Retail | Wholesale
Food | Beverage
CEO, LEESA SLEEP LLC, VIRGINIA BEACH
Akrop, who was Leesa Sleep’s president and chief operating officer, earned a promotion in January, becoming the online mattress retailer’s CEO. He has an extensive background in digital startups, having logged nearly a decade at Zappos, the online shoe retailer, and then two years at Vroom, a fully digital car dealership, where he was chief financial officer before joining Leesa.
Leesa, a certified B-Corp, donates one bed to a child for every 10 sold and has given away more than 40,000 mattresses since its inception. Last November, during the weeklong “1 Bedless Night” promotion, the company upped its commitment, donating a bed in the name of each person who volunteered to spend a night without a bed.
Akrop, who replaced interim CEO John Replogle, graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and prior to his forays in the startup world, he worked in a variety of industries, including health care and sports management, as well as for traditional accounting firms.
Akrop’s promotion to CEO followed a two-year period of growth at Leesa that followed three years of losses. He’s behind the introduction of a new product lineup, as well as distribution and marketing strategies.
ROBERT ‘BOB’ ARCHER
PRESIDENT AND CEO, BLUE RIDGE BEVERAGE CO., SALEM
Archer and his family have deep roots in the Virginia business community, having operated one of the state’s largest beverage distribution companies for more than 60 years.
Blue Ridge Beverage distributes both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages throughout Southwest and Central Virginia. The company has been owned by the Archer family since 1959, and it has been a family affair for years, with Archer’s mother, brother and sisters all holding leadership roles at various points. Archer has been CEO since 2001.
Blue Ridge Beverage distributes beverages to 49 counties and 16 cities in Virginia from facilities based in Salem, Waynesboro, Lynchburg and Abingdon. The company employs more than 460 people.
A past chairman of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and former president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Archer is a Vietnam War veteran who retired as a U.S. Army colonel in 1999 after 30 years of service.
Archer is a Virginia Tech graduate, and he is in the second year of a four-year term as rector of Radford University. Archer has served on the board of directors of the Virginia War Memorial Foundation since 2015.
CHAIRMAN, THE GILJOY GROUP, VIRGINIA BEACH
Bland has held leadership positions in an array of industries in Virginia, ranging from health care and fast food to higher education and community development organizations.
As a commercial banker, Bland established his restaurant management group, which is named for a combination of his and his wife’s first names. The Giljoy Group has owned and operated 70 fast food restaurants throughout Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., for more than 30 years, employing more than 2,000 people.
The former chairman of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Bland currently serves on the board of Sentara Healthcare. He also is president and chairman of the Urban League of Hampton Roads, as well as a member of Truist’s community advisory board and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce executive committee.
A native of King George County, Bland is a graduate of James Madison University. He said in a February interview with Virginia Business that he advises younger people to “think in terms of what the other person needs. I spent a lifetime building relationships, [learning] not just how it benefits me but how it benefits others.”
Co-founder, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, CARLOTZ, RICHMOND
Bor got the idea for CarLotz as he was driving home from his job as an investment banker, noticing all the “for sale” signs on cars during his commute.
He felt there had to be a better way to sell a car than DIY advertising, so Bor teamed up with two other Harvard alumni in Richmond to launch the used-car consignment company in 2011. The mission was to simplify the process of buying a used car by charging a flat fee to handle the entire sales transaction for used-car sellers.
The nation’s largest online used car broker expanded its operations significantly in 2021, with new locations in Seattle and Orlando. The company is also growing its headquarters in Richmond, CarLotz announced in June.
CarLotz went public in 2020, although the business has struggled throughout the first half of 2021, with Bor having cut its revenue outlook to $272 million to $317 million range, down from an expected $335 million to $375 million. The ongoing car shortage brought on by the pandemic has made finding inventory a challenge.
Bor earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from Lehigh University and an MBA at Harvard.
PRESIDENT AND CEO/MANAGING DIRECTOR, MASSIMO ZANETTI BEVERAGE USA, PORTSMOUTH
John Boyle has been in leadership at Massimo Zanetti since joining the coffee distribution firm as chief operating officer and senior vice president in 2006.
The Portsmouth-based Massimo Zanetti heralds itself as the nation’s only vertically integrated coffee company, sourcing beans from farms in Costa Rica, Brazil and Hawaii. The firm roasts 150,000 tons of coffee beans annually at 14 locations globally.
In December, Massimo Zanetti started construction of a 356,000-square-foot distribution center in Suffolk. The firm, which is one of the nation’s largest coffee companies, distributes familiar brands including Kauai Coffee, Chock Full o’ Nuts, and Hills Bros. Coffee & Cappuccino.
