Southern California Market Region - and Beyond
"Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure."
- President Abraham Lincoln
"A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers."
- President John F. Kennedy
On Saturday (February 26) veteran California grocer Jack Brown, chairman and CEO of San Bernardino, California-based Stater Bros. Supermarkets, was honored for a lifetime of service to his country by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which awarded the U.S. Navy Veteran its Patriot Award, the highest honor and award the organization can bestow upon an individual.
Brown, who went to work in the food and grocery retailing industry in 1962 following his Navy service aboard the U.S.S. Interceptor and the U.S.S. General J.C. Breckinridge in the Pacific, and who's lead Stater Bros for over three decades, received the prestigious award at a gala black-tie reception and dinner -The Celebration of Freedom Gala - at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The event was sponsored by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.
The Stater Bros. chief was among well-known company at the gala. Other Americans being honored on Saturday were former U.S. Secretary of Treasury and Secretary of State George Shultz, who received the society's Distinguished Citizen Award.
Additionally, the foundation each year presents The Bob Hope Award for Excellence, in honor of the late entertainer who spent decades bringing good cheer to soldiers, airmen (and women) and marines serving overseas. The recipients of this year's Bob Hope Award are singer/actresses Connie Stevens and Ann-Margret, who traveled with the comedian to military bases and war zones throughout the world, including making a number of trips to Vietnam during the war, to entertain soldiers far from home.
In March 2010, the Stater Bros. CEO received his first award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society for his years of contributions to the society and" for his dedication to promoting and perpetuating the principles upon which our nation was founded: 'Courage, Sacrifice and Selfless Service,'" according to the citation. The award was presented to Brown in person by five Medal of Honor Recipients.
According to our research, Jack Brown is the first CEO of a U.S. food and grocery retailing chain to be honored with such an award by the Congressional Medal of Freedom Society. In fact, he's the first grocer at all, regardless of position or title, we've been able to find to be so honored.
Former sailor Jack Brown has made active-duty members of the U.S. Military and service veterans a focus of his efforts during his many years as CEO of Stater Bros.
For example, he and Stater Bros., which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, have guaranteed the jobs of over 200 company employees who over the last decade have been called into active-duty to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, Stater Bros. pays the employees' their weekly wages minus military pay, along with continuing to offer medical, dental and vision benefits for their families while the employees are serving their country.
Stater Bros. Charities, which CEO Brown and the grocery chain created in 2008, also includes active-duty members of the military and service veterans in its charitable efforts. As an example, Stater Bros. Charities recently donated three handicapped-equipped transport vans to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Loma Linda, California. The vans are used to transport local veterans to and from their doctor's appointments.
Since 2008, the supermarket chain's charitable foundation has donated more than $4 million "to support the most critical needs in Southern California communities," according to Susan Atkinson, Stater Bros. vice president for corporate affairs.
Personally, Jack Brown has for decades been and continues to be involved in a myriad of community organizations and good deed efforts in Southern California, where Stater Bros. operates 167 supermarkets and employs more than 18,000 workers.
Mentoring and helping to create educational opportunities, particularly in higher education, for young people and helping children in-need are two areas where "Citizen Jack Brown" is devoted to making a difference.
For example, in recognition for his efforts in the higher education arena, in July 1992, California State University, San Bernardino named a then brand new five-story campus building "Jack H. Brown Hall." The building is home to the university's College of Business and Public Administration, Department of Computer Science, and math department.
Brown, who started out in college at San Jose State University on a football scholarship and then transferred to UCLA, majoring in Business Administration, has been an adjunct professor at Cal State San Bernardino since 1993. He also attended San Bernardino Valley Community College, which in 1993 presented the grocer with its Distinguished Alumni Award for that year.
In 2005, the California State University, San Berhardino campus trustees awarded the Stater Bros. chief an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters "for his excellence and extraordinary achievement in significant areas of human endeavor and to honor meritorious and outstanding service to the California State University - to campuses, individually, or to humanity at large," according to the citation.
Brown also served for a decade as a trustee of the private University of Redlands in Southern California. In 2007, the university awarded Brown an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters "for his significant contributions to cultural, educational, economic, social and humanitarian service to the University of Redlands and for his leadership and achievement in building a more humane society."
Brown is also a "fellow" at the University of California, Riverside, an honor bestowed on the grocer in 2001. It's the highest honor the university awards to those who support higher education and have a history of community involvement.
The Stater Bros. CEO is the Founding Chairman of Children's Fund of San Bernardino County, a public/private agency devoted to protecting abused and at-risk children. the organization has served over one million at-risk children in the last 25 years, according to Atkinson.
Jack Brown the grocer, who's a native of San Bernardino where Stater Bros. is headquartered, is a walking website of information about the history of U.S. food and grocery retailing, particularly in California and the west.
The six decade-plus year industry veteran got his start in the business at the ripe young age of 13, when he was hired as a box boy (no paper or plastic option then; in fact empty grocery product boxes were the carrier of choice for customer's purchases at the time) at Berk’s Market Spot in San Bernardino, following the death of his father.
From there, after active duty with the Pacific Fleet and college, it was on to progressively more responsible positions in food retailing for Jack Brown. Those positions include: a stint as vice president of sales and merchandising for Sage’s Complete Markets in San Bernardino; and tenure as corporate vice president for Marsh Supermarkets, Inc., in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Before taking the helm at Stater Bros., which had sales in 2010 of 3.6 billion, Brown was president and CEO of Pantry Food Markets in Pasadena, California and president and CEO of American Community Stores Corporation, Omaha, Nebraska.
Brown, who's spent the last three decades of his career heading Stater Bros., has also been honored by the food retailing industry. For example, in 2005, he received the "Sidney R. Rabb Award," the Supermarket Industry’s highest award, from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), "for a lifetime of exceptional service to the community, customers, and the industry." He's served on the board of FMI and as the vice chairman of the U.S. supermarket industry's leading national trade association.
The California Grocers Association (CGA) also honored Brown with its highest award in 2001, presenting the grocer with its Hall of Fame Achievement Award "for a lifetime of dedication to the grocery industry." The CGA is the major trade association for grocers in California and neighboring states.
Receiving the Patriot Award on Saturday at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, which isn't far from Brown's office on the Stater Bros. campus in San Bernardino, is in many ways the award of awards for a man who's received many (we've only mentioned a few in this piece). But Jack Brown, who still loves the grocery business at an age when most CEO's are ready to hang up their pinstriped grocery aprons and gold-plated box cutters and relax a bit, isn't going away just yet. Instead he continues to head to the office each day to lead the troops, out to the chain's stores, which Brown visits regularly, and out into the community where, particularly in Southern California's Inland Empire region where Stater Bros. is based and where most of its 167 stores are located, he's most often referred to as just plain old Jack, an old school grocer in the best sense of the phrase, a valued neighbor - and a patriot.