1983. organizations whose members volunteered to serve the sausages, and that tradition continues. Donations to date total more than $1.6 million. Not bad for what started as a parking lot brat fry. “As the years went by, it got busier and busier, so the Weber grill became a larger charcoal grill, and then it became two charcoal grills, and then it became a gas grill, and the tent became larger, and a table and three chairs became multiple tables, and eventually we moved it off the sidewalk in the front of the store to out in the parking lot, and we just continued to grow,” said Kevin Metcalfe, son of Tom and current Metcalfe’s Market co-owner. In 1999, after selling 35,000 brats at that year’s “Memorial Day Brat Tent” event, Tom Metcalfe asked his brat supplier whether that was a large number, relatively speaking. “Well, that’s more than Oktoberfest, more than Brat Days and more than (Milwaukee) County Stadium. We think you’re the World’s Largest Brat Fest,” came the reply. And the name stuck. After that, the Metcalfes kept count. In 2004, the Brat Fest set a new (self-proclaimed) world record when a whopping 189,432 brats were sold in the parking lot in front of the Hilldale store. Tom Metcalfe retired in 2000, but always came back as a “celebrity cashier” to work the event. “The celebrity cashiers are local heroes, similar to my dad serving as mayor (of Monona),” Metcalfe said. “The aldermen and the fire fighters and the police officers—they really
are the heroes within the community.” In 2005, the “World’s Largest Brat Fest” moved to Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison In 2005, the World’s Largest Brat Fest moved to Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center. to better accommodate the growing crowds. In 2008, 2009 and 2010, the World’s Largest Brat Fest was voted “Best Outdoor Festival” by Madison. com readers. Since 1983, the number of brats that have been enjoyed at the annual event is in the millions, including a real world record 209,376 brats in 2010. In 2013, Brat Fest broke the world record for preparing and serving the largest brat. The festival now starts on the Friday before Memorial Day with “Take Your Brat To Work Day” from 6-9 a.m. A “Ride Bike…Get Free Brats!” also is held on Friday, with free brats given to the first 100 people who ride their bicycles to the “Brat Thru.” Over the weekend, there are carnival rides, a salute to veterans, a Brat Toss, a kids art zone, zoo animals, 5K Brat Fest Walk, car show, a climbing wall, a bag sack race, soccer and dozens more events. The University of Wisconsin Marching Band is there, too, with school mascot The Hot Dog Jog at Brat Fest. Bucky Badger in tow. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been ingrained in terms of giving New this year was “Wisconsin Remembers: A Face for back, and it’s fun to create something like this,” Metcalfe Every Name.” It is an exhibit featuring a photo for each of the 1,161 Wisconsinites listed on the Vietnam Veterans said. “It’s something that’s doing good, and we’re having fun Memorial in Washington, D.C., along with another 83 names while we’re doing it. We always say that’s just part of being listed on The Highground Vietnam Veterans Memorial in your local grocer, but these are communities that we love. We live and play in them, and they’ve been good to us. So it Neillsville, Wisconsin. Brat Fest also is a major music festival, and this feels good to give something back, and we enjoy it.” year featured artists such as the Kentucky Headhunters, Bucky Covington and former The Runaways lead guitarist Lita Ford. In keeping with the company’s dedication to environmental stewardship, a Zero Waste initiative began last year. The goal is to recycle, reuse or compost as much as possible after the event, with as little left behind for disposal as possible. Most importantly, Tom Metcalfe’s vision has been realized beyond what he could possibly have imagined 33 years ago, as Brat Fest benefits more than 100 local charities each year. They are as diverse as Madison is, and include everything from Boy Scout Troops to the Southern Lakes Association of the Deaf to Great Pyrenees Rescue of Wisconsin and of, course, hunger relief. The thousands of volunteers are working for their own charities. They “earn” $8 an hour working at the event. That money is then donated back to their charity of choice.
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OCTOBER 2016 • The Shelby Report of the Midwest
A Family Tradition: Earning It
manda Metcalfe, daughter of Tim, officially started working for the family’s business at age 14. But she had her own opinions about things well before then. As a child, she often overheard her father talking Metcalfe’s Market business while on the road. “I was probably about seven. We’d be driving places, and he would be talking on the phone back when cellphones were in a briefcase. He would have that in the car floor, and he would be talking about business,” she said. “We would be on long trips to places, and I would be listening to them. He’d get off the phone, and I’d say, ‘Dad, why don’t you just always have everything on sale, because then it would all sell?’ We would have businesslike conversations. I would be giving him my two cents.” She always had an opinion. She also kept the family grocery business in the back of her mind as a career option. That mindset carried into college, when she thought she might go her own way. She was never pressured about what to pursue professionally or educationally, except that her father did want her to get an MBA. She is in the process of obtaining it now. She studied both psychology and business and worked for a time outside the grocery industry. During high school and college she would come back to Metcalfe’s Market. Even as she studied areas that would be useful should she decide on a career in a grocery career, nothing was ever a given in the family business. “I wanted to keep that door open, because I do like the grocery business,” she said. “I like working with the public and customer service. But I always thought I should do my own thing. My dad had always said, ‘you can always work with us, but the business isn’t just going to be handed over to you,’” Metcalfe said. “You have to be the best. It could be anybody who could take over. It was not just because you’re the family, you inherit it. You have to be the best. I’ve always strived to be that in anything that I do, but it was nice to know that it’s not just handed to me. It’s something that I have to work for.” Metcalfe shares the journey toward her MBA with people from all different backgrounds, and they have been surprised by what it takes to be in the grocery business. “It’s such a fascination because everyone goes to the grocery store,” Metcalfe said. “I think people feel like they know it really well, but then they realize it is a little complicated. What’s so funny is I like the fast pace. My family, we’re very fast-paced in thinking, in ideas, and it’s fun. I didn’t realize how fast-paced it was vs. other industries until I was talking with people in these other industries. If it’s technology, it moves really fast, but some of the other ones don’t and it surprised me.” Her first taste of management with the company came when she took over the deli. That was fitting, since that’s where she got most of her experience when she was younger and working in the stores. The manager she took over for was her first, and they were big shoes to fill. Metcalfe came to the role with a vision for change and learned what it takes to run the department and, in particular, how to handle people. “It was right before Thanksgiving, and it’s a very diverse department. You have all ages, all kinds of different backgrounds,” Metcalfe said. “I learned how to build teamwork, make sure people have the tools they need to be able to assist customers. Those were my areas of focus. I thought of my job as making sure that everyone has the resources they need. I’m serving them so they can serve others, is really what I took from that—and how hard it is to manage perishables.” To her credit, Metcalfe is quick to point out when something is not her idea. An assistant thought up the idea of having a Tex-Mex-themed hot/cold bar. Deli sales grew by 35 percent as a result. “We had just gotten this new hot bar. We weren’t sure if it could be hot and cold, and we ended up finding out that it was something we could do,” she said. “It’s something we’re still doing in the deli. It was cool to see all that come to fruition.” Her current position is director of employee development, a role she took on about a year and a half ago. Again, she saw a need and asked for the chance to make a difference. She recognizes the important role grocery stores play in preparing young people for the workplace. “The things that you learn here are invaluable. If you are good with customers and you are good with talking to people, that translates everywhere,” she said. “Almost any business that you’ll be in, you’re going to have to deal with people.” She believes in getting newcomers engaged from the beginning, when employees come in typically as baggers or cashier. Getting those who are in school to come back year after year is something of a goal for Metcalfe’s Market. It is now working on its onboarding process. “Getting them engaged in the company and what we’re about and why their job is more than just bagging groceries or checking someone out, why it’s really important and how they contribute to the business—it’s a program we are building,” she said.