A University of South Carolina Gamecock, Boyle has worked in the food and beverage industry since joining Nestlé USA in 1987. He’s also a trustee of the Hampton Roads Chamber and a former chair of the National Coffee Association board.
REID A. BROWN
PRESIDENT, BROWN DISTRIBUTING CO., RICHMOND
Brown is continuing a family tradition, as the great-grandson of Brown Distributing’s founder leads the company that was born in Richmond at the end of World War I.
Brown Distributing was founded in Richmond in 1919, as the Brown brothers launched a soda bottling business. Reid Brown, a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, joined the firm in 2009.
Since then, the business has expanded into Florida, creating a new division that distributes beer, wine, spirits and specialty beverages into the state.
The distributor also has gained accolades for jumping on the trend of microbreweries. In 2012, Brown Distributing’s Florida division was named the Craft Beer Distributor of the Year, presented by the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Brewers Association.
Brown now has more than 500 employees and is the provider for both mainstream and obscure drinks, from Belgium’s The Musketeers Troubadour brews to Virginia’s Bold Rock Hard Cider.
WILLIAM G. ‘BILL’ CRUTCHFIELD JR.
FOUNDER AND CEO, CRUTCHFIELD CORP., CHARLOTTESVILLE
One of the biggest names in electronics, Crutchfield Corp. was established in 1974 when Bill Crutchfield had trouble finding an after-market stereo while restoring a Porsche 356 coupe. He realized there was no one-stop shop for consumer electronics, so he started the company that became his legacy.
Crutchfield is a pioneer in online electronic sales and was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame. His company launched its website in September 1995, about two months after Amazon.com went live. The company continues to collect accolades, being tied for first (with Dell) out of 37 businesses in the consumer electronics category of Newsweek’s Best Online Shops 2021.
A former U.S. Air Force officer, Crutchfield has flown for decades. His love for dogs is reflected in the company’s many dog-friendly practices, including the bring-your-dog-to-work norm at the corporate headquarters. He also serves on the University of Virginia Health System board.
The privately held company employs about 700 people, most of whom work at its Albemarle County headquarters, although Crutchfield also has a brick-and-mortar store in Harrisonburg, a call center in Norton and a research office in Christiansburg.
BENJAMIN J. DAVENPORT JR.
CHAIRMAN, DAVENPORT ENERGY INC., FIRST PIEDMONT CORP., CHATHAM
Davenport Energy has been a family-run fuel distributor since 1941, when Davenport’s father established the Pittsylvania County business as Chatham Oil Co. Ben Davenport also serves as chair of First Piedmont Corp., a waste management service that runs an industrial landfill.
A devoted Virginia Tech Hokie since earning his business degree there, Davenport has served on multiple boards associated with the university, including terms on the Virginia Tech board of visitors. He was on the board from 2002 to 2010, serving during the tragic April 16, 2007, mass shooting at the university. In 2016, Davenport received Virginia Tech’s highest honor, the William H. Ruffner Medal, which recognizes “notable and distinguished service” to the university. In 2020, he received the Sorensen Leadership Award from the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.
Davenport has served on the boards of many community organizations, including the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Health Care Foundation and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, as well as the state board of GO Virginia.
Davenport Energy serves approximately 30,000 customers throughout Virginia and North Carolina, with about 175 employees. The distributor also delivers gas and diesel to 200 gas stations in the region.
ARTHUR ‘BO’ FISHER III
CEO, FISHER AUTO PARTS, STAUNTON
Fisher has just one workplace listed on his LinkedIn profile: Fisher Auto Parts, the family business where he has worked since 1970 and that today ranks as the fifth-largest distributor of auto parts in the country.
A James Madison University alumnus, Fisher took over as CEO and chairman of the board after the death of his father, Art Fisher, in 2004. At the time, Bo Fisher had been president of Fisher Auto Parts since 1992 and owned a majority of the company. He is also co-chairman of the Automotive Parts Services Group.
Fisher Auto Parts is one of the region’s most prolific auto parts dealers, with 360 stores in 15 states throughout the East Coast and Midwest. The company was founded in 1929 by Fisher’s grandfather, Blair Coiner, and the company was known as Coiner Parts until 1983.
Although the company has been in the family since its inception, Bo Fisher has spent the past year and change in a contentious legal battle with his brother, David Fisher, over $65 million in company shares left behind by their mother, Mary, who died in 2018.
