CHANDLER, Ariz. -- For Eddie Basha, chairman and chief executive officer of Bashas' here, family and the business have always been intertwined.
"Our success as a company is based on a family philosophy," he told SN. "Not only are we family-owned, but we also have a philosophy when it comes to the membership of our operating entities. We are a family of companies, and the people who work at our stores are members of that family.
"I extracted the word 'employee' from our business lexicon 40 years ago, even before I became chairman because to me, 'employee' connotes a division or schism between employer and employee. But we've believed from the outset that we are all one, together -- a family of companies and people working together to promote a business.
"That's why the greatest success I can envision is the number of 10-, 15-, 20- and 25-year service awards we give annually because that, to me, represents the pinnacle of success and achievement in our family of companies."
Bashas', which operates 135 supermarkets throughout Arizona, has been in business for just over 70 years. Basha, 65, the son and nephew of founders Eddie Sr. and Ike Basha, respectively, has been overseeing the privately held company since 1968, when he was 30.
For Basha, the concept of family extends beyond the workplace. "There are soda machines outside each store, and all the money collected there goes into a fund called "Member-to-Member," which is managed by five people in the company," he told SN. "The fund is designed to help members who need a bridge in their lives -- to provide aid up to $5,000 to save homes or provide medical care or take care of families in need."
To Basha, whose grandparents came from Lebanon, the Member-to-Member program relates to the Arabic word "hadam," "which means generosity, caring, compassion, love and friendship," he explained. "Hadam is an innate compassion for people, and that's been the underlying philosophy of our family and the business. To the extent we can, we provide hadam in our company to members and customers alike."
In response to a question, Basha said he has no intentions of selling the company. "My grandparents came to Arizona in 1910 to build a better life, as many immigrants did. They had four children, including my father, who was born in 1911. Dad followed his parents and uncles and aunts, and I'm the next generation, and I'm committed by culture and by blood to continue to make this an even better place.
"Money is not the almighty goal for me or the most important notion in my life. My goal is creating and building a successful company -- that's constant and continuous and fulfills the dreams of my grandparents.
"They didn't come here to make a big fortune and then walk away. They came to make a living and to build a better store and create a higher quality of life for people here. Operating this business is the way I can continue to invest and build in the community and the state."
Basha said he plans to retire someday, but not to fade away, noting that he'd like to be named chairman emeritus at some point.
"I'd probably like to exit from this job sooner rather than later," he told SN. "I believe in passing the torch -- it's just a matter of timing. I would never recuse myself from the company, though -- I would always want to have an office here."