Metcalfe’s Market holds a best bagger contest at each of the three stores every year. Amanda’s sister, Allie, made it all the way to the national finals in Las Vegas in 2006. “I was so mad at her. I didn’t get to go with her because they can only send two people so it was her and my dad,” she said. “But it’s so nice to be able to kind of break away from the everyday norm and have these kids compete and be judged. It just creates a really fun, engaging environment for these baggers, competing in general and really breaking down the science of bagging.” Some of Metcalfe’s employees have been with the company for decades. This is what makes Amanda Metcalfe most proud of the company. Amanda Metcalfe When she came back to the family business five years ago, she was happy to see that many of the people she had worked with when she was 14 years old were still there. “That’s a little weird to see in a grocery store, especially because in a college town— Madison, at least—there’s a lot of turnover in the business in general,” she said. “Just seeing that core group of people all still here was super cool to me and how everyone’s really passionate about the business, almost like it’s their own. What I’m most proud of is having people who are proud to be part of the company.” She is excited about how technology may change the grocery shopping experience for the better, but believes there should always be the brick-and-mortar version. “We’ve been doing online shopping for 15 years now. But I feel like we need to make it more of an experience, compete with the Amazons and help translate that in-store experience to online for those people who are doing that,” Metcalfe said. “And also continue to create an experience in the store because I think that’s what brings people in. They see these beautiful displays. They get ideas for what’s for dinner. For those people who do really enjoy the in-store experience, keeping that interesting and engaging is really important, again, in competing with online delivery and shopping online, making sure that it’s still a destination and something that churns ideas for food. “Creating an in-store experience that’s engaging and beautiful, I think that has helped us stay around for 100 years. We remodel the stores every eight to 10 years. We’re constantly changing things up, reinventing, keeping ourselves fresh,” she said. “Yes, we’re 100 years old, but we have modern stores. We have demos. We bring in a lot of local people to talk about their own products and how customers can use it and tell their stories. Connecting people with the producers is cool, because people love to support local. Having that experience in-store is not the something you get online.” She has nothing against online shopping and home delivery—“having things show up at my door is amazing”—but she feels sure there will always be retail spaces, even 100 years from now. “There’s just something to be said about shopping for your groceries, whether that’s smaller formats, more convenient locations or farmers markets,” she said. “I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like, but I can’t imagine that going away completely.” As the fifth generation to work in the family business, Metcalfe has a deep understanding not only for what it takes to be successful, but also for her responsibility to keep the business thriving. One of the numerous awards that Metcalfe’s Market has won is the Wisconsin Family Business of the Year. The award itself looks like two people holding up a globe or ball. “What my dad has always said is that we, as a family, are the caretakers of the brand. The brand is this ball, and the customers own it. We are just caretakers passing it from generation to generation,” she said. “That’s the image he shares, this trophy; it’s this image of two figures holding this ball, so that’s kind of how he envisions Metcalfe’s. It is this brand, this entity that the customers own. They’ve molded us into what we are because everything is focused on them and their experience and that we’re just caretakers passing it.” It comes down to the basics, really, doing things like her great-great-grandparents did. “Customer service is first and foremost, getting products directly from the producers and having strong relationships with them, I think that’s what pulled me back to the business,” Metcalfe said. “It was all the values of the company. This is definitely something I want to be a part of.”
“Creating an in‑store experience that’s engaging and beautiful, I think that has helped us stay around for 100 years.”
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The Shelby Report of the Midwest • OCTOBER 2016
Metcalfe’s Market Nears 100 Years in Operation Madison, Wisconsin-based Metcalfe’s Market is a fifth-generation, family-owned and -operated neighborhood market featuring beautiful stores overflowing with good things to eat. More than 3,500 products are sourced from local farms and artisans at the peak of their seasons. Metcalfe’s Market is home to fresh-baked breads and pastries from 25 local bakeries, more than 500 varieties of artisan cheeses, Boar’s Head deli meats and the largest variety of local and organic produce to be found in its markets. So, how did Metcalfe’s Market not only survive 100 years, but also become the award-winning gourmet retailer of choice for residents in Madison and Wauwatosa? Perhaps a look at its past will tell the tale, but innovation, the fresh meat and produce the company takes pride in offering and being ingrained in the communities it serves are part of its magic. Plans are to keep it that way for the next 100 years.
1887-1907 Henrik Hesz is born on August 27, 1887, in Ismany, Hungary. When he is 14, following European custom, he apprentices for a blacksmith and goes to live with the blacksmith’s family. After some time, Hesz feels he is being mistreated, so he boards the Carpathia (the ship that rescued passengers from the Titanic in 1912) for America. He arrives at Ellis Island on March 16, 1907. Upon arrival, his name is translated to Henry Hess.
become the second generation of grocers to own and operate what will later become Metcalfe’s Market.
