Commerce, Calif.-based wholesale distributor, Unified Grocers, has named Gelson's Markets as the recipient of the 2009 Ben Schwartz Retail Grocery Visionary award.

"Ben Schwartz is literally an icon in our industry and Unified Grocers is a longtime industry partner," said Robert Stiles, president of Gelson's Markets, in a news release. "To receive an award of this stature from people that we truly respect and admire is tremendously meaningful to all of us at Gelson's."

The award is named after a former director and chairman of the board of Unified Grocers. The honor is given annually to an independent retail grocer who is a leader and innovator in the retail grocery industry, the release said.

A Southern California 18-store chain of upscale markets founded by Bernard and Eugene Gelson in 1951, Gelson's Markets is based in Encino, Calif. and is a division of Arden Group Inc., Compton, Calif.

Gelson's Markets are located in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties.