By Laurie Burstein
Third Generation of Schnucks to Receive Right Arm Award For Outstanding Community Leadership
The saying goes that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That certainly holds true in the case of the third generation of six Schnuck siblings, children of Doris and the late Don Schnuck. As individuals, Craig, Scott, Terry, Mark, Todd and Nancy have each been extremely involved in his or her own distinctive number of civic, business and charitable causes. Add them up, and as a family, they have touched a great many aspects of the St. Louis community.
Collectively, the Schnuck family has had a major impact on the St. Louis region for the past 69 years. What began as a 1,000-square-foot store in North St. Louis in 1939 started by grandparents, Edwin and Anna, was incorporated by brothers Don and Ed Schnuck, and further expanded by Don’s children. Together, they have guided the company, into a $2.4 billion supermarket chain with 103 stores in seven states.
Not only does Schnuck Markets provide a livelihood for its 15,000 associates, company leaders also make it possible for each of those team members to sow seeds of support and growth within their own respective communities, and in their own ways. They are, you could say, the company’s “right arms” when it comes to community involvement across the region and the Midwest.
Today, Schnucks is the largest contributor to Operation Food Search here in St. Louis and a major contributor to The Greater St. Louis Area United Way Campaign, where the company and its associates have annually donated more than a million dollars for many years.
The Schnucks have each made a mark on the company and the community. Each one has varied skills and interests, and each has been a board member or chair, collectively serving on virtually every major civic or non-profit organization in St. Louis including Civic Progress, The Urban League, the St. Louis RCGA, the Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri Botanical Garden, the St. Louis Sports Commission, The Shakespeare Festival and Children’s Hospital. Their collective reach goes far into the community.
The Six Siblings: Who’s Who
From oldest to youngest, each sibling has a distinct role in the family business. As the oldest, Craig has been active in the family business the longest and has worked in almost every store-level position from bagger to meat cutter to store manager before becoming chairman and CEO in 1989, a position he held for 17 years. Early in his career, Craig played a large role in the introduction of in-store pharmacies in St. Louis Schnucks stores in the 1970s. In 1995, Craig led the company through the acquisition of National Super Markets, which added 33 stores, bringing the company to a total of 97 stores.
Today, as chairman of the executive committee, Craig is involved in many aspects of the business and is responsible for growth and expansion. Currently, Schnucks serves customers in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Tennessee. Craig says central and northern Illinois are key growth areas, with the most recent store openings in Normal, Savoy and DeKalb, Ill.
Of the 64 stores in St. Louis, eight are in the City of St. Louis including the 1996 opening of a new store in North St. Louis, as well as a newer store in South St. Louis in Carondolet Park. When asked if Schnucks will open a store downtown, Craig smiles and says, “We are looking at it very carefully.”
Craig’s civic accomplishments include serving as president of Civic Progress in 2003 and 2004. His focus during those years was on education in city schools and on the Regional Business Diversity Initiative, the organization established to improve diversity within St. Louis companies. Craig has also chaired Fair St. Louis, the United Way campaign and the Salvation Army, and is immediate past president of The Boy Scouts. He is active on the board of BJC and is the building chairman at Washington University.
Craig grocery shops every week and is passionate about the quality of the stores and the associates, especially as Schnucks has had to deal with more competition from big box chains.
“As we look at the Wal-Marts and other big competitors moving into our markets, we have had to differentiate ourselves in many ways,” Craig says. “We live in this community and we understand what our customers want. We can fine-tune our stores on a store-by-store basis and offer a much higher quality of meal preparation. The quality of our people, level of service and variety really sets us apart,” he says.
Next in line is Scott, the second oldest brother, and chairman and CEO. Scott is responsible for the markets and the company’s overall direction and strategy. Like all the Schnuck brothers, Scott got his start bagging groceries in his teens and has worked in all parts of the company.
In 2006, Scott, following in the footsteps of his father and brother, Craig, assumed the role of chairman and CEO. In that same year, he had the daunting task of chairing three major organizations at the same time—The Missouri Botanical Garden, the St. Louis RCGA and the St. Louis Sports Commission.
Apparently, thriving on the fast pace of his civic involvement, Scott remains active in all three, and is currently the chairman of the Sports Commission. A huge sports enthusiast and former football player for Cornell University, Scott has been involved in bringing the Final Four basketball tournament, NCAA Wrestling and figure skating competitions to St. Louis in recent years.