Tom and Jerry Metcalfe branch out and purchase a Sentry Foods store in Monona, a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin. Tom and his family move to Monona to operate that store. Jerry stays in Brookfield and operates the store there.
1976 Theresa Rose (Matt) Hess passes away in 1976.
1908 In 1908, Hess moves to Milwaukee and works as a blacksmith. He meets Theresa Rose Matt and marries her in January 1910. In December that year, they welcome their first child, Mary Rose Hess, to the family.
Henry Hess passes away in 1978. Vern and Mary Metcalfe, second-generation owners. Metcalfe’s IGA opens in 1947 in Butler, Wisconsin.
1914 Henry and Theresa Hess move their family to what was then known as New Butler, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, in 1914. Henry Hess works as a blacksmith in a shop on North 124th Street. The family lives above it.
Tom and Jerry Metcalfe close Sentry Foods—Monona and purchase an A&P store in the Hilldale Mall. They open it as Sentry Foods—Hilldale.
1999 Sentry Foods—Hilldale is remodeled again, this time focusing on perishables, merchandising and lighting. An additional 5,000 s.f. are added, and the store has a new market look. Sushi, a café and liquor are added, and the produce, bakery and deli departments are expanded. Metcalfe’s Sentry—Hilldale becomes the No. 1 Sentry in Wisconsin.
2000 Tom and Margaret Metcalfe retire from the grocery business. Their sons, Tim and Kevin Metcalfe, purchase the family business and become the fourth generation of grocers.
1983 Mary Rose (Hess) Metcalfe passes away in 1983. Tom Metcalfe mans the barbecue grill at one of the early Brat Fry customer appreciation events at Sentry Foods— Hilldale. The event today is known as the World’s Largest Brat Fest and has raised more than $1 .6 million for charity.
1917 In 1917, Henry and Theresa Hess build the family’s first grocery store just down the street from the blacksmith shop on North 124th Street in New Butler. The store is rented to the Milwaukee Cooperative Association, a co-op grocery whose members use their collective buying power to obtain lower prices. The Hess family lives on the second story. When the co-op goes out of business, Theresa Hess decides to take over the grocery store. After a while, meat is added and Henry Hess becomes a butcher in addition to continuing his blacksmithing work in the garage. Because delivery isn’t yet offered, much of the food sold at Hess Grocery is picked up at a wholesale house in Milwaukee and brought to the store. Customers order their groceries at the counter, as these are the days before self-service became the norm. The Hesses also deliver groceries for their shoppers.
E. Vernon Metcalfe passes away in 1992.
Vern and Mary relocate and build a new store on the corner of 125th Street and Hampton Avenue in what is now Butler, Wisconsin, and that store becomes Metcalfe’s IGA. With the Metcalfes delivering groceries and adding butchering and slaughtering operations in the backroom, the store truly was a full-service supermarket.
1989 Jerry Metcalfe sells his share of the grocery business to Tom and Margaret and moves to Hawaii to start the Jerome Metcalfe’s Rusty Harpoon Restaurant & Tavern. Tom Metcalfe becomes president and CEO of the grocery business.
Tim and Kevin Metcalfe, fourth generation. Sentry Foods—Hilldale changes its name and becomes Metcalfe’s Sentry—Hilldale.
2001 SentryOntheGo.com, an online grocery ordering and delivery service, is established at Metcalfe’s Sentry—Hilldale. It is the first of its kind in Madison.
Tim and Kevin Metcalfe purchase a Sentry Store in Waunakee. Metcalfe’s Sentry—Hilldale receives the grand prize Retail Design Award from the Association for Retail Environments (formerly the National Association of Store Fixture Manufacturers).
2003 Hess Grocery was in the building on the right. In the late 1920s, the Hesses decide to sell the store. It ultimately is bought and sold twice.
1934 In 1934, the Hesses repossess the store for the last time. They return to operate it until Henry Hess is no longer able to stand the cold in the meat locker. Henry and Theresa Hess’ daugh- Henry Hess, first ter, Mary, meets and marries Vern generation owner. Metcalfe in 1934. Mary works in her parents’ store, and the newlyweds live in the apartment above it. Vern Metcalfe works for Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith.
