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1-on-1 With Bashas' President, CEO Edward 'Trey' Basha

WGB’s January 2019 Endcap is president and CEO of the Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas’ Family of Stores
Edward Basha
Illustration by Olivier Balez

Edward “Trey” Basha III is president and CEO of Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas’ Family of Stores.

Meg Major: Happy New Year and welcome to Endcap, Trey. While giving back is now widely embraced by many companies today, Bashas’ legacy of charitable service and support of the communities where its stores are located is deeply, integrally woven into your company’s fabric. What is most significant to note about this in your view?

Trey Basha: It really starts with my great-grandmother. She imbued in our family the importance of giving back to the community from where you gained your sustenance. During the Depression, people who were riding the rails knew they could stop by my great-grandmother’s house and she would have a meal for them. So it’s something that has been ingrained in us and interwoven into our very fabric, and it’s a big part of who we are and is a very important lesson our my reinforced in all of us: the need to give back and to be charitable. I also think part of the reason that we survived Chapter 11 is because we were so blessed, largely because of our progenitors, including my dad, because of their charity. So, I think because of that, heaven smiled on us and we were able to survive that ordeal.

Your late, great father, Eddie Basha Sr., was highly regarded—in both the industry, and more important, throughout the 15 counties where Bashas’ 130 stores are located—for his big heart, open mind, loving spirit and exceptional talents as a merchant, civic leader and patriarch. What was one of the best lessons he conferred that served you especially well in 2018?

TB: I think what’s significant for all of us is that we were encouraged as Eddie’s sons and as part of the company to get involved in the community ourselves. All of us have served in different capacities on different foundation boards and have done different things, and because of that, our individual lives have been blessed. The uplifting experiences I have had have helped me put all of my “problems” into perspective throughout my life.

Bashas’ is one of very few non-Native-American retailers with stores on the Navajo Nation, and of late, has become closely involved in the movement to help its Dine People improve their health and lifestyles by expanding access of wholesome foods, including more fruits and vegetables. Can you share a bit about the experience to date?

TB: Our work with the Navajo Nation began with a request from its then-VP, Jonathan Nez (who becomes its president this month), who told us about his goal of instilling a health-focused program for its people and asked us to work with them. So we established a shelf-tag program for designated healthy foods, and have agreed to work with them on educational and other opportunities where we can provide assistance. My dad always taught us that we’re guests on the Navajo Nation, where we currently have seven stores, and it’s been a privilege for us to serve them for over three decades. We will open our eighth Navajo Nation store in a couple of months.

You work closely with your brothers, cousins and other family members. But as those of us from large families know, working with family members, even on weekend projects, can at times be “complicated.” How do you make it work, and what do you find most noteworthy about the dynamics of your family-grocer cohorts?

TB: Over the years, we’ve had to learn to communicate. The process of learning how to be a better communicator and listener has probably been one of the biggest benefits for me, personally, as has realizing that I work for my family—they don’t work for me. Like all families, we have our occasional challenges, but overall, we try and meet together often and counsel together so that everyone knows what’s going on. I respect the intelligence of my siblings and my cousins, who are all bright and very dedicated. It’s been a different dynamic in the past five years not having Eddie with us, and working together and maturing as a team has been a great learning experience for all of us.

As we went to press with this issue, Bashas’ Food City division was hosting the 17th annual Tamale Festival. What are the ideal ingredients for your personal “perfect tamale”?

TB: I love cheese and green chile tamales—they’re my favorite, but you have to have moist masa. If the masa gets too dry, it’s just not good.

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?

Learn to listen and communicate better.

Lightning Round

What is your least favorite business jargon term?

“Lean in,” which is overused.

What superpower would you most like to have?

Healing.

Would you rather be able to speak every language or communicate with animals?

To be able to communicate with people in their own language would just be incredible.

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