Local boy made good

Dave Killion — October 15, 2011

A local entrepreneur recently passed away here in Victoria –

“Alex A. Campbell – who died Tuesday – was Victoria’s own homegrown hero.

The modest businessman was known as much for his philanthropy as for his success with Thrifty Foods in the competitive supermarket business.”

Starting out as a grocery clerk when he was only 15 years old, Campbell went on to found a grocery chain that had twenty outlets, 3700 employees, and was worth $260 million when sold in 2007.

I’m glad that Campbell was able to develop a business that operated in keeping with his temperament, but I would be the last person to say he should serve as a model for every retailer.┬áMy family has always shopped chiefly at Thrifty Foods and I can attest to the fact that it is indeed known for two things – generosity to community groups, and high prices. I knew many people who shopped there to support what they saw as a civic-minded institution, and others who shopped elsewhere because they valued lower prices more than charitable corporate conduct. If another chain in this area were to raise their prices in an attempt to do well by doing good, I think the number of consumers they would draw would be far outweighed by the number they would lose. Most people I know don’t want to pay a charity premium, but would rather keep their shopping and their charity separate. Happily, a free market makes it possible for both groups to shop the way the each prefer, and it made it possible for a good man like Alex Campbell to do good things.

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