Ed Crenshaw is a people person, and that's not a bad quality to have if you’re the chief executive officer of company that is owned by its people.
The longtime executive at Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., who took over as chief executive officer of the 936-unit chain this year, is known as being one of the friendlier, more approachable leaders in the industry.
“One of the things about Ed is that he is remarkably likable and he can relate to anybody,” said Dennis Zegar, president of Food For All, the hunger relief charity that Crenshaw has long supported as a board member. “That’s the mark of a really good CEO. He can walk in the store, and the guy in the back room feels comfortable talking to him, and Ed is equally as comfortable talking to him.”
Crenshaw, 57, became CEO of the Southeast’s dominant supermarket chain at a time when it has been expanding at a breakneck pace. His predecessor, Charlie W. Jenkins Jr., added 247 net new stores during his sevenyear tenure, increasing sales by more than 50% and doubling profits to $1.2 billion.
Crenshaw appeared poised to continue on that path — just months into his tenure as CEO, the company announced a plan to acquire 49 Albertsons stores in Florida. The purchase gave Publix its first foothold in Escambia County, with four stores in that Florida Panhandle region.
The company is on pace to crest the 1,000-store milestone around the time Crenshaw celebrates his first full year as CEO.
Although he had to report a decline in the share price of the company’s employee-owned stock in his first quarter as CEO, sales and profits remained strong.
In an interview at the Food Marketing Institute Show in Las Vegas in May, Crenshaw told SN that Publix has always been able to meet the changing needs of its customers.
“I think there’s a lot of concern about the economy,” he said. “It has changed how consumers look to us, but we’ve had these challenges in the past, and we’ve adapted.”
A grandson of Publix founder George Jenkins, Crenshaw has put in 34 years at the company. He began as a service clerk in 1974 and was named director of the Lakeland division 10 years later. In 1991, he took on the challenge of expanding Publix into Atlanta as vice president of that division. He became executive vice president of retailing in 1994 and president in 1996.
Zegar noted that Crenshaw has always been a strong supporter of Food For All.
“He really just believes in what we do and the benefit we provide to the community,” he said. “And at Publix, it’s contagious — it has the support of everyone, from the cashiers on up, because Ed is so passionate about the things he does, and he believes in it.”
— MARK HAMSTRA