Scott is currently chairing the 2007 Salvation Army Tree of Lights campaign, another Schnuck family tradition. One of the family’s proudest accomplishments is the new Doris I. Schnuck Childrens Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden. “We (the family), personally, donated $2 million to honor our mother with a park that will serve children and families in our region and beyond,” Scott says. “The garden is a great way to pay tribute to her and her dedication to improving the lives of young people.”
Scott acknowledges that the grocery industry is changing and that Schnucks is changing with it. The company is in the process of expanding its offerings in food and culinary education in order to better serve the needs of today’s customers. He explains, “We recently launched two new concepts, “Schnucks Cooks” demonstration stations are now open in three stores (Woods Mill, Twin Oaks and Kirkwood) and “Meal Creations,” a new “you make it and take it” program is active at Dardenne Prairie. We hope to expand these offerings to customers in other stores over time.”
“We are well positioned for the future and have 69 years of history behind us,” Scott says. “We have great locations and are building and expanding with large and modern stores. New amenities range from in-store coffee shops and extensive wine offerings, to made-to-order sandwiches and soups, and organic foods. We have stepped up efforts to cut costs and this past year lowered prices on 10,000 items.”
Scott believes the success of the region and of his company are intertwined. “The future of Schnucks is tied to the well-being of the region. I love the quality of life here—it’s a great sports town and we have a rich cultural history. We are proud to help provide a livelihood to our 15,000 associates and are committed to providing the best possible value and quality to our customers.”
Terry, the third brother, served as chief legal counsel for the company until 2002 when he left to pursue his interest in musical theater. Today, Terry is an award-winning Broadway producer, now enjoying great success with the Tony-award winning musical “Spring Awakening.”
Though Terry spends a lot of time in New York, he still calls St. Louis home and remains active in various aspects of the family business.
Like his brothers and sister, Terry gained experience outside the company before coming to work in the family business. “My Dad encouraged all of us to get experience with other companies,” he says. “He told us to prepare yourself as if you didn’t have the family business to fall back on.”
After 20 years as chief legal counsel at Schnucks, Terry decided to pursue his passion in the theater and began as an investor in the show “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” He has since produced five plays on Broadway.
“The company is important to me and although I am not involved in the day-to-day operation of Schnucks any longer, I still serve on the board and participate in Advisory Board meetings as well.”
Terry is also very involved in St. Louis civic organizations and for the second year serves as the chair of the Shakespeare Festival. In addition, he serves on the boards of the Muny and the Theatre Awards Council which annually bestows the Kevin Kline Awards.
“We are really fortunate that our family is civically involved in the St. Louis community. With six of us, we can spread ourselves around and touch many different organizations,” Terry says.
The next brother is Mark who runs the family real estate business. The DESCO Group, an acronym for “Don and Ed Schnuck Company,” was started in the late 1960s and incorporated in 1994 when the brothers decided the two family businesses were distinctly different and should be run independently. Fast forward to 2007 and The DESCO Group is the St. Louis area’s largest manager of retail real estate and an active developer of retail and office space in the St. Louis market and in many other states including Arizona, Florida, Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa.
Mark explains, “Our family is engaged in two businesses—the supermarket business and the real estate business.“
“While DESCO is very active in retail management and supermarket holdings, most of our real estate business today is non-Schnucks related. For example, we are currently developing shopping centers in seven states,” he says.
Mark also got his start bagging groceries in his teens and worked his way up through various positions in the company before becoming head of DESCO.
Mark points to his company’s role in renovating the Old Post Office as a proud accomplishment. “Through our involvement with the RCGA and Civic Progress and as St. Louisans, we were very interested in the revival of downtown. When I toured the building in 2000, I knew the Old Post Office was a jewel and could anchor the revival of the whole area.”
Today, DESCO staff members manage the building. “We are very honored to have been a part of the redevelopment of the Old Post Office, which is 100 percent occupied today,“ Mark comments.
Mark is also involved in many civic organizations, including the Saint Louis Zoo where his is a commissioner and soon, chairman of the Zoo Commission. He is also on the board of the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation.
Fifth in birth order is Todd, who holds the title of president and has been with the company for 20 years. With his background in investment banking, Todd has direct responsibility for overall financial coordination of the two family businesses. At Schnucks, he oversees legal, human resources, technology and continuous improvement. Todd partners with Scott on all key decisions and strategies with regard to the daily operations of the markets.
