The National Grocers Association has presented Cheryl Sommer, owner, president and CEO of Kaune’s Neighborhood Market in Santa Fe, N.M., with the Thomas K. Zaucha Entrepreneurial Excellence Award.
The award, named in honor of NGA’s first president and CEO, has been presented annually since 2009 to recognize an independent grocer’s persistence, vision and creativity—qualities the association said has been even more important as the COVID-19 pandemic decimated thousands of businesses throughout the United States.
Kaune’s Neighborhood Market has been a strong presence in Santa Fe since 1896, when German grocer Henry Spenser Kaune started the business. In 2003, Sommer acquired the store and since then has been the only locally owned independent grocery store in Santa Fe.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sommer quickly implemented safeguards and installed protective equipment to keep associates and customers safe. She also created early hours for shoppers ages 60 and older, opened on Sunday and provided free grocery delivery for all customers.
“For anyone who knows Cheryl, it becomes apparent within minutes that she embodies what it means to be an entrepreneurial independent grocer and that became even more apparent as she rallied during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the community of Santa Fe,” said Greg Ferrara, NGA president and CEO, in a release. “Anytime a barrier was presented, she and her team found a creative way to overcome the challenge, including breaking open packages of paper products to ensure as many customers as possible could get them. Over the years, she has also found time to give back to the industry and NGA. The association and our industry are in a better place today because of her commitment.”
When Sommer purchased Kaune’s Neighborhood Market, she instituted her “three Ps” as a framework for organizational success: people, product and presence. These ideas harken back to the original ideas for the store, referring to Kaune’s presence in the community and the high standard the store has for its products, including quality meats, imported cheeses, more than 700 wines, fresh dairy and condiments from around the world.
“Cheryl has not only achieved tremendous success for Kaune’s Neighborhood Market but has consistently been a strong advocate for the entire independent grocery industry, serving as chair of the NGA Board of Directors and in various other roles on councils and committees,” said Mike Stigers, chair of the NGA Board of Directors. “In these roles, she has demonstrated many of the traits that made her a successful independent operator, helping NGA continue representing independent grocers effectively at the national level.”
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