DAVID M. GUERNSEY
PRESIDENT AND CEO, GUERNSEY INC., DULLES
A fender-bender car crash when he was a high school senior altered the trajectory of Guernsey’s life. He collided with a Cadillac and ended up owing $150 for damages, so he put college on hold and got a job selling typewriters in 1971.
Guernsey had a knack for sales, but he could anticipate that workplace supply needs were shifting. As a 21-year-old, he opened his own supplies dealership that has now evolved into Guernsey Office Products, a massive office supply business based in Northern Virginia. Although he started out just selling typewriters, today Guernsey sells office supplies, furniture, janitorial supplies, breakroom products and corporate promotional products.
As Guernsey’s company grew, he brought in family members to join his team, and at various points his brother, sister, daughter, wife, niece and nephew have all worked for the firm.
Guernsey has served on many community boards, including stints as chairman of both the Arlington and Fairfax chambers of commerce, chairman of the Office Products Industry Association and chairman of the National Federation of Independent Business.
CEO, WHITE HOUSE FOODS, WINCHESTER
The patriarch of the Gum family and head of the century-old White House Foods, Gum is a country boy at heart. A lifelong resident of the region, he lives on a farm in Frederick County. His family’s empire has expanded from apples to include handcrafted furniture.
Gum has been with White House Foods since 1981, and in 2006 the Gum family bought the fruit company. Today it is the largest privately held apple-processing company in the country, producing more than 650 varieties of juice, applesauce and vinegar.
Gum’s entrepreneurial interests aren’t limited to apples. His family firm focuses on purchasing companies in distress, and in 2013, it bought furniture crafters Henkel Harris in Winchester. Gum has instituted profit-sharing systems at both White House Foods and Henkel Harris, giving all employees a stake in each company’s success.
He also serves on several community boards, including stints with the Virginia Manufacturers Association, the Apple Processors Association and the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore.
CEO, VIRGINIA ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL AUTHORITY, RICHMOND
Hill, who took the reins of Virginia ABC in 2018, grew up in a family where political debate was welcomed.
He remembers his grandfather encouraging everyone to chime in, even the kids, when discussions got heated at the dinner table. And that ability to take in multiple perspectives has served Hill well while navigating the halls and politics of Richmond.
He joined the ABC in 2014, when he was appointed as chief operating officer, and he’s overseeing the agency’s move to a new headquarters and distribution center in Hanover County, which opened in June. In fiscal year 2020, Virginia ABC brought in a record $1.2 billion in gross revenue, including $212.1 million in profits from retail sales.
Previously, Hill served as deputy secretary of agriculture and forestry for both Gov. Bob McDonnell and Gov. Terry McAuliffe. He also worked as an attorney with Williams Mullen from 2003 to 2011.
Hill earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and when he’s not working, he enjoys biking, paddleboarding on the James River and Saturday-night family dinners.
GEORGE L. HOLM
CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PERFORMANCE FOOD GROUP, GOOCHLAND
Holm has been in the food- distribution industry for more than 40 years, holding leadership positions with major distributors, including Alliant Foodservice, US Food and Sysco Corp. In 2002, Holm founded Vistar, a multichannel food, snack and beverage distributor that rapidly grew into a multibillion-dollar enterprise.
Holm has been president and CEO of Performance Food Group since May 2008, when Vistar acquired it, and in 2019, he took the business public, becoming its chairman. The company, with headquarters in Goochland County, has a nationwide network of more than 100 distribution centers.
In May, Performance Food Group announced the acquisition of convenience store supplier Core-Mark for $2.5 billion in stock and cash, and the purchase is expected to add about $17 billion to the company’s net annual sales, while expanding its reach into the entire country and parts of Canada. Holm has spearheaded efforts to diversify PFG’s business sectors beyond just restaurant supplies, and the need for new avenues intensified as COVID-19 shut down restaurant dining for months.
CHAIRMAN AND CEO, CUSTOM INK, FAIRFAX
Katz was sleeping on an air mattress in a basement when he and a couple of college friends launched Custom Ink, a design-it-yourself online T-shirt retailer in 2000. It was the peak of the dot-com boom, and Katz had just quit his job on Wall Street because he wanted to do something more entrepreneurial.
Today, the company employs more than 1,600 people, and Katz has earned his original supporters their original investment back many times over.
The company saw its sales plummet at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With social distancing making social gatherings impossible, Custom Ink’s sales fell by 80% in just two weeks, and Katz had to institute mass furloughs. The company survived by harnessing the new trends caused by the pandemic, selling masks, work-from-home gear and virtual high school graduation swag.
Katz grew up around entrepreneurs — his father, Steve Katz, started three businesses and had plenty of advice as Katz started Custom Ink, a business that his father thought had no shot of surviving.
