Ralph Wright Ketner (1920 - )
Co-founder of the Food Lion supermarket chain, Ralph Ketner came from a grocery store family in Salisbury, NC. He would build his low-price supermarket into a national leader.
Growing up, Ralph worked in his father's butcher shop and
grocery store in Salisbury, as well as working for older brother, Glenn, at
his grocery store in Kannapolis, NC, during the Depression. He learned the
grocery business from the ground up.
After graduating from high school in Rowan County, he attended Tri-State College in Angola, Indiana, for two years. He returned to Salisbury to work at Glenn's grocery store and then Cannon Mills, working up to the position of auditor.
In 1942, Ralph joined the U.S. Army serving in Africa and Italy during World War II.
Following the war, Ralph worked at 10 different jobs over a three-year period, including auditor for Rowan County, an agent for the IRS and agent for the NC Department of Revenue. He returned to the grocery business, working for Glen as a buyer for his brother's seven stores.
When Glenn Ketner sold his stores inn 1956, Ralph Ketner, Brown Ketner and Wilson Smith decided that they wanted to open their own grocery store, Food Town, in Salisbury. So, the threesome solicited friends and acquiantances to raise the capital to stock the operation.
From Food Town store 1 in Salisbury in 1957, Ketner and his partners slowly built a business. In the first decade, Food Town grew to seven stores and had annual sales of $5 million in 1967 but a profit of only $35,000 that year.
Ralph decided to try a new strategy "lowest food prices in North Carolina" slashing prices and hoping for increased sales volume to build profit. Sales increased to $8.5 million in 1968, $15 million in 1969 and $22 million in 1970. By 1975, Food Town annual sales soared to $100 million, $500 in 1980 and $1 billion in 1983.
Ralph served as chairman and CEO for the company.
In 1983, the Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize bought controlling interest in Food Town and renamed the firm, Food Lion.
Ketner resigned from Food Lion in April 1991.
Among his many awards are: the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Institute of American Entrepreneurs Hall of Fame (1990), Distinguished Citizenship from North Carolina Citizens for Business & Industry (1992) and laureate of the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame (1990).
Ralph Ketner has supported many organizations over the years, including Catawba College, Livingstone College, Habitat for Humanity, Rowan Vocational Opportunities, North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and many more.
He is married to Anne Blizzard Ketner and they have two children.
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