Minyard Food Stores, Inc. History

Address:
777 Freeport Parkway
Coppell, Texas 75019
U.S.A.

Telephone: (972) 393-8700
Fax: (972) 462-9407

Website:
Private Company
Incorporated: 1932
Employees: 8,000
Sales: $1.08 billion (1999)
NAIC: 44511 Supermarkets and Other Grocery (Except Convenience) Stores; 44711 Gasoline Stations with Convenience Stores; 445299 All Other Specialty Food Stores; 23311 Land Subdivision and Land Development

Company Perspectives:

If it's not good enough for our family, we won't sell it to yours. Key Dates:

Key Dates:

1932:
A.W. 'Eck' Minyard opens the first Minyard Food Store in east Dallas, Texas.
1957:
Company founds Minyard Properties Inc.
1982:
Minyard opens its first Sack 'n Save Warehouse Food Store.
1987:
Minyard acquires 27 store locations from Safeway Stores Inc.
1988:
Lisbeth Minyard and Gretchen Minyard Williams assume leadership of the company.
1990:
Company launches Carnival Food Stores to cater to ethnic shoppers.
1997:
Minyard opens gasoline stations under the name 'Minyard's On The Go.'
1998:
Company sales exceed $1 billion for the first time in company history.

Company History:

Minyard Food Stores, Inc. is a privately owned and operated grocery store chain in Texas. The family-run business includes three supermarket chains: Sack 'n Save Warehouse Food Stores, Carnival Food Stores, which cater to ethnic minorities, and the traditional Minyard Food Stores. The company operates more than 80 stores, the majority of which carry the Minyard Food Store banner and are located primarily in the Dallas-Fort Worth regions. Minyard also owns a number of gas stations. The company is run by sisters Lisbeth Minyard and Gretchen Minyard Williams, descendants of the founders.

Building a Regional Presence: 1930s-70s

The time was the Depression era of the 1930s. A.W. 'Eck' Minyard, an employee with the U.S. Postal Service, was concerned that his younger brothers, who had just completed high school, would have difficulty finding work. To supply jobs for his siblings, Eck bought a small store in east Dallas for $1,200. The first Minyard Food Store, which was little more than 500 square feet in size, opened on February 12, 1932. Eck operated the store with three of his brothers--H.C. 'Henry' Minyard, M.T. 'Buddy' Minyard, and H.J. 'Hap' Minyard&mdash well as his sister, Fay Minyard. The store was successful enough to spawn the opening of another store and a convenience store by the end of the 1930s.

Store expansion slowed during the 1940s as the younger brothers set off to fight with the U.S. military during World War II. Eck and Fay manned the original store but temporarily closed the other stores while their brothers were away. Signs on the closed doors informed customers, 'Closed. Gone to War. Be back after Hitler's funeral.' After the brothers returned, Minyard grew steadily, adding three new stores in the 1940s. The following decade Minyard added six new stores. The company also expanded outside of Dallas County with the opening of a location in McKinney in 1957. In 1959 the family founded Minyard Properties Inc., which enabled the company to acquire and develop land and build shopping centers. Also at the end of the 1950s Minyard opened its largest store yet.

Growth continued in the 1960s and 1970s, and by the end of the 1960s the Minyards owned and operated 16 stores, five more than at the beginning of the decade. The 1970s marked a period of rapid growth for Minyard, and the company opened 21 new grocery stores. In addition, Minyard Properties had acquired nine shopping centers. To accommodate such expansion, the Minyard clan found the need for a central headquarters and distribution facility. In 1961 the family bought a 70,000-square-foot building complex in Dallas and moved its corporate offices and distribution operations.

Unmatched Expansion in the 1980s

Minyard Food Stores had enjoyed five decades of success, and the company intended to continue moving forward and growing operations with the needs of the communities it served in mind. Because of the company's growth in the 1970s, Minyard was forced to once again move its administrative offices and distribution center. In 1981 Minyard headquarters was established in Coppell, a town located between Dallas and Fort Worth that was a two-minute drive from the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The large complex was nearly 400,000 square feet in size and sat on an 81-acre parcel of land.

In 1982 Minyard diversified from its standard grocery store format by opening its first Sack 'n Save Warehouse Food Store. Sack 'n Save followed a warehouse format and offered products in bulk, which reduced prices. Customers also bagged their own groceries at Sack 'n Save. The new concept was considered necessary to remain competitive in the grocery industry, which faced slow growth in the mid-1980s.

