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Gary Friedlander, president of Rice Food Markets, faces stiff competition at the checkout line as he leads the family grocery business into the third generation.
Gary Friedlander, grandson of Rice Food Markets founder William H. Levy and son of current Rice co-chairman Alfred Friedlander, says he was born into the grocery business. The only problem: He was born in Houston.
"I can't imagine a tougher market than Houston, Texas," says Gary Friedlander, the president and chief operating officer of Rice Food Markets. "Every major retailer in the country is here or has been here. We have very strong local stores - Randalls, Fiesta - who are strong around the state. Albertsons just came to town. Food Lion. Kroger. Safeway has come and gone.
"I picked a tough town to be born in," he says. "But we find a way."
Finding a way to keep the business successful has always been a family affair. Gary Friedlander's brother Tommy is senior vice-president and president of the company's real estate division, Rice Properties Inc.
Cousin Bruce Levy, son of co-chairman Joel Levy and grandson of William Levy, is chief financial officer. Vice president and specialty foods director Scott Silverman and grocery buyer Phil Cohen married into the family.
But corporate hierarchy and job titles are meaningless, says Gary, who took the title of president two years ago.
"I don't go in and tell my brother or my cousin what to do," he says. "We work well together. We've never had to take a vote on anything."