Earl Redner, founder of grocery store chain, dies

MAIDENCREEK TWP., Pa. - Earl Redner, a man who started his career in the food business as a teenager and would go on to build a successful chain of grocery and convenience stores, has died. He was 91.

"It is with a heavy heart that we share our founder, Earl W. Redner, passed away in the early hours Wednesday morning," the Berks County-based Redner's Markets said in a statement.

Redner's said it will have more to say about Earl Redner's life, work, and achievements on Thursday.

Earl Redner, along with his late wife, Mary, founded their company in 1970, when the couple combined Mary's; savings account and his stock and pension money to buy two small IGA-affiliated supermarkets, one in Berks County, the other in Montgomery County.

Redner led his family's company for 20 years, retiring in October 1990 and passing the management roles on to his sons, Richard and Gary.

"My father was a role model for not only myself and our family but also the food industry. He lived a long, successful life and made a tremendous difference in the community," said Richard Redner. "I'm thankful he was able to see his dream and company become more successful than he ever imagined.  His spirit and enthusiasm remained high and he continued to attend board meetings, visit stores and would enjoy speaking with our employee-owners often."

Over his two decades of leadership, Earl Redner set his company on a path to becoming what it is today. Most notably, in 1987, the company converted its supermarkets to a warehouse concept, allowing it to triple business in existing stores over the next three years and expand all of those stores to handle the increased volume.

Eight years earlier, Redner's became an independent chain, no longer operating as a franchise of IGA Food Stores. It also became the first supermarket chain in Pennsylvania to be employee-owned in 1975, when it implemented an employee stock ownership plan.

Earl Redner got his start in the food business in 1940 when, at the age of 16, he joined the Grand Union Tea Company in Middletown, New York. His first stop was a potato bagger and stoker of the furnace. He spent the next 29 years working for Grand Union in various positions that included assistant store manager, district sales manager, and supervisor of stores in Washington, D.C.

Upon his retirement in 1990, Redner continued to play an active role in the company he founded. It has since grown to include dozens of stores in eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland.

The company also plays an active role in community events, organizations, and fundraisers, including the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves' Toys for Tots program, Crime Alert Berks County, and the Gary Redner 5K Memorial Race/Walk and 1-mile Fun Run.

Mary Redner, a former kindergarten teacher, died in 2007.

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