In the mid-1960s, the small chain of Food Town supermarkets in Salisbury, N.C., stood on the brink of bankruptcy. Competition from the big national chains like A&P and Southern stalwarts like Winn-Dixie was fierce, and it looked like Food Town, which had been founded in 1957 by a group of former Winn-Dixie executives, might not survive, according to Ralph Ketner, one of those founders. In 1968, however, Ketner had an epiphany. He decided to use his expertise as a number-cruncher to ...

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