Big Bear 65th Anniversary

Columbus Powell Speeches

Thank you for coming, and welcome to Big Bear. I’m Gary Hirsch, the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of Penn Traffic, the company that operates Big Bear.

We’ve invited you here today to help us kick-off the 65th birthday celebration of Big Bear. Big Bear was started by Wayne Brown in a building on Lane Avenue that had previously been a dance hall, a roller skating rink and a horse show venue. Besides the widest selection of food and grocery items available for hundreds of miles, that first Big Bear featured a live bear mascot living in a cage in the store lobby. The parking lot held 3,000 cars, which was substantial back in 1934. At the time, Wayne Brown also owned the farm that is now the site of the store we are in today.

Columbus was a much smaller town back then. The population of Franklin County was about 360,000. Myron Gessaman was the mayor of Columbus. The Ohio State football team went 7-1 that year and finished second in the Big 10 under new coach Frank Schmidt. When Wayne Brown opened that first Big Bear across the street from the campus of Ohio State University, it was the first self-service supermarket in the Midwest…the very beginning of modern mass merchandising as we know it for thousands of miles around. From the beginning Wayne Brown instilled his personal philosophy of customer service into every employee. Big Bear hired the best possible employees, trained them in the fine points of customer service and promoted within Big Bear so that every employee felt the spark of personal ownership that drives the highest quality customer service in any business. All our employees believe in the value of a “Bear Hug.”

While growing to 73 supermarkets and expanding throughout Ohio and West Virginia, Big Bear has never forgotten the community. When the community needed something, Big Bear always proudly stepped forward, whether it was to feed the hungry…educate our youths…support the performing arts…or find a cure for breast cancer.

We haven’t forgotten the community, because in a profound way, Big Bear is the Columbus community. Over our 65 years in business, we’ve employed hundreds of thousands of people…kids in the first summer job…jobs through college… housewives needing part-time work…minorities needing that first break…and many men and women who made food merchandising their life’s work

Whether it’s participating in a Big Bear sponsored event or getting married out here at the Farm, many other lives have also been touched by the Bear. So, for more than 65 years, Big Bear has been part of the Columbus extended family.

Now, it’s no secret that the supermarket business grew more competitive in the mid-90s, both in Columbus and nationally. In our efforts to keep pace, Big Bear made many changes that our customers liked. We also made some mistakes, but our customers quickly set us straight by telling us what they want in a supermarket.

And now the Bear is better than ever! At 65, we are stronger and more vigorous. We have many new and remodeled stores, with more coming soon. And all our stores are carrying many new items that our customers want and need.

We are inviting the community to celebrate our 65th birthday with us for the entire month of October. They say it’s better to give than to receive, so we’re celebrating our 65th anniversary by giving our customers in Columbus and all over Ohio and West Virginia five major presents:

  1. Sales in the stores
  2. A wide variety of new products
  3. A month-long sweepstakes
  4. Fun events throughout the month, and
  5. Involvement in the community.

Details of these five gifts are in the information kit, so I’ll just hit the highlights. Let’s start with sales in the store, which our customers always appreciate:

  • For the entire month of October, we’re putting Bear Minimum pricing on the most popular items in every department.
  • Throughout all 73 Big Bear and Big Bear Plus stores we have 65¢ sales on a wide variety of items.
  • We’re also working with our Ohio food producers and suppliers on a number of special product promotions.

When customers come into Big Bears during October and beyond, they are going to see more than just good prices. They are going to see the widest variety of fresh and prepared foods and other groceries available in central Ohio. Here are some new tastes we’re cooking up at Big Bear:

  • Expanded sections of organic fruits and vegetables.
  • New breads like Spanish bou-lay.
  • Five different flavors of rotisserie chicken
  • Southwestern wrap sandwiches, all made with premium meat for take-home or eating in our deli seating area
  • An expanded line of international and specialty foods
  • Exclusive to Big Bear—a new Hormel line of pork that cooks tender enough to cut with a fork.

We’re introducing these and many other new products in all 73 stores.

Also in the stores, we’re going to have a month-long sweepstakes. There will be weekly sweepstakes drawings in every department of all 73 Big Bears.

  • Every week in every Big Bear, we’ll be giving away food gifts like a fruit baskets, sheet cakes, deli party packs and boneless ham.
  • And in November we’ll announce grand prize winners of such gifts as a red 1965 Corvette, a Disney Cruise and trips to Universal Studios and the Super Bowl.
  • In addition, we’re going to have a number of events in the stores, starting with the cutting of our cake, which will take place shortly. Also this month,
  • Ohio State and NFL great Chris Spielman will be making an appearance in our Dublin store on October 7 to kick-off this year’s campaign for the Stephanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research. All proceeds will go to the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Research Institute at OSU.
  • On October 17, we’re giving a free donut to the first 250 customers at every Big Bear. That works out to more than 18,000 free donuts.
  • During the month we’re also going to have shopping sprees and ceremonies honoring other important charities we support.

Our fifth gift for our 65th birthday celebration is community involvement.

  • Every manager of every Big Bear store has his or her own budget to sponsor events and support nonprofit organizations in their communities. • As usual this time of year, we will be providing low-cost flu shots in our stores. In October alone, customers will be able to get flu shot protection at 48 of our Big Bears.
  • We are also sponsoring two haunted houses for the Halloween celebration.

Sales in the stores…a wide variety of new products…a month-long sweepstakes…fun events throughout the month…and involvement in the community. We’re giving these five gifts to our customers and communities to say thank you.

Thank you for shopping at Big Bear for 65 years.

Thank you for appreciating our low prices, vast selection, convenient locations and innovative spirit.

Thank you for accepting us and our employees into your neighborhoods and towns, both in Franklin County and throughout Ohio and West Virginia.

Thank you for telling us what you like…and what you dislike.

And finally from every employee at Big Bear and Penn Traffic, thank you for loyally shopping our stores for 65 years.

Now, we would like to take you on a short tour of what’s new at Big Bear. Then we’ll cut the cake.