The National Grocers Association (NGA) has presented the Thomas K. Zaucha Entrepreneurial Excellence Award to Cheryl Sommer, owner, president and CEO of Kaune’s Neighborhood Market in Santa Fe, N.M.
In a virtual ceremony hosted by Deerfield, Ill.-based Mondelēz International Inc., Sommer received the award for her persistence, vision and creative entrepreneurship throughout a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected thousands of U.S. businesses. Her single-store operations had to pivot when necessary and make investments entailing significant cost and risk as supply chain issues and labor shortages loomed large.
“Cheryl has not only achieved tremendous success for Kaune’s Neighborhood Market but has consistently been a strong advocate for the entire independent grocery industry, serving as chair of the NGA board of directors and in various other roles on councils and committees,” said Mike Stigers, chair of the board. “In these roles, she has demonstrated many of the traits that made her a successful independent operator, helping NGA continue representing independent grocers effectively at the national level. I congratulate her on receiving this award and look forward to working with her for years to come.”
Kaune’s Neighborhood Market was started in 1896 by German grocer Henry Spenser Kaune. In 2003, when Sommer acquired the store, the only locally owned independent grocery store in Santa Fe, she instituted her “three Ps” as a framework for organizational success: people, product and presence. During the pandemic, she quickly implemented safeguards, installed protective equipment to protect associates and customers, established early hours for shoppers age 60 and older, opened on Sundays and provided free grocery delivery for all customers.
Sommer was also one of Progressive Grocer’s Top Women in Grocery in 2018.
“For anyone who knows Cheryl, it becomes apparent within minutes that she embodies what it means to be an entrepreneurial independent grocer, and that became even more apparent as she rallied during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the community of Santa Fe,” said Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based NGA. “Any time a barrier was presented, she and her team found a creative way to overcome the challenge, including breaking open packages of paper products to ensure as many customers as possible could get them. Over the years, she has also found time to give back to the industry and NGA. The association and our industry are in a better place today because of her commitment.”
The Thomas K. Zaucha Entrepreneurial Excellence Award has been presented annually since 2009 to honor an independent grocer’s persistence, vision and creativity. The award is named for NGA’s first president and CEO, who retired in 2010 after 28 years leading the association.