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The Fresh Market leader shares lessons learned from stock boy to store manager

With more than four decades in the grocery industry under his belt, Roman Perez is setting the standard for successful store management.

4 min read

FoodFood Retail

FMI Store Manager Award winner Roman Perez


Even though it was almost 50 years ago, Roman Perez remembers the exact day he started his first job in the grocery industry.

“It was Feb. 13, 1976,” Perez said. “I was a teenager trying to earn a little money for a new car and my buddy worked at the Winn-Dixie right by my house and said, ‘Come on. You can work with me here.’”

So Perez interviewed and soon started stocking shelves at the Clewiston, Fla., store in a part-time position. Soon, he discovered that studying inventory algorithms meshed with the fact that he was “a math guy” and interacting with guests helped break him out of his shy demeanor. 

“I really liked the job,” Perez said. “We had a great, great camaraderie among the team there. It was challenging, but I really got interested in all of that – and that’s why I stuck with it.” 

Now, more than 48 years later, Perez is store manager of The Fresh Market in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where his love for numbers has helped the store reach significant sales goals and an impressive EBITDA margin while his love for people has resulted in the store beating the grocery chain’s corporate turnover goal by double digits, according to FMI – The Food Industry Association, which recognized Perez as a Store Manager Award winner this year. The award comes on the heels of two significant recognitions Perez recently received from The Fresh Market: its 2023 President’s Club Award and being named runner-up for its Founder’s Award.

Instilling a sense of community

Perez fortifies his store as a community hub through creative efforts such as a center-store restaurant and supports the community the store serves through partnerships with local farmers and vendors as well as through donations and volunteer efforts with area food banks. 

Creating a sense of community was something Perez learned early in his career during his time as an assistant manager at a Winn-Dixie in Lake Worth, Fla., while working with store manager Willie Prieschl.

“He was so friendly and so nice to all the customers and the team members, too,” Perez said. “I watched him and I thought, ‘I can do that throughout my career, too.’ I learned from Willie that, even when you’re having a bad day, it can turn into a great day when you start talking to a guest and they start telling you their story.”

Now, Perez says, the most rewarding part of his job is hearing feedback from his customers (or, as The Fresh Market calls them, “guests”).

“Nearly every day I’ll hear, ‘Hey, Roman, the store looks great’ or ‘The deli did a wonderful job with my sandwich’ or ‘The meat department cuts the best ribeyes,’” Perez said. “And every night, when I’m driving home, I think, ‘OK, what could I have done better today, and I reflect on that and talk it over with my team the next day. We’ve got really good teamwork here and that results in great customer service. I just try to treat everyone the way I want to be treated.”

The aisle ahead

Though retirement from his current position may be on the horizon, Perez has no intention of leaving the industry altogether. 

“Now that (Fresh Market) is owned by Cencosud, we’re in different countries, and I think the fact that I’m bilingual can really be an asset to our industry and our company,” Perez said. “But I’ll admit, it will be really hard to leave the team that I’ve built here.”

Since he started his career in the industry as a teen, Perez encourages today’s young adults to consider a career in food retailing.

“There are so many jobs within the industry that can appeal to so many people, regardless of their interests,” he explained. “We have buyers, merchandisers, regional managers. You can work in advertising, on the finance team, in HR – there are so many opportunities for a long, happy career within the industry.”

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