Since then, his family-owned company, Ohio Valley Supermarkets, Inc., has grown to include six Foodland grocery stores, five Save-A-Lot supermarkets, a storage warehouse in Gallipolis, Bidwell Hardware and other real estate holdings. In addition to Gallia, Mason and Meigs counties, the company has stores in Jackson, Pike and Washington counties in Ohio, and Jackson County, W.Va. The company employs more than 300 people.
Bob Eastman, who passed away in 2009, spent a big chunk of his professional life in the grocery business, including 23 years as a district manager for Kroger. However, according to eldest son, Brent, his father and mother, Sheila, wanted to move closer to their home area in Meigs County.
“He wanted the opportunity to go into business for himself,” Eastman said. “He found the location out on Jackson Pike and it worked out pretty good for him.”
Eastman, vice president and director of sales, advertising and promotions, began working for the company when he was just 18.
“I’ve pretty much grown up in the business,” he said. “I guess, like a lot of grocery people say, once it gets in your blood, it kind of stays in there.”
Eastman said he has been witness to many changes in the grocery business over the years, from advances in technology to distribution processes to trends in what customers are looking for in a grocery store. One thing that has not changed, he said, is the commitment to serving the public and giving back to the community that his father taught he and his brother, Kevin, who is vice president and director of pricing and computer operations for the company.
“We try to be active in our communities because we realize that the communities are what make us,” Brent Eastman said. “Without the support of the consumer locally, we wouldn’t be in business. We have 300-plus employees that have been real dedicated and countless customers. We basically have to earn their business and we’ve tried to do that by serving them and providing what they’re looking for.
“One of the principles that dad stood for was to give back to the community that supports you,” Eastman added. “Another was try to be what you say you’re going to be. And he always felt that we needed to do what we had to do to serve the customer.”
Eastman said the company has served as a first job for thousands of people throughout the years. He said he often reflects on some of the individuals who have worked for the company and where they are now in their lives.
“I’ve gone back and thought, we’ve got so many doctors and so many lawyers, they’ve worked for us for a while and then went to do bigger and better things,” he said. “That’s what’s kind of neat about the grocery business. It’s a good business for people to get into and learn how to deal with the public and money before they move on.”
The 30th anniversary celebration kicked off Monday and special sale prices will be in effect this week. Customers can also register for drawings at each store.