His civic involvement includes chairing the recent $125 million campaign for the St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He also spends a lot of time with The Urban League, where he served as chairperson for three years, and is now a board member. As treasurer for the United Way, Todd is responsible for this year’s Schnucks campaign which has raised nearly $2 million to date. “Between the six of us and our 15,000 associates, we really do have strength in numbers,” Todd says. “Our reach into the community is pretty great.”
“Our business is only as strong as the community we live in,” Todd says. “It’s always been important for us be good employers, bring new ideas to our customers, and be strong members of our community.”
As the youngest of the six siblings, Nancy Schnuck-Diemer has also made significant contributions to the company and community. From 1996 to 2001 she served as director of community affairs and oversaw all of the company’s charitable donations, providing support to organizations across the region.
Now with two young sons, she is officially “retired” from day-to-day involvement, but remains active in certain aspects of the family business. “I participate in our monthly family meetings where most of our major company decisions are made. In addition, I am in frequent communication with my brothers, and they keep me apprised of special initiatives and changes,” she adds.
In addition, Nancy is an avid cook with more than 100 cookbooks in her collection, “I have great memories of cooking alongside my mother and today, I find myself cooking for the enjoyment,” she explains.
Today Nancy’s passion is her involvement in numerous civic and charitable organizations, most geared toward supporting children. She is a board member and former development chair of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital; Nancy has also been active in the United Way, Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis and the Magic House, where she chaired the board last year.
“I have a real passion for children and am very devoted to organizations where I can help children and families,” Nancy says.
All six siblings say they preserve family harmony through regular family meetings, a tradition started 20 years ago by Don Schnuck. The Schnucks sit down together once a month for a roundtable family meeting. Meetings are held off-site and last several hours. All six emphasize how important these meetings really are.
“These meetings are the single most important thing we do,” says Todd. “We are all equal shareholders and everyone has a say. Big decisions are made by consensus.”
“We talk a lot about family harmony at these meetings,” Nancy says. “We also just spend time catching up on what is going on with each family.”
“My Dad used to say family harmony is number one and business is second,” says Mark.
“These family meetings are really sacred time,” agrees Terry. “Anyone of us can put an item on the agenda to discuss.”
A Tradition of Service
The Schnuck family is proud to call St. Louis home and they credit the support of the St. Louis community with their ability to operate stores successfully in out-state markets. During the holidays, associates at stores, warehouses and manufacturing facilities are visited, personally, by a family member. “It’s important for us to personally go to each location to thank all of our associates and wish everyone a happy holiday,” says Mark while on his way to visit Schnucks in Bettendorf, Iowa. This dedication and commitment to community are core company values at Schnucks and catalysts for their most recent honor.
The Right Arm Award has been presented annually since 1975 in recognition of outstanding leadership on behalf of the St. Louis region. Scott says he remembers when his Uncle Edward Schnuck received the award in 1983.
“This service is part of our heritage and we are very proud to receive the Right Arm Award as a family,” Scott says. “My Dad would be very proud, too,” he adds.
“Our customers, associates and St. Louis have been good to us, and we have always tried to share our success,” says Scott.
“Our grandparents, parents and my uncle instilled in us the importance of giving back,” Nancy adds. “It’s something our family has always done.”
The Future and Next Generation
The fourth generation is on the rise at Schnucks. Craig’s son Brian and Scott’s son Jason are now involved in various aspects of store operations. Like their parents, these rising stars will gain experience in every part of the company before finding their niches.
Craig makes a point that is echoed by all siblings, “We have grown up here and St. Louis will always be our home. We have all worked hard to help make the St. Louis region a great place to live and work. Our future is bright and we plan to continue our focus of giving back.”
Schnucks at a Glance
Schnucks was founded in 1939 by Edwin and Anna Schnuck.
In 1953, Schnucks was incorporated by Edwin and sons Donald and Edward.
Total stores: 103 stores and more than 15,000 associates in seven states: Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Tennessee.
In St. Louis: 64 stores in the St. Louis region, including eight in St. Louis City. The company employs 10,500 St. Louis-area associates.
Schnucks is a $2.4 billion company.
The DESCO Group is the real estate company owned by the Schnuck family and is the largest manager of retail real estate in St. Louis and a developer of office and retail space in many other states.