Washington, D.C. – The National Grocers Association (NGA) presented the Thomas K. Zaucha Entrepreneurial Excellence Award to Cheryl Sommer, owner, president and CEO of Kaune’s Neighborhood Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Presented earlier today during a virtual ceremony hosted by Mondelēz International Inc., the award celebrates an independent retailer that demonstrates tangible examples of persistence, vision and creative entrepreneurship throughout the year – qualities that have been even more important since early 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic decimated thousands of businesses throughout the United States.
Single-store operators like Kaune’s Neighborhood Market needed to pivot when necessary and make investments that entailed significant cost and risk with supply chain issues and labor shortages exacerbated.
“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 NGA Board of Directors. “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 has been a strong presence in Santa Fe since 1896, when German grocer Henry Spenser Kaune started the business. In 2003, Sommer acquired the store and since then has been the only locally owned independent grocery store in Santa Fe.
When Sommer purchased the store, she instituted her “three P’s” as a framework for organizational success – people, product and presence. These ideas harken back to Henry Spenser’s ideas for the store in the 19th century, referring to Kaune’s presence in the community and the high standard the store has for its products, including quality meats, imported cheeses, more than 700 wines, fresh dairy, and condiments from around the world.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sommer took decisive action, her entrepreneurial skillset lending itself to the unprecedented situation. She quickly implemented safeguards and installed protective equipment to protect associates and customers. She then created early hours for shoppers age 60 and up, opened on Sunday and provided free grocery delivery for all customers.
“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, NGA president and CEO. “Anytime 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 recognize an independent grocer’s persistence, vision and creativity. Zaucha, NGA’s first president and CEO, retired in 2010 after 28 years leading the association. The award represents his commitment to independent’s unique role as entrepreneurial leaders in communities throughout the country.