Metcalfe’s Sentry—Hilldale receives the grand prize International Store Design Award from the Institute of Store Planners and Visual Merchandising & Store Design Magazine.
Jerry and Tom Metcalfe, third generation. Vern and Mary’s sons, 18-year-old Tom and 17-year-old Jerry, purchase the business and become the third generation of grocers.
1958 Tom meets and marries Margaret Louise Wandsnider.
1990 Tom and Margaret Metcalfe expand Sentry Foods— Hilldale by adding 10,500 s.f., expanding all departments and remodeling the store décor.
Tim and Kevin Metcalfe expand the business again, this time in the Milwaukee market with the purchase of a Rainbow store in the heart of Wauwatosa. Metcalfe—Sentry Wauwatosa becomes the fourth store.
1935 On Christmas Eve 1935, Mary and Vern Metcalfe welcome their first child, Tom, into the family. He literally is born into the family business in the apartment above the store.
1937 In 1937, Henry and Theresa’s daughter, Mary, and her husband, Vern Metcalfe, agree to take over the store. Vern Metcalfe quits his job at A.O. Smith, where he had worked for 12 years. Vern and Mary Metcalfe
Tom and Margaret Metcalfe, third generation. Vern, Mary, Jerry and Tom Metcalfe at the ribbon cutting for the Sentry—Hampton in 1959. Tom and Jerry Metcalfe relocate the store in Butler to 13255 West Hampton Avenue in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and that store becomes Sentry Foods—Hampton, one of the very first Sentry Stores in Wisconsin.
1991 Sentry Foods—Hilldale receives the Gold “Best in Madison” award from Madison Magazine. Sentry Foods—Hampton is remodeled by expanding all departments and adding an atrium.
Metcalfe’s Sentry—Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.
2004 Tom Metcalfe receives the “Grocer of the Year” award from the Wisconsin Grocers Association for his outstanding contributions and involvement in the community and the grocery industry.
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OCTOBER 2016 • The Shelby Report of the Midwest
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Metcalfe’s wins In Business Magazine’s 2010 Sustainable Large Business of the Year award. Metcalfe’s launches the Reuse & Choose—Community Giving Program. This program rewards guests for bringing back, or reusing, their own bags, or shoppers can choose to donate the reward to one of Metcalfe’s charities of the month. Annual giving in 2011 reaches more than $57,000. Tom and Margaret Metcalfe with members of the third, fourth and fifth generations of the family.
Metcalfe’s Sentry—Waunakee closes. Brat Fest outgrows the Metcalfe’s Sentry—Hilldale parking lot and moves to Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center.
On Jan. 12, Metcalfe’s Market’s “new market” store at 7455 Mineral Point Road in Madison, the former Cub Foods, officially opens its doors. Metcalfe’s wins the Gold “Best of Madison—Grocery” award from Madison Magazine.
Dick Rose, Metcalfe’s Market—Wauwatosa, is among the United Fresh Produce Association’s 2014 Retail Produce Manager Award winners.
Metcalfe’s Sentry—Wauwatosa achieves the status of the No. 1 Sentry store in Wisconsin, making Hilldale No. 2.
Brat Fest breaks records, with 189,432 brats sold.
The Metcalfe Sentry—Wauwatosa store is remodeled in January 2005 and converted into a Hilldale-like market store. The store consolidates the perishables department and expands the deli, seafood, frozen, dairy, service meat, U-Scan, floral, deli meats, olive bar, salad bar and gourmet cheese sections.
Tim and Kevin Metcalfe win the Wisconsin Grocers Association Grocer of the Year Award.
Metcalfe’s Sentry—Hilldale completes a remodel that adds 10,000 s.f. and focuses on freshly prepared foods, adding a 66-foot fresh deli salads and entrees case, an olive bar, a chicken wing bar, a soup and salad bar, a hot Asian bar and Metcalfe’s Cafe. In addition, Metcalfe’s adds service meat, triples the size of the service seafood department and expands the frozen food section. Metcalfe’s Sentry—Hilldale wins In Business Madison Magazine’s “Commercial Design Award for Best Renovation in Retail.” Metcalfe’s Café opens in the Hilldale store.
