How Kenny Family Stores Continue to Lead the Way for Employee Relations
For the more than 1,200 employees that live in the greater Delaware region, Delaware Supermarkets Inc./Kenny Family ShopRite is a place that keeps true to its values as a family business.
Bernie Kenny opened the first ShopRites in 1995, and since then, it’s grown into a six-store chain in Northern Delaware. Over time, the company leadership has expanded to include three generations of the Kenny family and seen dividends from adopting a family atmosphere in each of the stores.
That includes investing in their employees, setting them up for the best chance of success. Take it from Tisha Adams, the day front end manager at the Bear ShopRite, and Lin Harmon, the third shift manager at the Christiana ShopRite.
About 14 years ago, Tisha Adams decided to move her family from Brooklyn, N.Y. to Delaware for a slower and safer way of life. At that time, she said there were drug dealers on almost every corner and worried about her three children getting swept up in the city’s fast pace.
Adams was looking for a job, so through the Goodwill Employment Center, she was hired as a cashier at the Brandywine ShopRite around 2008 and two years later transferred to the Riverfront location.
“It’s hard being a single parent. You either mess up at home or you mess up at work, and I fought to keep them off the streets,” Adams said. “At ShopRite, it’s clear that family should come first. No matter how many tribulations I had, they kept me working. It was like I had nine lives.”
Adams almost reached her breaking point in 2008, when her childcare options fell through so she assumed she would have to quit. Instead, her manager Jennifer Selvaggi asked her to come in for a meeting to talk about the decision first.
“Jennifer gave me 30 days of shifts from 9 to 5 to help me find a solution, anyone to watch my kids. And it worked out,” she said. “One of my coworker’s husbands stepped up to watch them for me.”
From there, Adams started moving up in the company, from opportunities to be a supervisor to moving to managing the night shift at the Bear store after a few years. She was a little hesitant because of the fast-paced work at ShopRite’s top performing store but decided to take it after talking with the Bear ShopRite manager — another former supervisor at the Riverfront store.
Three years ago, Adams was promoted to day front end manager, after realizing the timing worked out now that her older children can help out a little more with her youngest. The job requires her to manage cashiers, self-checkout stations, customer service, scheduling, and even wiping down shopping carts with sanitizer wipes. Looking back now, she said it all could have gone a different way if the company let her resign years ago.
“I could have been told to leave and reapply when I had straightened out my situation, but really they meet you where you are. They meet you where you’re at, and it’s a true family-oriented business,” Adams said. “I’m blessed to have found a career with ShopRite. Most definitely.”
When Lin Harmon was a teenager, she was looking for a little extra money to help pay for her college education down the line. When she applied for a cashier position at ShopRite, she had no idea she was embarking on a 50-year career.
When she applied, she was a junior in high school looking for a part-time job. Now she’s the third shift manager, overseeing 12 people in her department and responsible for others on the night shift — as well as a grandmother and mother.
“Night shift isn’t for everyone, but I like it, and it works as a single parent. I was there for my kids’ games and other after school activities,” Harmon said. “I like to work with my hands and keep them busy. I’ve had other opportunities in the company, but I chose not to, because this works for me and it worked for my family.”
In the early days of her career, Harmon would gravitate to stocking some shelves to keep herself busy. She was promoted to that role, and worked on stocking shelves, despite the general attitudes around women in blue collar jobs at the time.
Reflecting on it, Harmon believes she was given the hardest work — the heaviest items and the aisles that needed a lot of restocking – almost as a test. Back then, Harmon said that society at large was skeptical of women in the workplace.
“Even though they were skeptical they gave me a chance. Sometimes it seemed like the owner of the time wanted to see if I would struggle with it, but I kept pushing and kept moving, no matter what happened,” she said. “But I pushed through. When Bernie Kenny took over, it was clear that they gave everyone a chance, and everyone has an opportunity.”
Harmon, known for her patience, is often tasked with training new members of the team, and to this day, she says many people have worked their way up the ladder. Her manager started as a trainee. At first, he had some struggles, and it was unclear whether he would continue there. But Harmon offered to retrain him instead, and he took off from there.
What keeps Harmon on nights right now is the flexibility and the family atmosphere. Night shift, she said, is a “different breed” where everyone celebrates a coworker’s baby being born or checking up on someone if they’re having a sore back. But that culture also goes to the top of the company as well.
“It’s comfortable. When I walk through the door, I really feel like I’m at home with my people,” Harmon said. “The Kenny family is really family first and always flexible with whatever we need.”