Minyard's growth of the 1970s paled in comparison to its growth in 1987. In April 1987 Minyard purchased 24 stores from Safeway Stores Inc., which planned to exit the Dallas market and sell its 141 stores. At the time, Minyard operated 56 stores, and thus the acquisitions significantly boosted the company's presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. Minyard bought 12 stores in Dallas County, nine in Tarrant County, and three in distant counties. Minyard was able to reopen all 24 of the stores in record time--within five days. In August Minyard purchased three more stores from Safeway. By the end of the year Minyard owned and operated 62 Minyard Food Stores and ten Sack 'n Save stores. Prior to the acquisition, Minyard ranked fourth and had a market share in the Dallas area of 15 percent, according to Supermarket News, a trade publication. Tom Thumb-Page was the top supermarket in the Dallas market, with a share of 24 percent. Tom Thumb-Page operated 48 stores in the Dallas-Forth Worth market and had plans to buy ten of the Safeway locations. Tom Thumb-Page was followed by Kroger, with a 19 percent share. Kroger had 29 stores in the Dallas area and 16 in Tarrant County. Kroger planned to add nine of the Safeway stores. Third place went to Safeway.

Less than a year after guiding the company through its most challenging expansion endeavor, Chairman and CEO Buddy Minyard, the last of the original founders, died of a heart attack at the age of 78. Buddy had been actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the company since the opening of the first store. Strongly committed to the Dallas community, Buddy had participated in numerous service organizations and contributed to many causes, including the Scottish Rite Masonic order, the Leukemia Society of America, and the Boy Scouts. He was a founding member of the Dallas Urban League Inc., a community service organization, and was heavily involved with the grocery community as well--Buddy served as the president of the Dallas Retail Grocers Association in 1959 and served on the board of the National Retail Grocers Association. Buddy Minyard's commitment to the community was reflected in Minyard Food Stores, which had a working philosophy of responding to the shopping needs of the customers.

With Buddy Minyard's death, the Minyard leadership torch was passed along to Buddy's two daughters, Lisbeth 'Liz' Minyard and Gretchen Minyard Williams. The 'Minyard girls,' as they were known within the local grocery community, had served as vice-presidents during their father's tenure as CEO. Other family members involved with the company were cousin Bob Minyard and Gretchen's husband, J.L. Sonny Williams, who was company president. J.L. began working at Minyard as a bagger at the age of 13.

Increased Competition and Innovation in the 1990s

As Minyard Food Stores entered a new decade, it faced many new challenges, including a rapidly changing consumer environment. Taking a bold step to meet the changing needs of the community, Minyard announced in 1990 that it would open a new store format dedicated to serving the growing, and mostly underserved, population of minorities and ethnic neighborhoods. Although Minyard Food Stores carried some ethnic products, the new stores, which would operate under the name Carnival Food Stores, would offer ethnic merchandise, in addition to traditional grocery products, throughout the store, including produce and meat departments. The stores would target the needs of African American, Hispanic, or Asian consumers, depending on the neighborhood. Minyard's J.L. Williams explained in Supermarket News, 'The Dallas-Fort Worth area is a mosaic of diverse people, communities and cultures comprising a market that is virtually untapped. ... Predictions that the area's population mix will drastically change by the year 2000 and the growing customer demand for product variety are the two basic reasons we have developed this new store concept for our chain.'

Minyard opened three Carnival Food Stores, converted from Minyard Food Stores, in Forth Worth in the summer of 1990; two catered to African Americans and one focused on Hispanic shoppers. The Hispanic-oriented stores featured signs in both English and Spanish and delicacies not commonly found in traditional grocery stores, such as beef heads. The Hispanic stores also offered bulk bins of such staples as corn, pinto beans, and rice, as well as such popular products as Mexican soft drinks and health and beauty aids. The Carnival concept performed strongly, with sales up 30 to 40 percent per store, and Minyard announced plans to open additional Carnival stores to bring the total up to seven by late 1991.