Tim Metcalfe’s daughter, Allie, bags first place at the Wisconsin Grocers Association’s Great Wisconsin Bag-Off and wins a trip to the National Baggers Competition in Las Vegas.
Metcalfe’s wins the Gold “Best of Madison—Grocery” award from Madison Magazine.
2015 Claire Dittman, an employee in the Hilldale store, bags first place at the Great Wisconsin Bag-Off, and wins a trip to the National Grocers Association Best Bagger Championship in Las Vegas.
2011 Metcalfe’s Market wins the Isthmus Independent Business Green Angel Award for environmentally sustainable practices both in its local business and the Metcalfes’ lifestyle, as well as encouraging others to adopt similar practices. Brat Fest celebrates selling its three millionth brat since its inception in 1983. Since its inception, Brat Fest has raised more than $1.6 million for hundreds of local charities and groups in the Dane County area.
Metcalfe’s wins the Gold “Best of Madison—Grocery” award from Madison Magazine.
Metcalfe’s Market in Wauwatosa becomes known as the Metcalfe’s in the Village and features the Tosa Café.
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Brat Fest wins the “Reader’s Choice Award for the Best Outdoor Festival” from Madison.com. Kevin, Tom and Tim Metcalfe in the Wauwatosa store. V. Thomas Metcalfe passes away in 2006. Metcalfe’s Sentry is named “Wisconsin Family Business of the Year” for its positive links between family, business and innovative practices.
2007 Metcalfe’s Sentry—Hilldale receives the “Be Like Mike” award from NBC affiliate WMTV for its commitment to eliminate hunger in Southern Wisconsin. Tim and Kevin Metcalfe close the Sentry Foods— Hampton.
2008 Metcalfe’s becomes 100 percent green powered, with 99.9 percent of the company’s energy coming from Midwest Wind and 0.10 percent coming from Local Dane County Solar or other sustainable sources. Metcalfe’s implements the Local Food Miles Program. In order for products to be eligible for the Food Miles Program, they must be either from the state of Wisconsin or within a 150-mile radius of the State Capitol or the Metcalfe’s Market Wauwatosa store.
Metcalfe’s Sentry—Hilldale receives the Bronze “Best in Madison” award from Madison Magazine. Another record-breaking Brat Fest event, with 191,712 brats sold. Metcalfe’s establishes the “Brat Fest Bike Team,” a group of community members who raise money for the American Family Children’s Hospital, the Boys & Girls Club of Dane Co., MS (Multiple Sclerosis), and the MACC Fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer).
2009 Metcalfe’s Sentry returns to its roots and changes its name to Metcalfe’s Market. Metcalfe’s wins the “Creative Choice Award for Merchandising” for its Food Miles Program from the National Grocers Association. Metcalfe’s leads the “No Idling at Hilldale” campaign by creating a zone that prohibits trucks from idling once parked. Metcalfe’s wins the Silver “Best of Madison Business” award from Madison Magazine.
2010 Metcalfe’s implements a sustainable seafood program by partnering with Fish Wise. Metcalfe’s is awarded the James Grudzininski Memorial
Margaret Metcalfe with the three millionth Brat at Brat Fest.
2012 Metcalfe’s launches a zero-waste initiative. In conjunction with Purple Cow Organics, biodegradable waste from Metcalfe’s Market stores will be hauled to a composting facility and made into compost, which will then be used to organically enrich local farm land.
Metcalfe’s wins the Gold “Best of Madison—Grocery” award from Madison Magazine.
Tim and Kevin Metcalfe purchase a 67,000-s.f. Cub Foods—West store in Madison. The store is remodeled into the signature Metcalfe’s “new market” look. Metcalfe’s Market receives the Hearts for Humanity Award for recognition of its continued support of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County. Metcalfe’s wins the Gold “Best of Madison— Grocery” award from Madison Magazine.
Tim Metcalfe with staff and Madison Magazine’s “Best” issue.
