In November, Leevers Supermarkets, Inc., became a PFMA member, adding 14 Save A Lot stores from the Philadelphia area to the association.
Earlier this year, the Colorado-based Leevers Supermarkets acquired the Philadelphia stores. Leevers is a family-owned chain that also operates Save A Lots and Colorado Ranch Markets stores in Colorado.
Leevers has been in business for 75 years. The acquition of Philadelphia Save A Lots essentially doubled the company’s size.
Describing the last quarter of the year at High’s as busy is an understatement. Meghan Mattern, advertising and social media manager for Carroll Motor Fuels and High’s, has a packed schedule and is constantly on the road.
But it’s a “busy” that she loves because—as neighborhood stores—her days are filled with events that invest in the communities they serve. High’s holds numerous fundraisers, Christmas tree lightings, breakfasts with Santa and an annual Manager Summit among other events that give back to its neighborhoods and employees.
“We try really hard to create a positive culture,” Mattern said. “We put our best foot forward. Even at the corporate level, we really try to be an example.”
High’s, a new PFMA member since October, is a Maryland-based convenience store chain known for its high-quality food service. Although most of its 54 stores operate in the Baltimore, Md., area, they also have locations in Mount Joy, Columbia, Lititz and Emigsville, Pa.
With a history that dates back nearly 100 years, High’s first started as a Mid-Atlantic ice cream store chain that eventually evolved into convenience stores. The hand-dipped ice cream and shakes are still available in stores today, featuring popular flavors like Heritage Strawberry, Mad Cow Fudge and Butter Pecan. High’s made-from-scratch ice cream is definitely a draw for customers, Mattern said.
“It’s almost nostalgic. It’s easy to build off nostalgia. Local customers look forward to the ice cream and eggnog,” she said.
In fact, it’s not unusual for customers to drive a few hours with a cooler to pick up their favorite sweet treat around the holidays. Previously, High’s operated stores in the Virginia and Washington, D.C., areas, and several past customers still make the trek up.
In addition to its ice cream, High’s offers a variety of popular foods at most locations—such as hand-breaded fried chicken, craft pizzas, premium coffees, breakfast sandwiches and more—with expanded menus soon coming to all stores.Convenience stores continue raising the food service bar, and High’s is all in—they recently debuted a premium jumbo lump crab cake sandwich and a pit beef sandwich at select locations.
“It’s always interesting to see what c-stores will come up with and are willing to try,” Mattern said.
Beyond quality food service, High’s stands out because of its people, Mattern said. The High’s team provides friendly service with a smile. “We have a great talent acquisition team that spends a lot of time training our managers. They work very hard to empower them.”
The family feel and team environment is authentic, she said, and it was a huge benefit during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. When reflecting on the challenges of the past 18 months, one of Mattern’s coworkers said, “There will always be challenges. It’s nothing we can’t overcome as a team.”
“We would not have gotten through it without each other,” she added. “COVID opened our eyes to that. We really have to work as a team if we want to succeed.”
Although COVID presented plenty of problems, it also provided new opportunities. Gas stations and convenience stores sometimes find it hard to shake the stigma over cleanliness issues, Mattern said. So High’s Stores took an extra step to earn a new Safe Shop Assured™ Certification—a direct results of the pandemic.
C-stores can earn the certification after completing a 10-point checklist of essential safety measures. High’s Operations team worked diligently to earn the certification, Mattern said. A diverse board of retailers, suppliers and industry experts ensure that the stores are well maintained, clean and ready for customers. “We take pride in our store conditions. It’s definitely something we try hard to let our customers know.”
What gets Mattern most excited is the work they accomplish for the community. One of her favorite projects is the Keep the Change Program. The round-up campaign benefits Central Pennsylvania and Maryland foodbanks. In the month of November, the program raised $13,000.
“We’re thrilled with that. We’re proud of our managers for making that happen.”
For more than 30 years, Carroll Fuel and now High’s raised funds for Johns Hopkins Children’s Center through an annual golf outing. This past year, the outing raised $30,000, which was then matched by the company.
Mattern said High’s also contributes to the Red Cross for disaster relief, created care packages to distribute to area hospitals, supported local schools and held a friendly ice cream sundae building contest between local firefighters and police officers. This time of year, store managers look forward to hosting a variety of holiday festivities in their communities.
Whether working through challenges, trying new things or collaborating with the community, Mattern said it happens because the company invests in its team and surrounding neighborhoods. It’s an environment that the customers can feel, too, and one they are happy to bring to Pennsylvania.
“Family here is huge. Family is important, and our atmosphere reflects that,” Mattern said.
What are your top three legislative priorities in 2022? If you follow the actions of the legislature, early 2022 will be dominated by conversations and actions around redistricting. The legislature must approve a new Congressional map, which will feature one less district after the census, and the legislative reapportionment commission will produce districts for the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives. Additionally, the budget process will start in February. Those big-ticket items are important, but they are not our only important priorities right now.
