Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association Awards 2018 Grocer, Producer, and Associate of the Year

AUGUSTA, MAINE  – October 11th, 2018  – The Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association (MGFPA) is proud to announce their respected 2018 award recipients.  Brackett’s Market of Bath is the 2018 Grocer of the Year; Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections of Freeport is the 2018 Producer of the Year; and Associated Grocers of New England in Pembroke, NH is the 2018 Associate of the Year.

Brackett’s Market was founded by Kimberly and Steve Brackett in 1996. The store is locally-owned and an IGA “Hometown Proud” 5-star supermarket. They are deeply committed to being more than just a great grocery store, they strive every day to make a difference in their town. As owners, they work diligently to source local products and continuously support their community. Knowing customers by name, their personal connection in both product assortment and service helps set their independent store apart from the competition.

Steve and Kim spent many years employed at Kroger, originally from the Atlanta, Georgia area, they were intrigued by the allure of owning a grocery store in Maine. It took almost 3 years before they settled on a small storefront in Bath, ME. They made the trek from the South with just two U-hauls in tow and the dream of coming to live and work in Maine. The original storefront, which now serves as the local Amato’s, offered the perfect setting to relocate and set roots in Maine. In 2002, the Bracketts completely renovated an old A&P store building to make room for the Brackett’s Market we know today, located on Front Street in Bath, employing 35 people.

The Bracketts have both spent many years as elected officials including Steve’s role for 6 years on the Bath City Council and Kim on the school board for 8 years. Kim currently serves on the board of directors of the National Grocer’s Association, IGA’s National Retail Advisory Board, and is the former president of the Maine Grocer’s Association. President & CEO, Peter Larkin, of the National Grocers Association, wrote to share his appreciation, “Congratulations Kim on this very well-deserved award. You and the team at Brackett’s should be proud of what you’ve accomplished. I know from my own personal experience of shopping at your store, you have set the standard for what independent grocers are all about by providing high quality products, great service and support for the community. On behalf of the NGA family, we are proud to have you as a member and appreciate your service as a member on the Board of Directors!” We’re so fortunate that Kim has a supportive group behind her which allows her to take time away from the store to be involved in all of these important groups including MGFPA.

The Bracketts noted this award, is more than an award for either of them but it is truly the store’s award. And as best stated by one of the market’s employees “We’re not a company, we’re a family.” Congratulations to Brackett’s Market owners, Steve and Kim Brackett, as the 2018 Grocer of the Year. MGFPA and the grocery community are forever thankful for your dedication to providing the small, independent grocer perspective so that we may all prosper.

Wilbur’s Chocolate Confections began as a retail store in Freeport 35 years ago, founded by Tom and Catherine Wilbur. That’s more than three decades of working alongside the sweet aroma of chocolate and savory tastes of their more than 200 products! Wilbur’s is a multigeneration, family-owned business. Son, Andrew Wilbur, joined the family business in 2008 and his wife Kristin formally joined recently as well. The company employs 35 employees which increases seasonally with the influx of business over the holidays. The Wilburs strive to create a family atmosphere in both their workplace as well as in their retail stores. They remain active in the Maine-business scene and have dedicated much of their time to advocating for small business owners at the statehouse in Augusta and working with the media.

The chocolatiers pride themselves in sourcing as many local ingredients as possible including milks, creams, and seasonal flavors helping support the Maine economy.  They craft fruit covered favorites like chocolate covered strawberries, blueberries and apples alongside their classic gourmet malt balls and chocolate truffle and clusters. They sell their product from their retail locations as well as wholesale which includes large accounts such as LL Bean. Asked how they develop new products, they replied, “they stay relevant by attending industry conferences, customizing recipes and following social media trends.”

The retail shop and chocolate factory are located on Lower Main Street and features a new, expanded space including added shelf space for other local value-added products and an event facility for chocolate classes and hands-on demonstrations. The renovation was completed as they celebrated their grand re-opening this past August. They have three storefronts including two in Freeport and one on Main Street in Brunswick.  The business has actively pursued business development opportunities as recipients of the Chase Bank’s Mission Main Street Grant and as participants in the newly developed Maine Center for Entrepreneurs Food Cultivator Program.

“The Wilbur’s family have been involved in the Maine specialty food movement for 35 years.  Their dedication to quality, innovative chocolate confections and their influence and contributions to the overall Maine food scene is outstanding” praises Cathe Morrill, MGFPA Board President.

Congratulations to our partners and friends at Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections, Andy, Kristen, Tom and Catherine.

Founded in 1946 by a group of independent grocers, Associated Grocers of New England (AGNE) has grown to be the largest retailer-owned wholesaler in New England, servicing independent retail grocers from Aroostook County to the Scranton Pennsylvania area and into eastern New York. A full-service wholesaler, AGNE offers services that include traditional and digital advertising, retail bookkeeping, retail pricing, retail counseling and more.

In early 2006, AG New England moved to a newly constructed Distribution Center in Pembroke, New Hampshire. The impressive new 380,000-square-foot facility houses nearly 11 million cubic feet of space. The facility was designed to incorporate the latest technologies in receiving, handling and shipping goods. Precise climate control assures absolutely ideal conditions for the receiving, storing and shipping of all product.

We would remiss if we didn’t acknowledge Sue Johnson AGNE’s newly promoted Senior Category Merchandiser. She helped generate a true grassroots effort leading to more than 90 testimonies in a 10-hour long committee hearing discussing the effects of increasing the minimum wage on Maine’s small businesses. Her insight to proactively share opportunities to testify and connect store members with the legislature helped ensure the discussion never silenced.  Her extensive experience with AGNE’s customers is beneficial both in her new role and as a board member of MGFPA.

Recognizing that independent grocery stores are the backbone of many communities, AGNE supports stores and their local towns with both civic involvement and charitable giving. Associated Grocers of New England’s Neighbor 2 Neighbor program offers grocers a unique opportunity to accrue funds that directly assist their hometowns. And their Community Connection program is committed to making a positive impact on the lives of people in their stores’ towns and neighborhoods by giving back 100% of all contributions donated to fund the program. It is with this community commitment that we recognize AGNE as of 2018 Associate of the Year.

Congratulations to Associated Grocers of New England on all your success and a special thank you to MGFPA board member, Sue Johnson, for the passion and insight you’ve brought to the Association.

The awards were formally presented on Wednesday, October 10th at the Annual Summit in New Gloucester, ME at the Pineland Farms Event Facility.