Chris Van Parys, president of W. Lee Flowers, Kj’s/IGA, was elected CFIC’s 19th president at the…
Tim Lowe, president of Lowes Foods and head of Alex Lee Retail, was elected as CFIC’s 17th president at the CFIC Convention in July. Tim has been involved with CFIC over the past eight years and has served on the CFIC Board of Directors for the past three.
Alex Lee—comprised of MDI, W. Lee Flowers, and Souto Foods on the wholesale side—serves more than 1,500 stores from Ohio to Florida. Alex Lee’s retail stores number more than 150 and operate as Lowes Foods, KJ’s Markets, and IGA stores serviced by Alex Lee and W. Lee Flowers.
Tim started his career as a retail pharmacist and quickly discovered that he enjoyed retail operations. That love fueled his career moves where, in the early days, he served as a buyer and merchant. These days, Tim provides a wide of range of operations support, including merchandising, human resources, brand management, and more.
When asked about changes he’s seen in the industry over his 30-year career, Tim commented, “We all know that this past year created an unprecedented shift for our industry unlike anything we have ever seen. The move into ecommerce, prepared foods, and an experiential environment is quite a bit different from the earlier days of my career in the grocery industry.”
Tim believes the future is bright for the grocery industry. He explained, “Consumers have discovered, especially during the pandemic, that they can cook—and they like it! They also have found a flare for new flavor adventures. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to keep them engaged by being the place for great meal solutions and trying new flavors to keep their eating experience engaging.”
When it comes to giving back to the community, Tim’s passion is helping address food insecurity: “Our team at Alex Lee has been involved with food banks across the Carolinas for some time, and we are one of the largest donors of food products in the region by working closely with partner organizations such as Feeding America banks to advance this important mission.”
Priorities and Values
Despite changes to the industry, the priorities remain the same. Tim explained, “[At Alex Lee] We have four priorities. Two are what a traditional retailer might have – safety and efficiency. But two are really about the shopping experience – friendliness and show. By show, we want our hosts, what we call our employees, to deliver an experience that is not ordinary. That might mean doing a chicken dance or it could be a smile when somebody is having a bad day. By creating a focus on a unique guest experience, that gives us a unique position in the market, coupled with business fundamentals, we create a sustainable balance.”
To create that unique guest experience, they rely on their core values established decades ago by the original founders, Alex and Lee George: “Like Alex used to say, if your suppliers and customers are not successful, you’ll never be successful. That principle has guided how we work with our vendors and everything we do for our guests. That also applies to how we treat our hosts. Our business is all about people.”
Tim was born and raised in the Houston, Texas, area and lived there through college. He has lived throughout the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions before settling here in the Carolinas (Winston-Salem, specifically) about eight years ago. He said, “This is our home now, and we love it here!”
Tim and his family (which includes his wife Karla, their four children—Brandon, Kellie, Cameron, and Shelbi—and seven grandchildren) like to spend as much time on the lake as possible, and while they love Winston-Salem, he says they also love to travel across the US and the Caribbean: “If it is warm with sand and the ocean, that’s where we want to be.”
Tim credits his dad for instilling a strong work ethic from a very young age. “I remember helping him around the shop as a young kid and I was always part of the family cabinet and countertop shop business that he had built. He taught me that faith, family, and honesty should always be in my DNA, and they certainly are today.”
“My dad had a ninth-grade education but proudly owned his own business. He proved that by working hard, loving family, and taking care of your community you can create your own path forward. A saying that dad used to share was from Max Dupree who said, ‘The future can be created, not simply experienced or endured.’ That has really stuck with me.”
As CFIC President, Tim wants to continue advancing representation for retailers across the Carolinas. He believes “CFIC serves the retail community in many, many ways. One of the biggest ways that I have observed is the ability to represent us to our state and local legislatures so that we can continue to focus on creating a growth environment for our industry and, at the same time, keep the focus on being able to serve the communities that we call home.”
His advice to fellow CFIC members: “Be involved! Don’t sit around and wait for others to protect your interests. To be your best, you should be present, active, and involved!”