Earning his bachelor’s degree in physics, Katz graduated from Harvard University, where he also led community service programs through the Phillips Brooks House Association.
CONDUCTOR OF CREATIVITY, CULTURE & COMMERCE, SAUER BRANDS INC., RICHMOND
Kelly has held numerous leadership positions within the food and beverage industry, often stepping in to execute major business realignments or new strategies.
He was a vice president at Coca-Cola and Miller Brewing Co. before taking on executive positions in the booming craft beer industry in the early 2000s. As the president and CEO of Magic Hat Brewing Co. from 2004 to 2010, he increased revenues tenfold before getting into the frozen food industry, hoping to similarly jump-start growth.
Kelly has led Richmond-based Sauer Brands since 2019, after the former C.F. Sauer Co. was purchased by Charlotte, North Carolina-based private equity firm Falfurrias Capital Group.
In 2020, Kelly announced that the company would begin sponsoring an annual college football bowl game, and the Duke’s Mayo Bowl was born. That same year, Sauer also acquired Kernel Season’s, the top popcorn seasoning brand in the country, and its parent company, Chicago Custom Foods.
Kelly attended the University of Virginia, where he earned degrees from the McIntire School of Commerce and the Darden School of Business.
CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ARKO CORP., RICHMOND
Kotler, who is originally from Israel, was a venture capitalist back in 2003, when he began considering the American convenience store market.
He has an eye for a good investment, and Kotler quickly built up GPM Investments LLC (holding company Arko’s primary asset) by acquiring family-owned convenience store chains in smaller markets, and he sold the company in 2006.
In 2011, he bought back in, becoming owner and CEO. Kotler’s strategy for growing the company has been to avoid new construction and buy up struggling chains that have well-established branding.
Arko had been publicly traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange for years, but in 2021, it joined the New Nasdaq Exchange after merging with Haymaker Acquisition. The company purchased the 60-store ExpressStop chain in Michigan and Ohio in May, which moved Arko up from the seventh- to the sixth-largest convenience store corporation, with 3,000 locations, 1,400 of which are operated by the company.
In May, Kotler said that GPM would be experimenting with new prototypes of convenience stores in Virginia, with plans to open 10 new stores customized to meet the interests of customers in each region.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, LIDL U.S., ARLINGTON
Leaders of Lidl, the German discount grocery chain, are hoping they have found the right man to lead an aggressive expansion into the American market.
In April, Lidl’s board appointed Lagunionek to lead Lidl’s U.S. operations. As a member of the international board of parent company Schwarz Group, he will also help lead the grocer’s retail strategy in multiple countries.
Lagunionek, who is Lidl’s fourth U.S. head since 2013, has been an executive with Lidl for more than 20 years, serving as CEO of its division in Poland between 2005 and 2015 and holding a board position at its headquarters in Germany since then. Trade publication Winsight Grocery Business noted this spring that the grocer saw quick growth in Poland, having grown to become the country’s third-largest chain less than two decades after entering Poland.
The company, which operates more than 11,200 stores across Europe and the United States, launched its first U.S. store in June 2017. Since then, the chain has opened more than 160 stores along the East Coast, with its headquarters in Arlington. The company has added more than 50 U.S. stores since January 2020.
FLOYD MERRYMAN III
EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, SONNY MERRYMAN INC., LYNCHBURG
Merryman has been with the firm his father created for more than 40 years.
In 1967, Floyd W. “Sonny” Merryman Jr. founded Sonny Merryman Inc. as a small bus and trailer sales business operating out of Rustburg. Since then, it has grown to be one of the state’s largest bus dealers, with four locations and hundreds of employees.
The company works with several industries, although they are best known as a school bus dealer.
The Merryman clan has deep roots at Virginia Tech. Floyd Merryman III was a 1981 graduate of the university, and his father graduated in 1946. The family has given millions back to the school over the years, and in 2019, they donated $2 million to be split evenly between the school’s athletic program and the Pamplin College of Business’ Global Business and Analytics Complex, which will open in 2024.
In December 2020, Merryman announced that the company would be expanding its Campbell County location to add an electric bus charging facility.
Merryman transitioned to the role of executive chairman this July, announcing that former Thomas Built Buses President and CEO Caley Edgerly would become his company’s new president and CEO.
CEO, FERGUSON ENTERPRISES INC., NEWPORT NEWS
Although construction was one of a few industries that kept chugging along during the pandemic, the industry is now coping with supply shortages and high material prices.
But Murphy has steered his company and its thousands of employees through the new challenges, benefiting from its status as the country’s largest distributor of commercial and residential plumbing supplies.
