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CARY, N.C. – The Pantry Inc.'s search for a new president and CEO began early last fall and ended this morning with the appointment of Dennis Hatchell. And at least one industry analyst is giving the decision a thumbs up.
"Overall, I like the announcement," Benjamin Brownlow, an analyst with Morgan Keegan told CSNews Online. "Near-term, I expect an adjustment period as Hatchell gets to know the fuel service business and c-store customer. That said, I believe he possesses the experience [The Pantry] needed with a background in foodservice, merchandising, retailing and operations -- all of which are core attributes to leading the turnaround."
Hatchell will take the reins from interim president and CEO Ed Holman on March 5, after the company's annual meeting. He comes to the parent of Kangaroo Express from the grocery industry. Hatchell most recently served as vice chairman of Alex Lee Inc., based in Hickory, N.C., a holding company for Lowe's Food Stores, Merchants Distributors Inc. and Institution Food House. Before ascending to that position last year, he served as president and COO of the company beginning in 1995.
Holman will remain in his position as chairman of the board of directors of The Pantry, working closely with Hatchell.
"I am excited about joining The Pantry and the opportunity to lead this business. The Pantry is one of the largest retailers in the convenience store industry and has tremendous potential to grow and continue to be a dominant leader in its markets," Hatchell said. "My initial focus will be to work with the board and the management team to refine our strategic vision, prioritize our investments to increase shareholder value and get to know store-level operations to fully understand the needs of our customers and employees."
All told, Hatchell's resume includes more than 39 years of experience in the grocery business beginning at Western Grocers (SuperValu) in Denver in 1972. During his eight years there, he held several positions, rising to vice president, general manager. He then moved on to Merchants Distributors Inc., a division of Alex Lee, where he served as president from 1980 to 1986. Additionally, he served as group vice president of merchandising and store operations from 1986 to 1989 for H. E. Butt Grocery Co. in San Antonio, and as president of Lowes Food Stores Inc., another division of Alex Lee, from 1989 to 1995.
"After an extensive search process, the board is delighted that Dennis will be joining The Pantry as president and CEO," said Wilfred A. Finnegan, lead director. "Dennis is a proven leader who possesses a unique blend of merchandising and operating experience. We believe his successful track record in the food distribution and retail grocery business, where he served in various principal positions for 33 years, make him ideally suited to lead the company, as it continues to grow and succeed in the highly competitive convenience store market sector. The board is very appreciative of the leadership that Ed Holman has provided on an interim basis to keep the company focused on its strategic objectives."