As the California Grocers Association celebrates its 100th anniversary, it's a tough job finding anyone who remembers the first CGA convention, or any of the first 50 or so. But in interviews with SN, an assortment of retailers and others, both retired and active, recalled memories of previous CGA conventions and what the association has meant to them. Their comments follow:
ention in 1953, when someone didn't show up and I had to fill in on a panel discussing how to move close-out items. We had a system at our stores. We had purchased a carousel for the kids, and anyone who bought close-out merchandise from the four or five baskets on display would get two or three tickets for their kids to ride the carousel. "It was a pretty primitive marketing gimmick, but we closed out a lot of stuff in a hurry."
MARDEE KIDD, retired chairman of Mar-Val Food Stores, Lodi, Calif., and CGA chairman in 1982:
I began going to CGA conventions in the early 1960s, and the year I was chairman the convention was in Reno, with Las Vegas set for the next year. The board didn't like going out-of-state, but we had no choice because we couldn't find a place in California large enough to hold the meeting, though some years later we ended up at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. "What I remember most about all those conventions is running into old friends and finding new products. It was always very, very educational, and everything I learned helped me in my business. I believe there's nothing but knowledge to be picked up at a CGA convention, and it's all there if a retailer cares to take advantage of it. "Without CGA, there would be no one to fight for or against the rules, regulations and laws proposed in Sacramento."
BOB PICCININI, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif., and CGA chairman in 1990:
I remember going to my first CGA convention in 1971. It was very small by comparison with today. It didn't have as huge an exhibit floor -- there was more emphasis on attending meetings and hearing speakers, all of it very low key. "For me, CGA gives the industry a voice in Sacramento on issues that affect us. It gives us someone who knows how the system works. "The most important battle CGA fought for us involved the bottle bill in the early 1980s. The legislature was ready to make us take back all cans and bottles into our stores, but CGA helped come up with the current law, which charges a California Redemption Value fee and provides for redemption centers outside the supermarket itself."
GEORGE WONG, retired chairman of Bel Air Supermarkets, Sacramento, and CGA chairman in 1972:
My first CGA convention was in 1958. I was always impressed by the speakers and seminars, and I thought that was one of the great things about the association. What I learned there was good for business in general, not just for our industry. "I vividly remember the fight over the bottle bill. We had quite a job getting it passed, but it was so essential to the whole industry and to Bel Air in particular. The legislature had proposed that bottles be taken back to the stores' checkstands, which would not have been a very sanitary way to handle not-so-sanitary bottles. But CGA helped change that legislation."
MORRIE NOTRICA, owner of 32nd Street Market, Los Angeles:
I've been going to CGA conventions since 1958. These days, the convention offers so much more in terms of exhibits and information about new technology, plus there are better, more astute speakers -- all reflecting how radically the business has changed over the years. "CGA has always been a conduit between the industry and government, keeping us informed about what's going on at the state and county levels, and they've always done a good job of lobbying for the industry. "One of the things we're working to prevent right now is a tobacco bill that would require supermarkets to obtain a license to sell tobacco. It's an ordinance that was passed by a city in northern California.
CGA has been keeping us informed.
LEONARD LEUM, chairman of Pioneer Markets, Los Angeles, and CGA chairman in 1985: I attended my first CGA convention in Palm Springs in 1966. And then a year or two later we met in Coronado and had the first trade show, which consisted of about a dozen exhibits in an outside courtyard. That was the last time we met in Coronado -- I think because we tore up the courtyard so badly that they didn't want us back. "What I've gotten out of the conventions over the years was an altogether different insight into business opportunities that I might otherwise not have been aware of. It was always a learning process. "Over the years we had guest speakers and presentations about operations in other parts of the country that were very interesting. In fact, just a year or two ago we had a speaker from an independent operation in the East -- Connecticut, I think -- who had developed his own customer loyalty card, which was fascinating to me. "As for legislative efforts, the year I was chairman, CGA tried to help us get a beer distributors' license for Certified Grocers [of California, the Los Angeles-based member-owned cooperative]. The reason Certified was formed was to help independents buy competitively with the chains, but the members were not able to buy beer very competitively at that time. In the end, though, the beer distributors were too strong and so politically entrenched in Sacramento that we fought a losing battle. "But CGA has always been very active trying to protect the entire industry. It has depended on support from the chains, and in recent years it has worked with supplier groups as well who have become affiliated members."
LOU AMEN, CHAIRMAN OF SUPER A FOODS, PARAMOUNT, CALIF., AND CGA CHAIRMAN IN 1984:
I've been going to CGA conventions for the last 40 years, and the biggest factor to me has always been the friends you made and got to see every year from northern California. Those friendships eliminated a lot of friction that existed between northern and southern California and enabled us to get along better and become one organization. "Getting the bad-check law passed was one of the most important battles CGA fought for us. Before there was a law on the books that made it a serious violation, it was hard to prosecute people who passed bad checks."