This year, in addition to dealing with supply chain challenges, Murphy led a “de-merger” with Ferguson’s international wing, selling its U.K.-focused business to a private investment firm for $421 million so the plumbing supplier can focus on continued growth in the United States. The company sees global sales near $22 billion a year, mainly driven by sales in North America. In the third quarter of 2021, Ferguson saw a 24.5% increase compared with the same quarter in 2020.
A Columbus, Ohio, native, Murphy earned his bachelor’s degree from Miami University of Ohio in 1992. Ferguson purchased Murphy’s family-owned Midwest Pipe and Supply in 1999, and Murphy has held positions with increasing responsibility for Ferguson since then, becoming CEO in 2017 and being appointed group chief executive of Ferguson PLC in 2019.
FOUNDER AND CEO, FIVE GUYS BURGERS ENTERPRISES LLC, LORTON
Back in 1986, Murrell famously told his sons they could either “start a business or go to college.” That advice led to the birth of Five Guys, which now ranks among the world’s 50 largest fast food restaurants.
Murrell graduated from the University of Michigan, where he worked in his frat house’s kitchen. He was working as a financial planner in the D.C. area when he gave his two oldest sons the college or entrepreneurship ultimatum. They opted to use the money set aside for their education to start Five Guys, which opened its first location in Arlington in 1986.
The patriarch and his sons ran the business for 16 years before they decided to franchise, selling more than 300 franchises in 18 months.
Murrell and his sons maintain complete control of the Five Guys empire, which now has more than 1,700 locations. Their business approach has been to avoid advertising, instead relying on intense quality control and the burger chain’s fan following.
Five Guys generates more than $1.6 billion in annual revenue, with locations stretching from the United States to the U.K., the Middle East and China.
WILLIAM D. ‘BILL’ NASH
PRESIDENT AND CEO, CARMAX INC., RICHMOND
Nash has led used vehicle retailer CarMax from pandemic-related layoffs and furloughs to record-setting revenue in 2021.
Despite an initial hit to the industry, demand for used cars rocketed during the pandemic. CarMax’s sales surpassed Wall Street expectations by more than 25% at times, and the company reported record net revenues and profitability.
He began his career working as an accountant before joining the corporate team at Circuit City, where he held a variety of roles in operations. Nash first encountered CarMax, which was created by Circuit City, working on an audit in 1993.
Nash was hired as an auction manager for the fledgling subsidiary in 1997. CarMax spun off from Circuit City in 2002. Nash climbed the corporate ladder at CarMax, holding several roles before being appointed CEO in 2016.
This year, CarMax introduced the 24-hour test drive and CarMax purchased Edmunds, the online database for used cars.
Nash earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from James Madison University.
CEO, CARTER MACHINERY, SALEM
Parker has held the top leadership spot with Carter Machinery since 2011. He stepped in as Carter’s management bought the company from Caterpillar, ending its 23-year run as the only Caterpillar-owned dealership in the United States.
Since then, Carter Machinery became the exclusive Blue Bird Bus dealer in Virginia in 2013. That same year, the firm acquired the Cat Mining equipment distribution business from Caterpillar Global Mining LLC.
In 2020, the company set the stage to more than double its rental fleet, with the acquisition of Baltimore-based Alban Tractor Co.
Carter Machinery has deep roots in Southwest Virginia, and in 2018 Parker accepted a community leadership award from Virginia Western Community College. Under his leadership, the machinery firm has made major donations to expand access for students to attend community colleges.
Parker earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Illinois.
PRESIDENT, CEO AND OWNER, VAMAC INC., RICHMOND
Perry is preparing the fourth generation of his family to lead VAMAC, the plumbing supply wholesaler that got its start in 1915 as a single well drilling contractor and supply business.
VAMAC is one of the oldest companies in Richmond, and the Perry family has been part of it since Perry’s grandfather, Julian Perry, came aboard as a bookkeeper in 1923, working his way up to CEO 32 years later.
The firm’s original focus was on drilling wells and installation, but it has branched out to become one of the East Coast’s largest suppliers of plumbing products and bath fixtures.
Perry has been president since 1992 and CEO since 1994. Since he took over, VAMAC has expanded throughout the commonwealth, opening nine new locations.
A past president of the Western Henrico Rotary Club, Perry earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Virginia Military Institute, where he was a member of the VMI Karate Club and led the pep band for three years. He went on to serve in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army National Guard for 10 years, leaving as a captain and company commander.
CHAIRMAN AND CEO, NESTLÉ USA, ARLINGTON
When Presley landed his first job as a paperboy in the fourth grade, he never dreamed he would end up as the CEO for the U.S. division of the world’s largest food manufacturer.