We must also continue our efforts to help the commonwealth recover and rebuild from the effects of COVID-19 and the shutdowns. There is still so much to do in terms of both public health and the economic future for Pennsylvanians.
Along those lines, we will continue our efforts to grow workforce opportunities. Every person deserves the opportunity to find good paying, family sustaining careers. We have shown that commitment through increasing funding for trade schools and other high performing institutions and pursuing the kinds of investment in Pennsylvania that can have a multi-generation impact. That includes, for example, the ethane cracker plant in Beaver County and a natural gas plant planned for Northeastern Pennsylvania. These are investments in our existing resources that have and will employ thousands and thousands of people.
Finally, we must protect and grow the financial well-being of the commonwealth. We made significant strides in our current budget, depositing $2.5 billion in our state’s rainy day fund. It is now our responsibility to take our significant savings and help provide stabilization going forward, particularly for small businesses most impacted by the pandemic. Plus, we can be in a better position to pay down debt after years of neglect.
What are the important issues facing your district? You don’t have to look very far in my district before you will find a ‘help wanted’ sign. There are many jobs available, and frankly, not enough qualified people to fill them. We have openings across trades, and employers offering family sustaining careers do not have applicants with the relevant training and certifications to do the jobs. So, it goes back to the workforce development goal; we must continue to create pathways for people to find the training that employers need. Additionally, my district is dominated by the agriculture industry—it is really the backbone of our community. Farmers of all types are concerned with meeting the federal testing requirements related to Chesapeake Bay run-off while keeping their farms in a position to prosper and support our local economy.
I look back on our time in the leader’s office, where it is your job to set the legislative calendar, and I take great pride in our efforts. In that legislative session we passed 650 bills, 96% of which had bipartisan support and 64% were passed unanimously by the House.
Where do you shop locally for food? We are fortunate to have countless local farm stands and markets in our community, so I try to frequent those when possible, depending on what is in season. However, you are most likely to see me doing my shopping at the Giant Food at the Buck (outside of Quarryville). It’s in the same shopping center as my District office!
What family holiday tradition can you not live without? When it comes to Christmas, we always watch A Christmas Story. Some years, we start it the night before and then have it on throughout Christmas Day. One of my kids usually tries to talk us into starting a new tradition, but it doesn’t take long before we’re all laughing and quoting our favorite parts. We also make sure to watch Die Hard, which I remind my family is a Christmas movie!
What are the biggest challenges for grocers in your district? The grocers are facing the same challenges as other industries in our area; they are struggling to find staff to adequately run their businesses. It is an issue up and down the supply chain and that can be noticed when you’re walking through the stores in terms of what is on the shelves. However, the “help wanted” and “now hiring” signs are easy to see in markets of all sizes. As I mentioned, our community has a number of local produce markets and producers, so that helps us avoid some challenges consumers may see in other parts of the commonwealth, but staffing and training are still an issue.
What are your biggest challenges and successes as a legislator? The challenge is the very process of how we change laws, and it’s challenging by design. It is convincing 253 lawmakers (the House and Senate combined) and the Governor that what you believe is an issue is something that truly is a problem. Once that is accomplished, you then have to convince them all over again that your idea is the best way to fix it—and that takes time, regardless of what issue you are trying to solve.
As for successes, I’ve been very fortunate. I look back on our time in the leader’s office, where it is your job to set the legislative calendar, and I take great pride in our efforts. In that legislative session we passed 650 bills, 96% of which had bipartisan support and 64% were passed unanimously by the House. Those stats do not include resolutions, either. It did include things like the statewide health insurance exchange, which has turned into a major success story, cutting out-of-pocket costs down more than 5% for health care consumers. It also included an agriculture package of bills to assist our farmers, a package of bills to help recruit and retain volunteer firefighters and other first responders, and most recently I am very proud of our efforts to make the largest deposit in the history of our state’s rainy day fund, a decision that looks more prudent as time goes on and we get a better idea of what challenges we may face in the years to come.
What is your favorite food or meal to cook? My favorite thing to cook is actually something I bake. I make my mother’s, completely from scratch, homemade chocolate zucchini cake. She made it for us as kids and it’s just so dense, moist and delicious it’s a big hit in our house. I also love making breakfast. I’ll get up early and make omelets, bacon and pancakes. And I love spending time with my grill—firing off steaks and burgers.
What do you like to do for fun? I try to get outside as much as possible. Hiking and backpacking or riding mountain bikes. In the past few years, I’ve also taken up CrossFit. It’s very early mornings, but I love the challenge and the competition. Along those lines, when I’m healthy enough I love to compete in triathlons and running races.