Elysburg native climbs to top of Giant ladder
SHAMOKIN - Rick Herring was a college student when he worked summers on a vegetable and fruit farm in the Catawissa area.
A 1978 graduate of Southern Columbia Area High School, he was working toward a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting at Albright College in Reading. On the farm, a customer of his was the Giant grocery store in Bloomsburg.
Giant had been a customer of his father's when Glenn worked for a time at Butter-Krust in Sunbury long ago. Rick's mother, Dolores, worked at one point as a cashier at Giant's old Shamokin Dam store.
All those years ago, all those connections to Giant, and today he runs the company.
Who would have guessed?
"They helped pay my way through college with their affiliation with Giant, and so it kind of comes back full circle," Herring, 53, of Mechanicsburg, said in an interview Thursday at the Giant grocery store at Monroe Marketplace north of Selinsgrove.
Raised in Elysburg
Rick was born and raised in Elysburg, one of three siblings. His parents lived on West Center Street from 1952 until their deaths in 2011 and 2012.
He was an athlete as a kid, a baseball player. It was a passion of his father's, who started a Little League team when there was none immediately local. Same for a teener league team. Glenn had wanted to play, too, when he got out of the military, so he started an adult league team.
Rick played a lot of baseball in the coal region as a teen. He recalled playing at Bunker Hill and at Coal Township stadium. He was among the fans who saw softball great Eddie "The King" Feigner play locally. He would play baseball in high school, in college and as an adult up until he turned 33 years old.
His dad instilled a passion for the game in he and his brothers, Bob and Randy, and certainly others. In turn, the youth baseball field at Ralpho Township Community Park was dedicated to Glenn during this year's All Home Day Celebration.
"My dad, along with constant support from my mom, Dolores, helped to bring baseball alive for the young men in Elysburg and throughout Ralpho Township," Rick said during the dedication ceremony Sept. 1. "For dad, it was all about helping the kids."
Began as accountant
Rick described himself as an above-average student in both high school and college. He took an interest in numbers and followed that through college. Along with a bachelor's degree, he also holds a MBA in finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University and is a certified public accountant.
His first job was as a public accountant with one of the "big eight" firms, Arthur Anderson. Three years later he would take a job with the Pathmark supermarket chain in New Jersey, where he would eventually lead the internal audit department. A cold call from a headhunting firm would bring him back to Pennsylvania. Giant Food Stores was looking to develop its own audit department.
"I answered a cold-call which generally I wouldn't do. My wife is from Lancaster, so we were interested in getting back to Pennsylvania and it was an opportunity to do that," he said.
Giant Food Stores had 48 stores at the time. It was a "small company with a small company feel," Rick said, something he appreciated.
Up the ladder
His role at Giant allowed him to work directly with company executives, not a bad opportunity for a young employee to make a good impression on the company brass. He likened the position to a consultant, and it put him in a position to branch out beyond finance. He worked in areas like merchandising, supply chain, human resources and construction.
Giant, which today has 200 stores in four states, was growing at the time. In 1999, Rick was picked to lead a group that oversaw finances for 800 total stores that are part of Ahold USA, the holding company that owns Giant.
"I think that as much as anything got recognition from folks" in the company, he said.
When the position of chief financial officer opened in 2003, Rick landed the job. Six years later in 2009, the board of directors named him company president.
"My goal wasn't to become president of the company. It kind of was the furthest thing from my mind. My goal was to be able to live out my faith, my values, raise my kids and have a good career with a good company that I could be loyal to," he said, crediting his colleagues for playing a role in his success.
"When they said 'here's an opportunity, we'd like you to become president,' I was surprised."
As president, Rick works at Giant Food Stores' Carlisle office. He steers support groups and oversees and coordinates activities with various vice presidents from multiple departments. There are many meetings and reviews of reports - sales, construction and otherwise. He meets weekly with the heads of three other supermarket chains owned by Ahold USA.
There are many social engagements and community group meetings where Rick is asked to be guest speaker. And of course, new store openings. Giant Food Stores is opening two stores this month, one in the Philadelphia area and another in Ephrata.
Giant Food Stores donated $25 million last year through varied initiatives in the communities in which it operates, he said. He has long been impressed by those efforts.
"Long before I got here, it was always giving back," Rick said.
Rick himself is a board member of EconomicsPennsylvania, a nonprofit group that promotes and encourages understanding of economic concepts through education in kindergarten through 12th grade.
He also belongs to an oversight board for Penn State Hershey Medical Center and is a board member for the Salt and Light Youth Ministry of Camp Hill.
"My parents were always givers, whether it was through our church or the community; my wife and I are," he said.
Rick is married 29 years to his wife, Patti. The couple have four children: Christina, 23, Matt, 21, Elisabeth, 19, and Josh, 15.
Name: Rick Herring
Title: President, Giant Food Stores
Town: Mechanicsburg, raised in Elysburg
Parents: the late Glenn and Dolores Herring
Wife: Patti, married 29 years
Children: Christina, 23, Matt, 21; Elisabeth, 19; Josh, 15
Education: Southern Columbia Area High School, Class of 1978; B.S. accounting, Albright College, Reading; MBA finance, Fairleigh Dickinson, New Jersey; certified public accountant
Hobbies: painting, coin collecting