Mastrian, master merchant, hangs ’em up
CAMP HILL, Pa. —Jim Mastrian finished his last lap in style. Rite Aid’s special adviser of corporate strategy, who retired Aug. 31, after more than 40 years of service to the retail pharmacy industry, attended his last Rite Aid Management Conference and Supplier Exhibition, held at the Baltimore Convention Center last month, on a high note. Rite Aid’s acquired Brooks/Eckerd store bases are on the upswing—positive comps are expected as soon as September—as the No. 3 drug retailer nears completion of the last of the minor remodels. And Rite Aid’s executive team is galvanizing the troops to make a run at what essentially will be the company’s second turnaround in a decade—first one Rite Aid, now Brooks/Eckerd.
That would mark three turnarounds that were engineered, in part, by Mastrian—before joining Rite Aid Mastrian played a key role in revitalizing Revco just before that company was acquired by CVS.
Rite Aid paid tribute to Mastrian during its annual gala celebration. “You will not find a leader with more enthusiasm and character,” Mary Sammons, Rite Aid chairman, president and chief executive officer, told Rite Aid associates and vendors during the chain’s trade show.
Indeed, Sammons’ comments echo themes repeated often by many in the industry whose lives and careers were impacted by Mastrian’s considerable intelligence and unselfish leadership. Never afraid to get his hands dirty, yet Mastrian never micromanaged. Proteges and collegues alike told Drug Store News. Instead, Mastrian’s style was to champion the executives that worked for him, allowing them autonomy in the business segments they managed and instilling an intense loyalty among those who looked to Mastrian as a career mentor.
Industry leaders praise Mastrian as leader, mentor and industry stalwart
Drug Store News talked to a number of retailers and suppliers about the impact of Jim Mastrian, who retired last month as Rite Aid special adviser of corporate strategy. Here’s some of what they had to say:
Mary Sammons, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Rite Aid:
“You will not find a leader with more enthusiasm and character. Jim’s leadership is rooted in integrity and from a sense of inner conviction that leaders must live their messages by example.… The attributes of character, attitude, deeds and wisdom form the essence of his leadership. He has made enormous contributions throughout the 10 years he has been a member of our team.…
Jim is widely recognized as a leader in our industry receiving numerous accolades, including the prestigious Retailer of the Year and Marketer of the Year honors.…
Jim is widely regarded as a mentor. He teaches that there are no shortcuts to success: ‘That the fastest way to the top floor is to take the stairs, not the elevator.’…
People would walk through walls for Jim because he’s empowered them and taught them how to win.”
Steve Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores:
“Throughout his entire career, Jim has been a friend and strong supporter of our industry and of NACDS. Jim’s service to NACDS as a member of the board of directors will be missed. His many friends at NACDS wish him well for the future. We thank him for his many and great contributions to NACDS and to the industry, which are better because of him.”
Bryan Shirtliff, senior vice president of category management at Rite Aid:
“Jim knows the drug store industry, and knows it well. In fact, there’s probably no one in the industry that has the knowledge and the expertise that Jim has. Whether you’re talking about a situation in supply chain or category management, merchandising or operations, chances are, Jim’s faced something similar in his career and knows how to successfully resolve the issue, or has a pretty good idea of how to go about handling the situation.
And it’s not just work with Jim. He puts his all into everything he does, and really cares about his work and how it’s done. He doesn’t believe in taking shortcuts or trying to cut corners. Jim was involved every step of the way, always right there in the middle of whatever was going on, making sure he understood every last detail…and he had the dirt under his fingernails to prove it. He’s a mentor in every sense of the word, setting the example through his actions, as well as his words. He taught me that the devil is in the details…and that you’ve got to inspect what you expect. Those words will stay with me always.”
Bruce Schwallie, executive vice president of business development in managed care at Longs Drug Stores:
“We worked together for a long time—We worked seven years at Revco. He taught me a lot, really mentored me from being a director of procurement all the way to senior vice president of marketing and merchandising. Seeing him in action and some of the disciplines that he instilled in me and the other members of our team was an excellent training program.… In the early ’90s, we were developing category management models, and Jim had his own view of how category management ought to work—with the merchant playing a key role in that and [involving] data analysis around the consumers and products. Our view of category management in the drug store industry was different at that particular time—a lot of people turned category management over to the particular vendor.
He’s played so many different roles. People will remember him as being a strong merchant and a tough negotiator. The mark he leaves on the industry is the people that he trained—there are a lot of [us] Mastrian-ites out there.”
Jerry Cardinale, senior vice president of indirect procurement at Rite Aid:
“Jim is really a consummate professional and a true merchant. He really understands what the consumer wants, and he knows how to deliver. The most outstanding [quality] with Jim is he cares about his people.… He’s a mentor and does everything he can to teach his people and help them grow. He fosters a loyalty in people he’s worked with that I’ve never seen before. He has a different perspective and is always thinking of better ways to do things.… It’s rare to encounter somebody who’s as well-rounded and knowledgeable as Jim in all aspects of the business.… He always tries to give credit to his people for the accomplishments he inspires.”
Vic Mazzacone, Vic Mazzacone, LLC (formerly senior vice president of corporate relations at Novartis Consumer Health):
“He is a tough competitor. In the earlier stages of his career, he was a tough merchant.… What he taught us as we were learning how to do business in those early stages—there were other executives who were always tough—Jim was one who was always fair. In the early stages, the word partnership didn’t exist. In the case of Jim, he had set the tone for what partnerships [mean] today. I think, and that’s really important.”