As Minyard continued to grow and diversify, it also faced increasingly aggressive competition. The Dallas market had heated up immensely, and supermarkets vied for consumer dollars by offering triple-coupon discounts and other promotions. Not only did Minyard face competition from longtime stores such as Tom Thumb-Page, which moved beyond traditional grocery offerings to offer a combined grocery and drug store, and Kroger, but the company faced new rivals as outside companies honed in on the Dallas market. North Carolina grocery chain Food Lion announced plans to open up to 50 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. Food Lion CEO Tom E. Smith commented on the chain's entry into the Texas market in Supermarket News and said, 'Our study of Dallas-Fort Worth found high prices, oversized stores and a lack of conveniently located stores.' Food Lion claimed that Dallas-Fort Worth generated grocery sales of $7 billion a year and that Food Lion's entry into the market would cause food prices to drop six percent. Industry analysts stated that the 11-county region known as the Metroplex offered one of the largest and most competitive grocery store selections in the nation.

In reaction to the increased competition, and also to realize the company mission to serve the needs of the consumer, Minyard focused on improving customer service and tested new ideas in the early 1990s. For example, an upscale Minyard Food Store in Dallas provided free valet parking and offered shoe shining services inside the store. Liz Minyard explained in Dallas Times Herald, 'In the last 50 years, grocery stores have undergone a dramatic change--in terms of the size of the stores, the volume of the merchandise, computerization, and the range of products and services offered. ... We try to make each store a little different, to appeal to the customers in the store.' Although the company slowed expansion efforts, it continued to open new stores in strategic locations. In 1991, for instance, Minyard reentered the Plano, Texas market, which was growing more competitive, when it opened a 70,000-square-foot Sack 'n Save.

In 1992 Minyard Food Stores celebrated its 60th anniversary. To emphasize the company's local roots, Minyard launched a storewide promotion that featured a 'Made in Texas' theme. The Texas Lone Star Jackpot promotion included a grand prize of $60,000 in addition to a host of other prizes and giveaways, including televisions, clocks, free trips, and concert tickets. The large-scale promotion was so successful that Minyard continued the concept in ensuing years. Unlike promotions offered by other grocery chains, which centered around marketing promotions by national brands, Minyard developed its own campaigns and then searched for vendors to participate. Minyard's promotions, which included such campaigns as the Great American Dream Home Sweepstakes, which had a grand prize with a value of more than $170,000, the Tour the Ballparks with the Texas Rangers campaign, and the Summer Safari Sweepstakes, provided the company with an edge over competitors as well. According to the company, total store sales jumped about 3.5 percent during major promotions.

By the mid-1990s it was clear that Minyard had weathered the storm of the early 1990s. The threat presented by incoming Food Lion failed to bear fruit, and by 1994 Food Lion announced store closures of about half of its stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. By 1997 the company exited Texas. Other competitors alleged to be entering the Dallas grocery market never arrived. Although Tom Thumb-Page lost its number one status to Albertson's, Minyard managed to move up to third in 1996. According to Market Scope, Minyard had a market share of 15.3 percent in the Dallas region. Although competition was fierce, the growing population in the region meant an increase in the number of mouths to feed. Food store sales in Texas, reported the state comptroller's office, grew 27 percent between 1990 and 1996, reaching $34.04 billion. Minyard, too, enjoyed increased sales: in 1993 the company rang up sales of about $760 million; in 1996 Minyard had sales of $950 million.

Much of the company's success in the 1990s was attributed to the leadership of the Minyard girls. The sisters worked at the stores from an early age, receiving valuable training. "From the time we were 13 and 16, we had on-the-job training," recalled Gretchen Minyard Williams in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We were never given an allowance. We had to work if we wanted any spending money." Both attended Texas Christian University and majored in business administration. Although both were expected to pursue careers, they were never pressured to join the family business. The sisters chose to follow in their father's footsteps, however, and worked their way up the executive ladder. When their father passed away, the sisters became co-chairs of the company, with Liz focused on community relations and customer service and Gretchen specializing in marketing and employee relations. The Minyard sisters made it onto Working Woman magazine's list of the top 50 female business owners in the United States beginning in 1992. Both acknowledged that it was sometimes difficult working within a male-dominated industry but stated that as women, they provided a unique and valuable perspective. Liz Minyard told Progressive Grocer, "Many of the men who work in the industry don't even do the grocery shopping, which always surprises me. . . . My sister and I have always done the shopping, because we believe it gives us a customer's perspective of our stores."

In the middle to late 1990s Minyard continued to grow and strengthen store operations. In 1997 the company added to its multitude of services by opening gasoline stations, called "Minyard's On The Go," at two Minyard Food Stores. The company had plans to open up to 35 gas stations over the course of several years. In addition to expanding locations to serve the growing population, Minyard also focused on providing shopping opportunities to underserved communities. In 1995 the company opened a Minyard Food Store in the inner-city neighborhood of south Dallas. It was the first major supermarket to open in the community in about 30 years and enabled residents to shop within their community. The Dallas Morning News reported that Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who attended the grand opening, told shoppers, "I cannot tell you how much it means to have good corporate people like the Minyards that believe in putting back what they've taken and being more a part of the community than just taking away." Minyard also opened a store in west Dallas, another underserved area, and in 1998 built a store in southeast Fort Worth, also a lower income region with a large minority and elderly population. As in south Dallas, the entrance of Minyard in southeast Fort Worth marked the first major grocery store opening in about 30 years. Minyard also opened a Carnival Food Store, its largest to date, in north Fort Worth, yet another severely underserved community, in 1998.

Minyard exceeded $1 billion in sales for the first time in its history in 1998 and had been a strong contender in the regional grocery store wars for decades. As the company approached the new millennium, it planned to continue building upon its tradition of serving the customer's needs. Although new competitors loomed on the horizon, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Neighborhood Markets and H.E. Butt Grocery Co., the largest supermarket chain in Texas, Minyard, accustomed to perpetual competition, remained undaunted. J.L. Williams told the Dallas Morning News in January 1999, "Next month is our 67th anniversary. We've been here a long time and plan on being here a long time." At the close of the 20th century, Minyard owned and operated 44 Minyard Food Stores, 20 Sack 'n Save stores, and 20 Carnival Food Stores. The company was the tenth largest private company in Dallas and the largest private company run by women.

Principal Subsidiaries: Minyard Properties Inc.

Principal Competitors: Albertson's, Inc.; The Kroger Co.; Randall's Food Markets, Inc.; Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Further Reading:

  • Donegan, Priscilla, "A Woman's Place: Although Women Still Dominate the Grocery Store Aisles, They're Few and Far Between in the Industry's Executive Suites. But Times Are Changing--Slowly," Progressive Grocer, May 1, 1989, p. 37.
  • Fox, Bruce, "Minyard Unveils New Format; Carnival Food Stores Target Minorities," Chain Store Age Executive, February 1, 1991, p. 35.
  • Gubbins, Teresa, "Minyard Pumps You Up," Dallas Morning News, January 22, 1997, p. F1.
  • Halkias, Maria, "Grocers Intensify Competition for Share of Lucrative D-FW Market," Dallas Morning News, April 11, 1998, p. F1.
  • ------, "Grocery Chains Thriving After 'Store Wars'," Dallas Morning News, February 26, 1997, p. D1.
  • Hansard, Donna Steph, "Minyard Buying 24 Safeway Stores," Dallas Morning News, April 14, 1987, p. D1.
  • Harris, Joyce Saenz, "Gretchen Minyard Williams and Liz Minyard--Sisters Carrying on the Family Tradition," Dallas Morning News, January 3, 1993, p. E1.
  • Ingram, Bob, "At Minyard, 'Big D' Stands for Diversity," Supermarket Business, May 1, 1994, p. 41.
  • Jackson, David, "Minyard Groceries' Founder Dead at 79," Dallas Morning News, February 21, 1988, p. A1.
  • Lundy, Audrey Steinbergen, "New Minyard Fills a Void for Many in South Dallas," Dallas Morning News, September 16, 1995, p. A29.
  • Narayan, Chandrika, "Big Links in the Chain: Sisters Steer Steady Course at Minyard," Dallas Times Herald, January 19, 1991, p. 1.
  • Rodriguez, June Naylor, "The Working Life: With a Nose-to-the-Grindstone Attitude Instilled by Their Father, Success for Minyard's Grocery Women Is in the Bag," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 5, 1994, p. 1.
  • Smith, Jack Z., "Minyard Plans $6.5 Million Store in Southeast Fort Worth," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 11, 1997, p. 1.
  • Turcsik, Richard, "Food Lion To Enter Dallas; Plans 30-50 Stores in '91," Supermarket News, April 16, 1990, p. 1.
  • ------, "Minyard Opens First 3 Ethnic-Oriented Stores," Supermarket News, August 6, 1990, p. 1.
  • ------, "Minyard's Lone Star Jackpot Hits Home," Supermarket News, August 24, 1992, p. 25.
  • Weinstein, Steve, "Going Beyond Price," Progressive Grocer, September 1, 1994, p. 54.
  • Wren, Worth, "Minyard Adds to Line of Ethnic Food Stores," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 27, 1991, p. 1.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 33. St. James Press, 2000.

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