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The Shelby Report of the Midwest • OCTOBER 2016
From page 21
side. Rather than perimeter shopping, you really had the perishables side and then you had what would be customarily be called center store, but that was more on one side of the store with perishable on the other. Those grocers are in the food business. They’re not in the grocery business. They’re like restaurateurs that decided to run grocery stores.” Later, Tim Metcalfe attended a design seminar in Madison and met Nick Giammarco, founder of Marco Design Group. The Metcalfes hired the firm to work on the Hilldale store. “They had been working all over the world and brought a nice, fresh perspective to the grocery industry and how customers think,” Kevin Metcalfe said. “That was the start of where we saw the future for our business, touring some of the stores, specifically Wegmans, and then hooking up with a really good design group that could emulate that in the stores. That was huge for us.” Metcalfe’s also worked with Marty Peck and Creative Lighting (Design & Engineering), a firm that had experience in other industries, such as gaming, where lighting is a vital element. Following the remodel, Metcalfe’s Sentry—Hilldale was not only an award-winning stunner, but it also flourished financially. “The store really turned the corner after the remodel—doubling sales—that was based on what we’d seen elsewhere and felt was always missing in the Midwest, or specifically Madison,” Metcalfe said. “So it was really a turning point for us. We were heavy into specialty foods and had a very high concentration of that and local, but it wasn’t until that point when we really brought in the design piece of it, too.” The thought process behind the look of Metcalfe’s stores, including a remodel of the Wauwatosa location that was completed this year in partnership with Mehmert Store Design Group, is to create an environment that enhances the grocery shopping trip. “We know that shopping for groceries in the past—I haven’t seen any recent studies—used to be right up there with pumping gas,” Kevin Metcalfe said. “How do you get to where someone comes in the front door, their shoulders drop, their facial muscles relax, they smile, their mouth opens up, and they just say, ‘Wow.’ How do you capture that experience?”
The family legacy
Kevin Metcalfe wants to carry on his family’s legacy. In the stores, it is about offering the freshest meat and produce and other quality food. In the community, it is about not just giving back, but also being involved. His father, Tom, was mayor of Monona for 10 years. Just as his father and grandfather before him, Kevin Metcalfe also has served the community, putting in time on the local city council, planning commission and other civic boards. “My grandfather would bring my father, and even bring us, his grandchildren, very early into
“I was always kind of an entrepreneur. My dad would put things on sale. I’d buy them out of the store and I’d sell them at school, like gum or whatever it may be. I was kind of my own local grocer within my own middle school between breaks and recess. They would come to my locker to buy candy and gum. I guess I was always a grocer at heart.”
the fold of Butler Days and the Lions Club. He was very, very active, very much part of the fabric of the community,” Metcalfe said. —Kevin Metcalfe “From a groceries perspective, I wanted to carry on the legacy of what my father created, his showing by example what it meant to be a good operator and what it meant to be part of the community. I don’t know if it had to be said as much as it was shown. He led by example. He didn’t need to tell me, because I could see every day what my grandfather and my father did to run the company. They were not only involved on the floor, but they showed us what it meant to be the owner of this business and caring for your employees and your community.” He said the idea of the local grocer, one who knows customers by name and is so tightly woven into the community that for it to disappear would do irreparable harm, seems to be missing these days. “We’ve been able to maintain our roots, and through that we’ve been able to grow in a very competitive market, because our customers and our employees see the value in the things that we hold dear: doing what’s right for the customer, doing what’s right for your employees, doing what’s right by the environment—we’re 100 percent green powered—supporting your local vendors and suppliers,” he said. “I’m most proud of the fact that we can maintain our roots and what it means to be your neighborhood grocery store—being present and knowing your customers—and at the same time support your community. We’ve been able to separate ourselves from the competition who can’t do that as well.” Even a company as progressive as Metcalfe’s Market can’t predict what the grocery business might look like in 100 years. But the family members who run the business will continue to attend the National Grocers Association’s NGA Show and other similar events every year to find out what the next thing may be (though grocery delivery is of late a hot topic, and that is something Metcalfe’s has been doing for 15 years). “We’re excited to see what the future brings. We’re constantly exploring and making it easy for our customers to shop the store and make suggestions,” he said. “A big part of what we’re working on is the nutritional side of things. There are opportunities and ways to help you navigate what would be otherwise a very confusing time for different allergens or health concerns that you may have. We’re trying to evolve with new technology that would help us make the lives of our customers easier. We’re going to try to continue to be on the forefront of it.”
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