Presley has been chairman and CEO of Nestlé USA since 2018. He started with the company working at the Nestlé facility in Suffolk in 1997. In 2013, he was named chief financial officer for Nestlé USA.
Under his leadership, the company has aggressively reshaped its portfolio, shedding less popular brands and actively recruiting new products. In July, the company reported that global sales grew 1.5% to $46 billion in the first half of 2021.
Presley preaches that often the best ideas come from within.
Shortly after he took the lead at Nestlé USA, he launched a process to solicit innovative ideas from employees. The effort has put products on store shelves — a fitness buff working in finance pitched the Jacked Rabbit protein shake, and it became a real product, sending a signal to Nestlé workers that their bosses were serious about seeking their ideas.
PRESIDENT, MID-ATLANTIC DIVISION, KROGER CO., GLEN ALLEN
Raya became president of Kroger Co.’s mid-Atlantic division on July 19, a position for which she’s well-prepared.
At age 21, she started out as a clerk at a Safeway store. Instead of finishing her education at Colorado Mesa University, she worked her way up to senior management positions and eventually became a division president. Colorado Mesa later awarded her an honorary doctorate
Raya most recently served as the chief merchandising and marketing officer for SpartanNash, a grocery distributor and retailer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She also served as the first female division president for Western U.S. supermarket chain Vons and led its largest division, Southern California. Raya has served on the boards for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles and the Western Association of Food Chains.
In her new job leading Kroger’s mid-Atlantic division, she will be responsible for more than 100 grocery stores in five states — 69 in Virginia — with more than 18,000 employees. The division opened its new headquarters in Glen Allen, relocating from Roanoke, in January.
GRANT F. REID
CEO AND OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, MARS INC. McLEAN
Reid walks the cocoa fields in Ghana and Brazil, where the plants used in making the chocolate for Mars’ M&Ms candies and Milky Way candy bars are grown. He wants to ensure quality and to increase environmental sustainability.
Reid, who hails from Scotland, is passionate about lifelong learning, and his hobbies include mountain biking, mixed martial arts, historic car racing, and strength and conditioning training.
He has been with Mars for 31 years and was appointed as CEO in 2014, joining Mars’ board of directors the following year.
Reid has led a number of social initiatives during his CEO tenure. He’s urged other companies to study their environmental impact, pointing out that Mars’ own evaluation revealed that the manufacturer of candy, pet food and other food products had the same carbon footprint as a nation as large as Panama.
Reid will often point to the mantra that he said guides him and the corporation: “Profit without purpose isn’t meaningful, and purpose without profit isn’t possible.”
VINCE SHEEHY IV
PRESIDENT AND CEO, SHEEHY AUTO STORES, FAIRFAX
Sheehy has been at the helm of Sheehy Auto Stores since 1987, transforming a single car dealership into one of the most recognizable names in car sales in Virginia and Maryland.
Sheehy’s father founded the company in the 1960s, and Sheehy worked his way up through various roles. Becoming president in 1998, Sheehy oversaw the business’s expansion to nearly 30 locations reaching from northern Maryland to Richmond.
Sheehy has helped spearhead apprenticeship programs for high school students in D.C.-region public school systems, and he has been a supporter of Catholic schools, particularly his alma mater, Georgetown Preparatory School.
Earlier this year, Sheehy and his brother Paul, the company’s used vehicle director, donated $100,000 to the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law after listening to a speech by a wrongfully convicted man whom the organization had helped free from prison. (Vince and Paul Sheehy and their sister Ann Fowler, the company’s director of real estate, co-own the family business.)
Sheehy earned his bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College and his MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
STEVEN C. SMITH
PRESIDENT AND CEO, K-VA-T FOOD STORES INC., ABINGDON
Growing up, Smith spent a lot of time in the Grundy Piggly Wiggly store that his dad, grandfather and a couple of other family members opened in 1955.
The Smith family went on to purchase numerous grocery stores, including a 19-store chain called Quality Foods, which in 1984 they gave the Food City name. Today, K-VA-T Food Stores, Food City’s parent company, operates 137 retail outlets throughout Southeast Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee and North Georgia. The company opened its first store in Alabama in April.
Additionally, K-VA-T owns and operates a 1.1 million-square-foot Food City Distribution Center in Abingdon, the location of the company headquarters.
Over his 42-year career, Smith held numerous jobs ranging from director of meat operations to director of advertising and chief operating officer before replacing his father, Jack C. Smith, as CEO in 2001. K-VA-T has about 17,500 employees and earned $2.95 billion in revenue in 2020.
