Jack Brown can still remember the hours following John F. Kennedy's televised Cuban Missile Crisis speech in 1962, which was punctuated by the Cold War threat of nuclear retaliation. Brown, the current chief executive of 156-unit Stater Bros. Markets, was at that time working in a Southern California independent supermarket as an assistant manager. "After the speech, we were bombarded with shoppers who bought up all the sugar, coffee, canned meats, butter and other items," he told me ...

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