After 42 years with the Kroger Co., Reggie Griffin, the retailer’s top produce executive, will be retiring on Oct. 29.
“We have been planning this for a while,” said Mr. Griffin, who will retire as vice president of produce and floral merchandising and procurement for the nation’s second-leading retailer, which has more than 3,600 stores. “We bought our retirement home in Hilton Head, South Carolina, about four years ago.”
Mr. Griffin started working for the Kroger Co. in his hometown of Paris, TN, in August of 1969 as a part-time produce clerk and part-time bagger. During his career, he served the company in many different locations including, Murray, KY; Memphis, TN; Dallas; Los Angeles; Houston; Corpus Christi, TX; and, of course, Cincinnati, which is the headquarters of Kroger and where Mr. Griffin’s office has been for the past dozen years.
Rodney McMullen, president and chief operating officer of Kroger, said in a press release, “We are grateful for all of Reggie’s significant contributions during his 42 years with Kroger, especially during the past 10 years as vice president of produce and floral merchandising. Reggie implemented a vision for fresh produce with the exacting care of an artist. Our stores are better as a result of his leadership. Kroger’s customers have benefitted from Reggie’s produce expertise. He led a number of key initiatives — such as expanded organic and fresh offerings — that delighted customers and drove strong, consistent growth. Reggie has earned the respect of his industry peers. We know they join the entire Kroger family in extending our best wishes to Reggie and his family.”
Mr. Griffin started with Kroger at age 16 while still in high school. He worked at the retailer through college, seeing the employment opportunity more as a way to pay for his education rather than a door to a full-time career.
While at Kroger, he wore several hats during his first decade on the job, including assistant produce manager, produce manager and assistant produce buyer.
“I actually went to four different colleges working for Kroger at the same time,” he said. “I received my degree in marketing from Memphis State University in 1977.”
Like any young college graduate, Mr. Griffin prepared a résumé and sent it to prospective employers. “As I started to talk to other companies, I decided I was better off staying where I was,” he said. “That was the moment that I decided to make this a career.”
Soon after, Mr. Griffin moved to Dallas and was the sole produce buyer for that division. He also served as zone manager in the Houston division and produce merchandiser in the Southwest division. Eventually, he found himself in Cincinnati as corporate director of procurement for produce and floral, and then was promoted again to his current position.
Although he did not close the door completely on future opportunities, Mr. Griffin told The Produce News, “I promised my wife that we are not going to move again. I’ve moved her around a lot in my career, and I am not doing that again. I’m looking forward to spending time with my wife, four children and seven grandchildren.”
While Mr. Griffin may be relatively young to retire at age 58 (he turns 59 on Thanksgiving Day), he admitted that the deaths of several produce industry friends who were in their 50s during the past decade did change his thinking on retirement.
“As my wife asked, ‘How much is enough?’ We have enough.”
He added that he will be moving to South Carolina by early November and already has his first day planned. “In the morning, I am going to take a long walk on the beach with my wife, Sandi, and our dog, and then I am going to play golf in the afternoon.”
Mr. Griffin said that golf is one of his passions, and he looks forward to lowering his handicap, which is currently a very respectable 14.