FIRST JOB: Cemetery worker. I trimmed, mowed and dug graves.
SOMETHING I WOULD NEVER DO AGAIN: Go through a pandemic.
ONE THING I WOULD CHANGE ABOUT VIRGINIA: I’d like to see more development [in] and commitment to the rural areas of Virginia.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, SMITHFIELD FOODS INC., SMITHFIELD
Smithfield Foods appointed Smith CEO in July, shortly after his predecessor, Dennis Organ, unexpectedly stepped down after less than a year, capping a tumultuous period for the world’s largest pork product manufacturer and hog producer.
Organ had been at the helm for about seven months when he resigned for personal reasons. Smith stepped in as CEO just days after the company announced it would no longer be slaughtering pigs in the company’s hometown of Smithfield. The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of China-based WH Group, announced several executive retirements earlier this year, as the meat industry giant continued dealing with the pandemic, which had disrupted operations amid factory outbreaks in 2020, some resulting in worker deaths.
Smith joined Smithfield in 2003 as a financial analyst. He held various executive leadership roles with Smithfield overseas before returning to Virginia as the company’s chief strategic officer.
Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Mount Olive and an MBA from William & Mary.
FOUNDER, PRESIDENT AND CHAIRMAN, THOMPSON HOSPITALITY CORP., RESTON
Born in rural Windsor, Thompson got hit with an entrepreneurial drive early.
At 14, he launched a grass-cutting business. A year later, he sold produce out of a school bus. By the age of 16, he’d purchased the family hog business from his father.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in managerial economics from Hampden-Sydney College in 1981, Thompson earned his MBA from the University of Virginia.
Thompson worked for the Marriott Corp. for nine years before deciding to buy 31 Bob’s Big Boy restaurants from the company in 1992. Thompson Hospitality was born.
In 1997, Thompson Hospitality and Compass Group formed a partnership that runs dining services for companies, universities and hospitals, now the largest minority-owned food and facilities management company in the U.S. The company also owns several restaurants and chains, including The Ridley, an upscale-casual restaurant in Charlottesville named after Walter Nathaniel Ridley, the first Black man to receive a doctorate from a predominantly white university in the South (U.Va.).
Thompson serves on the boards of Richmond-based Performance Food Group and Indianapolis-based Duke Realty Corp. He’s also a member of the Hampden-Sydney board of trustees.
CHARLES E. TYSON
PRESIDENT AND CEO, LL FLOORING, RICHMOND
Tyson stepped up as interim president and principal executive officer at the Henrico County-based retailer of hard-surface flooring after Dennis Knowles resigned abruptly as president, CEO and board member in February 2020.
At that time, Tyson had been at the company for less than two years as chief customer experience officer. In that role, he was responsible for the company’s merchandising and marketing, consumer and pro sales, installation and distribution.
Last May, members of the board announced Tyson had received the top job permanently, a month after the company rebranded from Lumber Liquidators to LL Flooring.
Previously, Tyson worked at Advance Auto Parts Inc. for nine years, most recently as executive vice president for merchandising, marketing and supply chain. Before that, he held senior roles at Office Max and Office Depot.
In 2020, LL Holdings reported $1.1 billion in net sales, a $5.1 million increase over 2019. In 2020, the company opened six stores while closing 15 others, including all Canadian locations. The company now operates 416 stores nationwide.
A graduate of Guildhall University in London, Tyson volunteered as a fundraiser for JDRF International, which funds research into Type 1 diabetes.
ROBERT S. ‘BOBBY’ UKROP
CHAIRMAN AND CEO, UKROP’S HOMESTYLE FOODS LLC, RICHMOND
As a student at Richmond’s George Wythe High School, Ukrop juggled his studies with a job working as a courtesy clerk at the family-owned Ukrop’s Super Markets.
After earning a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from the University of Richmond and the University of Virginia respectively, Ukrop returned to the family business, where he enjoyed a 40-year career, with more than a decade spent as CEO. He also served on UR’s board for 20 years and chaired ChamberRVA.
In 2010, the Giant-Carlisle division of Ahold purchased the grocery chain, but Ukrop wasn’t ready for retirement. He launched Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods, which produces ready-to-heat meals, sides, salads and baked goods that are familiar to legions of Richmonders.
In December 2020, Ukrop’s Market Hall, a retail space and dining room in Henrico County, opened to immediate success and has about 400 employees.
WHAT MAKES ME PASSIONATE ABOUT MY WORK: The opportunity to help enhance the quality of life for our customers and our associates as together we strive to nourish families and communities with the food we make.
