General Merchandise

New Seasons Market CEO Launching Healthy C-Store Company

"Green" grocery exec stepping down to spin off aligned venture

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Lisa Sedlar, president and CEO of the New Seasons Market grocery chain in Portland, Ore., is stepping down effective November 2 to launch a new venture--her own healthy convenience store company.

According to a report by The Oregonian, Sedlar, 46, envisions a chain of small neighborhood stores stocked with healthy options, such as locally cured salami and gourmet cheeses.

She plans on a well-stocked meat counter and healthy meals to go, as well as local produce and good coffee for commuters. Along with neighborhoods--starting in the Portland area--Sedlar sees the need for her idea in airports and college campuses, said the report.

The new business is licensed with the state of Oregon as Modern Convenience Food Stores, but Sedlar told the newspaper that she has not settled on a name--a task she may let be decided by a community naming contest.

She added that she is in the midst of negotiations on her first location and can't share the address.

"I'm realizing a lifelong dream," Sedlar told the Oregonian. Sedlar said she had her original inspiration for the new company while working as an executive with a pharmacy chain in Boulder, Colo., where she saw a steady stream of college kids in and out of a local gas station's convenience store.

"These kinds of stores usually survive on sales from cigarettes and 40-ouncers [of beer]. I remember thinking how great it would be if they could be convenient and have good meat and produce," said Sedlar.

"It's a really compelling idea," Laurie Demeritt, president of The Hartman Group, a Seattle-area consumer research firm, told the paper. "Consumers are increasingly interested in fresh and less-processed foods. And, they're going to be willing to pay a little more--especially if there's someone there behind the meat counter to talk about why it's great and where it came from. It's not all about self-service, there still needs to be that emotional enjoyment."

New Seasons Market will be a minority investor in Sedlar's company.

"I love New Seasons Market and am proud of the work we have done together to strengthen the company, the regional food economy and the local community," said Sedlar. "We have an incredible staff of talented and committed people who live and advance our mission every day. We have expanded our relationships with home-grown farmers, ranchers, fishers and food producers and put in place many policies and programs that model our commitment as a progressive workplace."

A chef that shifted in her mid-20s to retail, Sedlar joined New Seasons as president in 2005. She was promoted to CEO in late 2010.

Sedlar has made significant contributions to New Seasons Market, the regional food economy and the local community. With her leadership as president and then as president and CEO, the company has grown to nearly 2,400 employees, opened eight stores with two more slated to open over the next two years. She has also worked on increasing food security through her service on the board for Oregon Food Bank and The Portland Public Market, the advisory committees of Food Alliance and the Food Innovation Center and as a progressive business leader on the board of the Oregon Business Association.

"We deeply appreciate the vision and leadership Lisa has brought to the company and the community--resulting in hundreds of new jobs, a stronger regional food economy and deepening New Seasons Market's commitment to investing in the local community. We are excited to be the first investor in her new company that will open healthy convenience stores, create more jobs and strengthen our local foodshed," said co-founder and board member Stan Amy.

"We feel a sense of loss, of course, but on the other hand we're truly excited about Lisa's idea," Amy told the Oregonian, adding that the smaller format likely will complement New Seasons' larger stores.

Sedlar will work closely with New Seasons Market's operating committee to ensure smooth operations through the transition period. New Seasons Market is conducting a search and plans to name a new CEO in early 2013.

Founded by three Northwest families 12 years ago, New Seasons Market has12 locations across the Portland-Vancouver area. It is one of the largest private employers in the region and has been recognized as one of the best and greenest companies to work for in Oregon.

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