Jay Forbes, vice president and director of trade development at Lebhar-Friedman (parent company of Drug Store News):
“As I conclude a 45-year career with Drug Store News, I can recollect just a handful of retailing executives who truly made a difference in the fate of the chains they worked for, and the lives of the people whose careers they nurtured.… Jim has always brought unique talent and optimism to the table. He has never been reticent about recruiting the best talent available, quietly motivating them in the face of adversity and consistently supporting their efforts.
He has always been in a select circle of top execs whose word you could trust, whose approach to business was tough, but fair, and was, above all, a consummate merchant.… Jim will leave a legacy of ethical practice, competitive excellence and retailing savvy for all who follow.”
Wilson Lester, Jr., senior vice president of supply chain at Rite Aid:
“Jim is going to be remembered as one of the all-time icons in the retail industry. Because of his creativity and his innovative approach to the drug store business, he was the creator of a lot of different drug store retail strategies that were adopted by other chains as well as CPG [companies]. Jim’s known for his tenacity, his toughness, his total recall and most importantly, his passion for relationships and his passion for developing people.”
Judy Wray, category manager, beauty and PCA, Rite Aid:
“Jim has a very sharp mind. A lot of people can teach you all sorts of things, but he’s really one of those guys who takes it to the next level. I owe him so much for helping me look at the industry and business in a completely different way—much more analytically.”
Val Stansfield, category manager, candy, Rite Aid:
“I’ve worked with Jim over 25 years now—I’ve worked with him at Revco, Office Max and now here at Rite Aid. Being in the business 35 years, once in a lifetime you’re fortunate enough to work with someone like Jim.… Jim is your greatest champion…he would always be supportive.
I called him to wish him a happy birthday [recently]. Here it is Sunday, he’s retiring in four or five days, and he’s in here [Rite Aid] Saturday and Sunday hard at work.”
Scott Emerson, president, chief executive officer, The Emerson Group:
“Jim made people in the industry better. High demands, high loyalty. He will be missed.”
Suppliers characterized Mastrian as “tough but fair.” Mastrian, well-respected for his negotiation skills, allowed you to come away from any negotiations feeling that Rite Aid (or Revco, previously) was a true business-building partner, and not solely focused on turning short-term profits at the expense of the supplier.
After the gala celebration, Rite Aid hosted an after-party for Mastrian decked out in Cleveland Browns memorabalia—Mastrian is a die-hard Browns fan. Mastrian plans to spend a lot of time at Browns games.
Mastrian, a career pharmacist, served more than 40 years in the retail drug store industry, and joined Rite Aid in 1998 as executive vice president of category management. Before assuming his current role in 2007, Mastrian had served as chief operating officer since 2005. He was promoted to executive vice president of marketing in 1999 and to senior executive vice president in 2000. From 1990 to 1997, he held positions of increasing responsibility with Revco, a chain of retail drug stores based in the Midwest, rising to executive vice president of marketing. Prior to that, he held senior management positions at Gray Drug Fair Stores and People’s Drug Stores.
Walgreens donates food, supplies as new storms target Gulf, Southeast
DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens has sent truckloads of food, water and emergency supplies to Baton Rouge, La., to aid with continuing Hurricane Gustav relief efforts.
Among the necessities shipped to hard-hit residents: water, trail mix, granola bars and other snack items, along with infant formula and diapers. Walgreens reports it is also gathering supplies to place on standby for a swift response to new emergency requests across the nation’s southeast coast with the expected arrival of Tropical Storm Hanna this weekend and Hurricane Ike next week.
“We’ll direct critical resources to communities in need,” said Walgreens director of community affairs John Gremer. “We’re on alert, and we’ll be ready to help wherever we can.”
The company notes there is still “tremendous need in many Baton Rouge communities,” which were among the hardest hit by Gustav. “Thousands remain without electricity, and food and water are still in high demand,” the company reports.
Another priority is getting any stores that were closed due to the storm back open quickly, according to the chain. As of Friday morning, Walgreens reported, “all but one of Walgreens’ 15 Baton Rouge stores are open. Across the Gulf Coast region, only nine remain closed down from 69 closed immediately following the storm.”
Rite Aid donates $44,500-plus in supplies for Gustav evacuees
CAMP HILL, Pa. To further assist evacuees of Hurricane Gustav, The Rite Aid Foundation is donating more than $44,500 worth of supplies including water, snacks, sunscreen, hand sanitizer and other personal hygiene products as requested by the Louisiana Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross to be distributed at shelters for evacuees, the Foundation announced Friday
“Throughout the Gulf Coast, widespread flooding and violent wind damage have created an urgent need for disaster support,” stated Jeff Towers, chief development officer at the American Red Cross. “Rite Aid generously responded to this need through in-kind and financial support to help the Red Cross provide food, shelter and counseling to Gulf Coast communities during this hurricane season.”
Earlier this week, The Rite Aid Foundation made a $75,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help the victims, families and communities affected by Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. A relief team of Rite Aid associates, including store cashiers and pharmacists, have traveled from Tennessee and unaffected areas of Louisiana and Alabama to help stores that have been impacted and to help reopen additional stores.
“One of Rite Aid’s core values is to be caring neighbors in the communities we serve, and we are happy to work with the American Red Cross to help the evacuees of Hurricane Gustav,” commented Mike Seesholtz, Rite Aid regional vice president for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. “Our associates have been amazing in their commitment to do whatever they can to help the victims of Hurricane Gustav.”
Residents displaced by the hurricane can visit any open Rite Aid for their prescriptions because the company’s satellite-linked computer network assures a complete customer prescription history at any Rite Aid store. Because of the state of emergency, Rite Aid pharmacies also can access prescription information for patients who do not normally get their prescriptions at Rite Aid.