Carlin named 2009 Grocer of the Year

15 years ago
By Scott Mitchell Johnson
Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE – Scott Carlin, owner of three grocery stores in Aroostook County, has been named the Maine Grocers Association’s 2009 Grocer of the Year.

    “They surprised the heck out of me when they called and told me I was chosen as Grocer of the Year,” said Carlin. “The best way I can describe it is I felt like President Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize. I told them, ‘I don’t know why I got picked, but I’ll accept it for my employees.’”
    Carlin and his wife, Rena, own and operate Hillside IGA in Fort Fairfield, Mars Hill IGA and Star City IGA in Presque Isle. The Carlins have two sons, Christopher and Chad.
    Carlin has been in the grocery business for 35 years. When he was 15 years old, he worked for his grandfather, Win Rideout, and uncles, Clair and Ted Rideout, owners of Rideout’s IGA in Mars Hill.
    “They’re the ones who really taught me about customer service and how to handle employees,” said Carlin.
    After graduating from Presque Isle High School, Carlin attended Northern Maine Vocational Technical Institute where he received his degree in business administration in 1979.
    “Then I was hired by Vince Bernier who bought Rideout’s IGA from my grandfather and uncles,” said Carlin. “Vince was my mentor; I was 20 years old when he hired me to manage the store, which is really young; I went from bag boy to store manager overnight.
    “I was store manager at Rideout’s until 1983, and then Vince bought the Star City IGA. I came up here and ran Star City IGA, and then in 1985, I became general manager of all three stores [Mars Hill, Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield] until June of 1999, at which time, I bought the three grocery stores,” he said.
    Carlin said one of the reasons he is successful is because he surrounds himself with good people.
    “Without them, it all wouldn’t be possible,” he said. “Mileah Brown has been the store manager at Star City IGA, and has been with us for 12 years. Bruce Boulier is the store manager in Mars Hill and has been employed for 28 years, and Steve Watson has been with us in Fort Fairfield for 20 years.
    “All three of our store managers are very active in their individual communities,” said Carlin, “doing anything from working with Meals on Wheels to their recreation centers to the Lions Club. Between the three stores we have 120 employees, and they contribute greatly to our success. They’re very good, are very customer-orientated, and take care of our customers very well. This award is as much theirs as it is mine.”
    No stranger himself to giving back to the community, Carlin serves on the boards of the Northern Maine Community College Foundation and the Presque Isle Rotary Club.
    There have been a lot of changes in the grocery industry in the last 35 years, he said.
    “We went from being supplied locally to being more regional,” said Carlin. “You have to deal with larger suppliers to stay competitive. The supplier I buy from is C&S Wholesalers in Vermont.
    “Technology has also changed greatly. When I started as manager, I had a 40-page order book and pencil that I used; now everything’s computerized. We used to mark everything; now everything is scanned,” he said. “The one thing, however, that hasn’t changed that allows us to compete with the Big Box stores is customer service. People used to shop once a week and now they come in and shop five times a week. They like the interaction with our employees.”
    Each year from 2002-08, Carlin received the prestigious 5-Star IGA Award for Excellence in all three stores, and in recognition of increased sales, display performance, promotion, and community service, Star City IGA has been a New England Beef Stampede Champion for SuperValu.
    Carlin accepted the Grocer of the Year award at the Maine Food Means Business 2009 Summit held earlier this fall. The summit launched the collaborative initiative by the Maine Grocers Association and Maine Food Producers Alliance organizations dedicated to meeting the interests and needs of Maine’s food trade and industry.
    “Scott has served on the MGA board of directors since 2007 and takes every opportunity to promote the values of the Association,” said Troy Plummer, MGA board president.
    Designed to spur new partnerships and relationships and enhance the business prospects for its members, the 2009 summit brought over 150 Maine-based food buyers and sellers together for a day of introductory meetings, information sessions and business exploration, development and exchange.
    In addition to being named Grocer of the Year, Hillside IGA was also named Business of the Year by the Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce earlier this year.



ImageContributed photo
    SCOTT CARLIN, owner of Hillside IGA in Fort Fairfield, Mars Hill IGA and Star City IGA in Presque Isle, has been named the Maine Grocers Association’s 2009 Grocer of the Year. Carlin accepted the award at the Maine Food Means Business 2009 Summit held earlier this fall in Bangor. Here, Carlin, second from left, receives the award from Troy Plummer, MGA board president, as his wife Rena and son Chad look on.