A $16 million win for the little guy: grocery store owner defeats major wholesaler.

Author:Hocker, Cliff

JONATHAN F. "JOHNNY" JOHNSON, OWNER OF THE Community Pride supermarket chain, may have fallen from the ranks of the BE 100s, but he has recently bagged good fortune. In June, a Richmond, Virginia, circuit court jury reached a verdict that giant food-industry wholesaler Supervalu Inc. should pay Johnson $16 million in damages for underhanded business dealings that paralyzed his company.

Community Pride, which opened its first inner-city.stores in 1992, grossed $77 million and employed 680 workers by 2002. As a result, the company earned the No. 44 ranking on the 2003 BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list. The next year, Community Pride was forced to close its stores.

Johnson blames his demise on Supervalu, contending that the $44 billion Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based corporation unfairly bullied Community Pride into bad deals (see sidebar). Community Pride relied heavily on Supervalu, which supplied the small grocer with food products on credit.

"I've finally been able to get my status back in the community that I feel like I earned by giving my customers what they wanted. I just want to be able to do it again," says Johnson.


* In 1999 Supervalu "forced" Johnson to buy the Rack & Sack chain of suburban stores in a rush deal without due...

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