WHAT I WAS LIKE IN HIGH SCHOOL: Very shy, probably because I stuttered
SOMETHING I WOULD NEVER DO AGAIN: Ballroom dancing lessons
PLANT MANAGER, THE HERSHEY CO., STUARTS DRAFT
For more than three decades, Winnett has worked in operations management for the food industry.
A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Winnett launched his career working as a frontline supervisor for Quaker Oats in Missouri. Next, he was off to the Chicago area as technical coordinator of puff cereal processing for General Mills.
Winnett then worked as a plant manager at International Multifoods in Missouri and later at an Alabama facility owned by Golden Oval Eggs.
Making a sweet career move, Winnett joined the Hershey Co. in 2012 as a plant manager in Robinson, Illinois. Four years later, he moved
to Stuarts Draft to manage Hershey’s second-largest plant in the United States, where employees produce Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and
During his time with the company, Winnett has overseen considerable growth. In 2019, the Hershey Co. invested $104 million on an expansion and a facility to house the Roasting Center of Excellence. A year later, the company invested an additional $135 million on expansion, adding more than 100 jobs.
In 2019, the company started holding two-week paid boot camps in Augusta County to train anyone interested in working in food manufacturing.
MICHAEL A. WITYNSKI
PRESIDENT AND CEO, DOLLAR TREE INC., CHESAPEAKE
With Witynski at the helm, Dollar Tree made more than $25 billion in sales in 2020, an 8% increase over the prior year.
Dollar Tree’s board selected Witynski, who has more than four decades of retail experience, to replace CEO Gary Philbin in July 2020.
With supply chains logjammed, raw material costs increasing and inflation on the rise in mid-2021, Witynski said the store would continue to “deliver at a dollar.” More locations are opening in 2021, including some that combine Dollar Tree with Family Dollar, a discount store where prices are not locked in at $1 per item.
A Fortune 500 company, the discount retail giant operates under the brands Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree Canada. It owns more than 15,700 stores and employs more than 200,000.
After joining Dollar Tree in 2010 as senior vice president of stores, Witynski quickly climbed the ranks, becoming president in 2017.
Earlier in his career, Witynski worked as president of Shaw’s Supermarkets and as executive for Supervalu Inc.
A graduate of Benedictine University in Illinois, Witynski sits on the boards of the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges.
CEO AND PRESIDENT, WOODFIN HEATING INC.; CEO, EMC MECHANICAL SERVICES, RICHMOND
Woodfin lost his mother, Anne Cunningham Woodfin, in February, when she died after battling a decades-long inoperable brain tumor. Together with her late husband, John Howlett Woodfin, she co-founded Woodfin Oil in 1977.
Caring for the company his mother and father built has been Jack Woodfin’s mission for the entirety of his career. Since 2011, he’s led the business as CEO. He didn’t start off at the top, though, instead working as retail manager from 1995 until 2001, when he became chief operating officer and executive vice president.
Additionally, Woodfin has served as CEO of a Richmond commercial mechanical contractor, EMC, since 2006.
Woodfin Co. began as a small heating-oil firm, but it’s grown over the years to offer a variety of services, including plumbing, electrical and home automation. In 2020, Woodfin Heating Inc. received $10 million from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
As a young man, Woodfin followed in his father’s footsteps and attended VMI, where he played varsity tennis. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering in 1991, Woodfin went on to earn an MBA from the University of Virginia.
PRESIDENT, FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN, EVERGREEN ENTERPRISES; CEO AND CO-OWNER, PLOW & HEARTH, RICHMOND
A native of Shanghai, Xu understands the difficulties of owning a small business.
Although she now runs one of the U.S.’s largest flag wholesalers, Xu launched Evergreen Enterprises from her garage in 1993.
When demand for outdoor heaters by restaurant owners skyrocketed last year because the chances of contracting COVID-19 while outside are lower, Xu wanted to help.
After locating 200 much-in-demand outdoor heat lamps, she worked with the city of Richmond to donate them to small-business owners. “We’re fortunate to have the sourcing capabilities and factory partners to help us deliver these sought-after heaters,” Xu said in a statement.
Evergreen Enterprises has come a long way since Xu’s mother designed and sewed flags that the family sold at the Virginia State Fair. With annual revenue of about $250 million and more than 1,000 employees, Evergreen Enterprises sells home and garden decor, gifts and licensed sports items. The company more than doubled the size of its Richmond showroom this year.
Over a decade ago, Xu and her husband, Frank Qiu, bought PH International LLC, parent company to a number of brands, including Madison-based Plow & Hearth, which sells home decor and garden products.