Food for thought control

The Chico Food 4 Less—in fact, all Food 4 Lesses—are up for sale, as the Fleming Companies moves to dump all its retail stores. The company’s main business is supplying retailers with packaged goods, and it has opted to focus on that rather than dealing with the increasingly competitive retail world. The Oklahoma City-based company will use the expected $450 million in proceeds from its nearly 12,000 stores to pay off debt.

I’ve tried several times over the past couple of weeks to interview Fleming’s media contact, but I guess he’s the kind of media contact who doesn’t talk to the media, because he hasn’t returned my calls. So, here we go with ye olde managed message (the press release).

Besides the fact that Fleming was in effect competing with its own customers by going head-to-head with grocery retailers, “being in retail requires fuel centers today,” and they just don’t want to go there, stated Mark Hansen, Fleming’s chief executive officer.

They also said something about “right-sizing,” which I thought was a made-up word the first time I heard it, but apparently it’s part of that new business lingo, since everyone figured out “downsizing” means firing people.

Fleming had its enemies at the Chico Food 4 Less, and for that matter so does the News & Review: Editor Tom Gascoyne reported in May on the case of Kyle Knecht, who was fired from Food 4 Less after posting political cartoons that criticized Fleming. Knecht, a seven-year employee, told of low morale and poor customer service as the parent company cut benefits and replaced workers with robotic cashiers.

More of the roses

There are a couple of flower-related pieces of praise to give out here in Chico.

First, there’s Gerry Gregg, owner of the Flower Market in Chico. (The shop has been voted Best of Chico in the News & Review for three years straight, but we can’t take credit for that—it’s readers’ picks, you know.) Gregg went to the 54th annual invitation-only competition of the California State Floral Association in Universal City. He came home a winner of the Top 10 prize, which means that as a designer he had to construct, right then and there, an arrangement consisting of California-grown flowers and plants. There was also a “Surprise Package” competition in which each designer got the same set of materials, heard what the theme would be, and, five minutes later, went for it. Congrats to Gregg.

The other award I’d like to mention has to do with flowers in name only. It’s the 2002 Golden Rose Award, presented by the Chico Chamber of Commerce. Days Inn at 740 Broadway is the big winner, with 12-year owners Rami and Josephine Pillai being honored for a $1 million remodel and architectural update. The award has been presented since 1981 and goes to a business that has done something to add architectural beauty to the town.

More of the roses

Another Chamber of Commerce “Eggs and Issues” event is coming up, this one on the “State of Our Schools.” I usually skip the eggs and just have the issues. (These things start at 7 a.m., when business and school types are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and I’m still half-asleep.)

The leaders of the four big educational institutions in Chico will be there talking about the issues of the day. Manuel Esteban represents Chico State University, Sandy Acebo will speak about Butte College, Don McNelis of the Butte County Office of Education will show his stuff as the new superintendent there, and Scott Brown of the Chico Unified School District will also say his piece.

If you want to hear the forum from your cozy bed, tune in to KPAY, which is 1290 on you’re a.m. dial.