After nearly 90 years in the grocery business in Northeast Ohio, the Buehler family announced last month that it is selling its stores. But the 13 Buehler’s Fresh Foods markets likely won’t seem much different. That’s because the people who already manage and work in them are the buyers.
The deal is an ESOP : an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Roy Messing heads the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, a first-of-its-kind research and advisory organization based at Kent State University. “An ESOP is actually a qualified retirement plan, much like a 401(k). There’s a trust created that owns the shares for the benefit of the employees. And they would have those earnings when … the accumulation of their value would come to them when they retire.”
Beuhler family decision
Of the deal, Dan Beuhler, president of his family’s holding company, said in a statement that “our generation of Buehlers are reaching retirement age, and we think this a better option than selling the business to outsiders. “We want these supermarkets to be here serving customers and providing good jobs well into the future.”
Roy Messing says that’s not an uncommon view in home-grown businesses. “Often times what we see when a company sells to their employees, they have a company that is stable, it has an image, a brand, and they want to maintain a legacy in the community. So, in reading what I’ve read or heard about Buehler’s over the years, they’re very engrained in the community, so this is a logical step.”
Filling in the details
Buehler’s Fresh Foods has markets in Wayne, Ashland, Medina, Summit, Stark, Tuscarawas and Coshocton counties. It employs 2,100 people. WKSU tried asking some workers about the sale after it was announced Oct. 18th, but all said they didn’t know enough details yet to comment. Roy Messing says that, too, is not unusual. “There would be certain levels of the organization that were familiar with this. The folks in the stores, probably not. And that’s a delicate balance for the owners because sometimes that information is valuable for a competitor. So they have to kind of manage how that comes out. But, at some time, they’ll reveal more of this to the employees.”
Read more at: What Changes When Employees Take Over a Company? | WKSU