CHICAGO -- The managers of three stores located near the sites of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., were honored here last week for "extraordinary customer service above and beyond the call of duty" during the Sept. 11 emergency.
The presentations were made during the Food Marketing Institute convention here last week -- the first time FMI named three managers of the year instead of one and the first time it presented the awards during the Speaks session that kicked off the convention. The award winners were Bob Causebrook, manager of a Harris Teeter in Pentagon City, about a half-mile from the Pentagon; George Kramer, manager of a Pathmark in lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center site; and Steve Rouse, manager of a D'Agostino's in New York's Greenwich Village, about a mile from the site.
The three men were the first store-level people to participate in a Speaks presentation, according to Michael Sansolo, FMI's senior vice president.
"Traditionally, we talk about store employees at Speaks in terms of turnover or finding and keeping good people. But we often forget the incredible things store employees do," he said.
In this case, the three stores remained open throughout Sept. 11 "and provided needed normalcy," Sansolo pointed out.
As each of the managers recalled the events of that day, they expressed how proud they were of their fellow employees.
For Kramer, Sept. 11 was his day off, and because he couldn't get into Manhattan, he said he spent the day on one phone with his assistant manager, Kathleen Mitrani, and on another phone with his office. "By the time I was able to get to work the next day, the police were mustering behind the store and soldiers were patrolling the area in front of the store with M-16s -- it was horrifying," he said.
"But what's happened since then has opened my eyes to how important our associates really are -- the part-timers who stayed at the store all day, cashiers who left to get their kids at school and then came back to work, people who worked 18 hours a day for two days in a row, and people who helped arrange for a special convoy to deliver emergency supplies to the store on Sept. 12.
"No one ever lost it, despite the threats of bombs in the area. And Kathy [Mitrani], who had been an assistant manager for only nine months, kept everything together."
According to Causebrook, "People from the Pentagon came into our store right after the attack looking for friends or to use the phones, and I look back with pride at how well our people got us through that day."
Rouse recalled how his store team "came together as neighbors and part of the community that day. It was a trying time for our staff, but they simply responded to what people needed, without even thinking about it, and I'm proud to be surrounded by so many good people."
Commenting on Sept. 11 in a brief presentation during Speaks, Tim Hammonds, FMI president and chief executive officer, said the attacks "prepared the food industry to deal with the potential of terrorism.
"Although there's no evidence yet that we are a target, we should not underestimate the amount of preparation we must do from farm to table to prevent an attack from occurring or to recover from one quickly."
Hammonds said the intelligence community has formed groups "for every critical infrastructure to communicate information to prevent attacks or distribute warnings."
The partnership between the intelligence community and the food industry is called the Information Sharing Analysis Center, or ISAC, Hammonds said. He suggested that each company designate an individual as a primary security liaison so ISAC can communicate with that company.