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Indiana grocer Don Scott dies at 91

by | January 15, 2009

Donald G. Scott, founder of Scotts Food Stores in Fort Wayne, IN, died Dec. 27 at the age of 91 at his home in Jacksonville, FL.

Mr. Scott started his grocery career with Marsh Supermarkets after serving in World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps. In 1954, he started his own grocery business with the opening of Scotts Foodlane in Ft. Wayne. Over the following few years, Mr. Scott opened other neighborhood markets in Ft. Wayne.

In 1967, the opportunity to purchase the Eavey's market on Decatur Rd. in Ft. Wayne presented itself and Mr. Scott jumped on it. The Decatur Road location when built was the largest grocery store in the world at 80,000 square feet. Always a promoter of produce, the Decatur Road store gave Mr. Scott the volume demand necessary to start purchasing directly from producers in Florida, Texas, California and Washington.

About the same time, Mr. Scott combined his marketing skills with another entrepreneur in Fort Wayne, Bill Reitz. Over the following decade, Messrs. Scott and Reitz co-marketed their independent operations to the public as Scotts Foods. As they grew to become the foremost supermarket chain in northeast Indiana, so did the amount of fresh produce their stores merchandised to their customers in the Ft. Wayne area. Harvest days, outdoor fruit and melon sales and other promotions were the norm -- and the public loved them. Mr. Scott was always a firm believer in offering quality fruit and vegetables at a great price, making the value that customers received an integral part of their experience each week at Scotts.

In the late 1970s, the two men merged their companies into Scotts Foods Stores Inc. The merchandising philosophies of great quality and a fair price during the economically challenging years in the late 70s and early 1980s brought unparalleled growth. Eventually, the firm opened its own warehouse for produce and other perishables to 18 stores in northeast Indiana. Customers in the area discovered outstanding values in produce that brought average produce distribution per store well into the double digits.

Mr. Scott formally retired in 1996 after 42 years of leading his firm. He was the recipient of numerous awards both locally and in Indiana, including the Sagamore of the Wabash Award presented by Gov. Bob Orr in 1988, one of the higher honors in the state of Indiana.