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For Smith’s chief, key is making each customer count
Managing » He endeavors to extend one-on-one approach to grocer’s 15,000 employees.


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Thirty-year company veteran Jerry Vincent, who started as a bagger and today is a management trainer, said employees can follow a number of career paths.

"One of the great things about Smith’s, is that you can channel your efforts by going into store management, training, operations, or you can specialize in a specific department. I have tended to change positions, which is refreshing. Here, as long as you follow a certain path, you can pretty much go in any direction you want, and you can get there in a short period of time."

At a glance

Smith’s Food & Drug Stores

Smith’s division » 133 stores in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, employing 15,000 people

Parent company » Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., the nation’s largest traditional grocery retailer, employing 338,000 associates

Retail stores » Kroger, Smith’s, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, QFC and Ralphs

Other businesses » 785 convenience stores, 359 jewelry stores, 1,035 supermarket fuel centers and 40 U.S. food processing plants

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Smith’s has weathered the economic downturn, hiring 850 people in the Intermountain West during the past year. And, added Tuffin, associates are among Smith’s most loyal customers."

"What makes Mark particularly effective is his focus on our associates and helping them to grow in their own careers. He’s been a mentor and friend to many throughout our company," said Rodney McMullen, president and chief operating officer of Kroger. "Mark’s emphasis on building people up helps our associates to better serve our customers."

Tuffin was named Smith’s division president last July, replacing Jim Hallsey who retired after working at Smith’s for nearly 50 years.

Workers are assets » Employees are the key to offering customers a shopping experience, says Tuffin, which he describes as how people feel while they are in the store. The experience includes intangibles, such as how long they must wait at the checkout stand. In fact, each store electronically records shoppers’ time spent, with improvements measured to the second.

Dave Davis, head of the Utah Food Industry Association, said Tuffin also has continued Smith’s tradition of contributing "a staggering amount" to the community. The month of May marks the chain’s annual campaign to raise funds to help young patients at Primary Children’s Medical Center. Since 1992, Smith’s has donated $7.5 million to the medical center.

The mission matches that of Kroger, which has helped in the fight against hunger in the United States for the past 25 years. Every Kroger regional division works closely with more than 200 Feeding America Network food banks. In Utah, Smith’s in 2008 was the first Utah chain to donate bakery, dairy products and meats nearing expiration dates to feed needy people. Smith’s also worked with vendors to provide money to help food pantries buy trucks to pick up the perishable items and freezers to store the meat, an important but scarce commodity for needy families.

Tuffin acknowledges that Smith’s work with food pantries and fund-raising efforts may not be well known, but "most importantly, it’s the right thing to do."


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Colleagues describe Tuffin as an approachable but competitive man, who works and plays hard.

"He’s intelligent, kind of a foodie and he has a talent for merchandising," said Ken Kimball, vice president of merchandising for the California-based Ralphs Division. "He’s also an avid golfer, a snowmobiler and he likes motorcycles. He enjoys life, and has a good work-life balance."

Tuffin and wife Tami have three daughters. The couple goes on motorcycle trips with friends, but Tuffin has yet to take in a scenic area during the times he’s on the road, visiting stores.

"I’m an outdoors person and when I’m off I like motorcycles, snowmobiling and golf, something to get the adrenaline going," he said. "Frankly, I like everything I do."

dawn@sltrib.com

Twitter@DawnHouseTrib



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