Meet Our Chairman - Jamey Leseueur
GFIA’s new leader calls himself “competitive, a control freak and a back of the room, quiet kind of guy.” Learn more about Jamey Leseueur, Executive Vice President for Food Depot, who was recently inducted as Chairman of the Georgia Food Industry Association.
How did you start in the industry?
I started in the grocery business 38 years ago when I took a summer job at Food Depot before going to college, working frozen food and dairy. I worked for the company while I went to school and fell in love with this industry very quickly - partly due to this industry’s competitive nature, which for me was a wonderful fit. The grocery industry challenges me on a daily basis, which drives me to be better.
Current role and responsibilities? What do you enjoy most about your job?
In my role as Executive Vice President, I am responsible for all grocery, frozen, dairy and GM/HBA buying, working with DSD vendors, all forms of advertising and marketing, overseeing remodels and new store openings, operations and even depositions for court cases which require a corporate representative.
I enjoy the people the most. I truly love this company as well as the people I work with. I feel that we have the greatest group of people, a true team, and honestly, they are my family. I start every day wanting to do what is best for the company, best for our team, and to not let them down.
Tell us about Food Depot. How did it start? Where is the company now?
Food Depot began as All American Quality Foods in 1975. We were a conventional operator until things got tough in the mid 1980’s. We tried a new concept in 1988, a cost plus 10%, under the new name of Food Depot. We now operate 40 locations ranging from 18,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet. For the most part, we provide the customary departments of a traditional grocery store, but we do concentrate on providing the people in our communities with the variety and service they desire. Food Depot is a 100% employee owned company, a fact that we all take a lot of pride in. Recently, we have been remodeling and upgrading our locations, all the while looking for new opportunities to expand into new areas.
Biggest challenges for the future? What keeps you up at night?
The challenges are more numerous and varied than ever before. There are plenty of brick and mortar competitors that do a great job, but what keeps me up at night are the changing habits of our customers and trying to compete in the quickly evolving world of e-commerce.
Why is GFIA important for a retailer? supplier?
We all like the thought of someone we trust having our backs. That is what the GFIA does for us all, both as retailers and suppliers, so we can concentrate on running our business. Our team is at the capitol every day during session, watching out for any legislation that might affect our industry. When she is not at the capitol, Kathy is working with various regulatory agencies, helping us with challenges like Georgia WIC.
The truth is, this association is working hard every day to protect us all. There is absolutely no reason for anyone involved in our industry as a retailer, supplier, or manufacturer, to not join us and support this association. It does not matter if you have one store or multiple stores, small supplier or large, this association brings us all together so we can speak with one voice.
What have you enjoyed most about being involved with the association?
The people. The GFIA not only watches out for us at the capitol, but it provides us with many opportunities to come together away from our businesses. The networking opportunities are priceless. Retailers can discuss the challenges of today and share things that they have tried in their own stores in order to help others. Suppliers, retailers, manufacturers, and service providers can come together to discuss and show new products and services. Gathering together at all these events, retreats, convention, independent counsel luncheons, Christmas party, and golf outings allows us the opportunity to gain knowledge to be better at what we do every day.
Definitely! When I was first asked to become involved, I guess my competitive nature began to work in my mind. I was wondering why I would spend time with people that run companies that I compete with every day, not to mention the fact that I am not the most socially outgoing person you will meet. The truth is, these are some of the best and most genuine people you will ever meet. Business relationships and friendships are formed, and you begin to realize we are all there for one purpose - to make our industry better and stronger, which is good for us all.
Tell us about your family
I am truly blessed to work for Food Depot, but my greatest blessing is my family. My wife, Cindy, is the heart of our family. Anyone that has known or worked with me before I met her can attest that she has not only made me a better man but a better person. We have two children, our son Jason and our daughter Stephanie. Jason is married and has given us three wonderful grandchildren, Jack, Evie, and Rhys. Stephanie is also married and has given us our wonderful grandson Eli and is now expecting with our fifth grandchild.
What does your down time look like?
When it comes to down time some believe me to be rather odd, but I prefer to think I appreciate the simple pleasures. I do construction work and remodeling, we love to sit outside in the evening, whether it is on our patio or at a restaurant, and I truly enjoy cutting grass. When I get on my mower, there is nobody asking me questions (at least not that I can hear), there is no cell phone, and I am simply alone with my thoughts. When it comes to vacations, we love to travel this beautiful country and see places and do things we have never experienced before, and sometimes we just spend time relaxing in the mountains.
If you weren’t a grocer, what would your fantasy career be?
I feel I have lived a real-life fantasy, but if I had to do something else, I have three options. If I were younger, I would enjoy working on a ranch in Wyoming or Montana. Another option would be to host a travel show that would allow me more time to experience this beautiful country. My final option would be to buy, renovate, and sell homes which would include restoring older homes to their former glory.
What advice would you give to someone interested in joining a GFIA committee or board?
It is simple, jump in with both feet and get involved as much as you can! The truth is our involvement allows us the opportunity to have input on setting the agenda and allows us the opportunity to share in the benefits that the association has to offer. Sitting on the sidelines and hoping good things will come to you is generally not a good strategy and you might be disappointed with the results. Take it from me, a back of the room, quiet type of guy, the benefits you and your company can experience through this wonderful association are well worth getting out of your comfort zone and getting involved.
What do you have to teach? What do you have to learn?
The question on learning is easy, I enjoy learning new things and do learn every day. With consumer habits changing so fast on both what they eat and how they shop and with the constant changes in technology, I still have another lifetime worth of things to learn. In my opinion, if I or anyone ever feels they do not have anything to learn, then they need to retire and get out of the way.
The question on teaching is not as easy, at least for me. One thing that I truly do enjoy is developing young talent. In my thirty-eight years of working with Food Depot, I feel like I have accumulated a lot of experiences and knowledge and I enjoy taking that to a young, eager, and energetic person with a brain like a sponge and sharing my experiences and knowledge to watch them become the best they can be. One day, when I learn to not be a control freak, I will allow them to do even more and take this company farther into the future.
Executive Vice President