Wright, who got his start in the industry 31 years ago as many do — bagging groceries — credits an early mentor as a key influence in his career and the way he shapes his produce team.
“My biggest influence in the business was Marvin Damrauer, former vice president of produce at Seaway Foodtown,” he says. “Marv took me under his wing and taught me the business. He was tough as nails, but fair.”
Hard work and an aggressive approach were Damrauer signatures.
“He was in his 70s when I started working with him, and nobody was going to outwork him,” Wright says. “His tenacity and attention for detail made me a better person — better than I ever dreamed I could be. He’s been one of the most influential people not only in the business, but in my life.”
Before joining Tops, Wright was with Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spartan Stores Inc., where he held positions in produce sales, procurement and category management.
“I was working mostly in wholesale, and I missed the retail end of it,” he says. “This was like coming back to my roots. I was addicted to the pace, the people. I’ve spent 31 years in the business, but don’t feel like I’ve worked a day in my life. That’s the neat part of it — when you truly do something you enjoy, it’s not work.”
Tops, with its recently acquired Penn Traffic and Grand Union stores, as well as a new upscale test format in Orchard Fresh, is in an aggressive growth pattern. Wright says the retailer has nearly doubled in size during the past few years since he joined the company.