- Former Kroger executive Suzy Monford has stepped down from her position as CEO of PCC Community Markets just eight months after being named to the top role, the Seattle-based cooperative grocer wrote in an email to members on Saturday.
- The co-op didn’t provide a reason for Monford’s departure in the letter from Paul Davis, chair of the grocer's board of trustees. In a statement PCC provided to Grocery Dive, Monford said, “I have made the difficult decision to leave PCC to pursue other career opportunities. Being part of PCC has been a very rewarding experience and I am fortunate to have been part of the co-op community.”
- Brad Brown, a former executive with outdoor retailer REI who served as interim CEO before Monford’s appointment, will again temporarily fill the top position while PCC’s board of trustees searches for a new chief executive.
Monford brought years of executive-level experience with grocers like Kroger and Andronico’s Community Markets to PCC’s top position, and her appointment seemed to signal big ambitions ahead for the nation’s largest cooperatively owned food retailer.
But her tenure got off to a controversial start. In late January, Monford wrote a letter to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan opposing the city’s $4-an-hour hazard pay ordinance, noting the move would harshly impact independent operators like PCC. Although the letter reflected the sentiment among many grocers at the time, numerous members and employees said it showed a lack of support for workers during the pandemic and went against the cooperative’s core values.
PCC quickly reversed course, and by mid-February had implemented a $4 hourly bonus to workers across its 15 stores, including those not covered by Seattle’s mandate. Monford’s earlier position, however, stoked fears that the co-op, which started as a buying club in 1953 and often takes leading positions on environmental policy and product standards, was being increasingly driven by a corporate mentality focused primarily on growth.
This spring, spurred by this perceived mission drift, two store employees ran for election to PCC’s board of trustees and won despite a lack of endorsement from the co-op's board. One of the ousted members was Brown, who had served on the board since 2017.
In addition to this opposition, Monford also faced steep operational challenges during the pandemic, from safety policies to store expansion. In June, PCC announced that a downtown location originally slated to open this summer would instead open in early 2022 due to a lack of workers, and also likely because many office workers, including Amazon’s, are still working from home.
It also recorded a sharp increase in membership, growing from around 70,000 members to more than 95,000 currently, The Seattle Times reported.
In his letter to members sent over the weekend, Davis reassured members that the board would begin “immediately” searching for a new CEO and noted Brown’s more than 40 years of leadership experience in e-commerce and information technology.
“Our focus with the CEO search is to identify and recruit a leader who embodies our co-op values and who brings not just the right experience and skills, but also the cultural appreciation needed to lead PCC into the future,” Davis wrote.
Prior to her stint at PCC, Monford spent three years with Kroger, most recently as group vice president of e-commerce. She also served for nearly two years as president of Kroger's Quality Food Centers banner in Washington and Oregon. Monford’s predecessor, Cate Hardy, a former Starbucks executive, led PCC for just over five years before leaving to become CEO of The Wine Group.