Business & Real Estate

Teel’s journey to top of Raley’s ladder began at the bottom

Michael Teel was born into the family-owned grocery business, but that did not represent a fast pass to the executive suite of Raley’s.

At 14, he was shagging shopping carts at one of the West Sacramento-based company’s stores. He bagged his share of groceries as well. His stint as a courtesy clerk evolved into him doing basic chores in various departments of Raley’s supermarkets.

Arguably, some of the most beneficial grocery industry education he received as a youngster came at the family dinner table.

“We had the traditional family dinner on Sundays. Sunday was a must, when Mom made a roast or her famous spaghetti. You learned a lot just sitting there,” Teel said in an interview Wednesday.

Teel, who would go on to become president and CEO of Raley’s, will soon fulfill the legacy of his grandfather, Tom Raley, who founded the company 80 years ago.

Jim and Joyce Raley Teel said they will transfer majority ownership to their son, and the Teels’ four daughters will continue to hold minority ownership. Under the transfer arrangement, Mike Teel will own 92 percent of the company, with his sisters equally sharing the remaining 8 percent.

Michael Teel, who recently turned 64, said he felt a combination of “pride, excitement, honor, responsibility” with the move. He characterized it as cementing a third generation of family commitment to the Sacramento region: “This is our home, and we’re here to stay.”

Tom Raley opened his first store in Placerville in 1935. Today, the company oversees more than 100 stores under the Raley’s, Bel Air and Nob Hill Foods banners.

Teel said plentiful challenges lie ahead.

In recent years, Raley’s has seen increased competition in its Northern California and Nevada niche, going against well-funded, established players such as Safeway and the proliferation of Walmart Neighborhood Market stores.

Raley’s, with 12,000 employees, has responded on several fronts, including the introduction of more organic offerings, plus a variety of other products touted as healthy.

Teel said Wednesday that “there will be continued focus on our customers’ health and wellness. I have a passion to transform our approach not only with the products that we sell and offer but how we impact the supply chain in a sustainable direction.”

In September 2012, Teel helped implement arguably the biggest consumer-outreach program in Raley’s history, launching Something Extra, the company’s first customer loyalty and rewards program. Besides in-store rewards, prices and specials, the program is tailored to individual shopper patterns with a goal of offering personalized incentives.

At launch, Teel proclaimed: “In the past, much of what we did was based on what the manufacturers wanted. From this day forward, we’re going to be customer-driven, doing what they want.”

On Wednesday, he said Raley’s will continue “listening to our customers, to what they’re buying and what they’re not buying.”

Also, Teel said Raley’s has streamlined in-house operations in recent years, including trimming its board from 11 members to five.