For South Australian supermarket Frewville Foodland, family is the key to success. The family-owned business has set a high benchmark for supermarkets worldwide, having been awarded the national IGA Retailer of the Year in 2015, and now winning the International Retailer of the Year excellence award at the global Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA) conference held in Las Vegas in the US.
Founded in 1962, and operating in more than 30 countries, IGA judged entries on their wide range of products, innovation, customer service, employee development, leadership opportunities and community involvement.
“It was a very proud moment for a South Australian family-owned business, to be recognised internationally,” says 45-year-old Spero Chapley, director of the family business holding company, Commercial Retail Group (CRG).
“My father Nick received the award while his hands were shaking.
“To him, this award represents so much; it’s the result of 60 years of hard work and long hours, day and night.”
Purchased by the family group in October 1989, the 3,100m2 site employs 270 staff and has quadrupled its sales under CRG’s ‘Adelaide’s Finest’ branding and transformation in the last few years.
But for Spero’s father, 81-year-old Greek businessman Nick Chapley (Chapaliaris), success didn’t come easily.
It actually all started with Nick’s grandfather, also named Spero, who, through poverty, left the picturesque island of Ikaria in the 1930s, seeking to settle in Australia, with the dream to offer a better future to his tormented family who, during World War II, spent three difficult years in the Sahara Desert – under Red Cross care – as refugees.
The family eventually landed in Melbourne in 1949, and after years of setting up eateries in country Victoria (the first one being the very popular Wattle Café), they sold up everything and moved to South Australia in 1979.
Today, the family also owns Pasadena Foodland supermarket (renovation scheduled in 2016) and the Banana Blue online supermarket.
“Our vision is to be more than just a supermarket. We want everyone to come in and enjoy their experience in a pleasant, personable and friendly environment with people smiling and no self-serve checkouts,” explains Spero, who hopes to be in a position to offer another 60 jobs for young South Australians over the next couple years.
“Our staff is our most important asset and our relationship with them is based purely on respect and honesty; therefore, it is refreshing and motivating to see that everyone who works here loves what they do as much as we do.”
For visionaries Spero and Nick, there is no real secret to success but an internal discipline to lead by example and give their valued employees and customers what they need and want.
The group employs more than 700 people, but the family refuses to have a HR department, preferring to encourage a personal relationship between the family and their employees.
“If our staff are happy then our customers are happy,” says Spero.
Always conscious about not letting the community down or leaving young people behind, the successful businessman admits that philanthropy to him doesn’t come from a sense of obligation but rather a sense of pleasure.
“In our family we always say that one should never forget where they came from.
“As a family and as a business, we are happy when the wealth and opportunities are spread across the whole community,” explains Spero, who 12 years ago set up Youthinc Foundation, which primarily works with young long-term unemployed people.
According to Spero, there are billions of dollars wasted by government bodies to deliver support for the long-term unemployed, but the absence of mentoring and training programs has the opposite effect and consequently leads to failure.
Helping about 100 young people a year, Youthinc runs very intense, individually tailored support and mentoring programs fortnightly.
“The aim is for young people to use the resources and relationships we have and progressively gain knowledge, build their self-respect and obtain the necessary confidence to go out there and not just get a job, but keep it.”
Having received approval and funds from the government, Youthinc’s profile is about to transform into a multicultural academy, offering culinary, hospitality and retail studies, for generally low level entry staff.
“Our ultimate goal is to set up those young people to be the best they can be at whatever it is that they decide to do,” concludes Spero, who definitely knows how to turn someone’s wishes and hopes into reality and success.
After all, he has his whole family history to prove it.