Tops Friendly Markets, a leading full-service grocery retailer in New York, Northern Pennsylvania and Vermont, is pleased to announce the recognition of Justin Rowe, Category Business Manager for Tops, as the ‘one of Produce Business 40 Under 40 Award Winners. This program shines a light on the entrepreneurs and up-and-coming leaders who have shaped the produce industry in a very short time and are paving the way for what’s to come.
Produce Business notes, “This year’s winners exemplify the strength and depth of talent in the industry – and each has demonstrated leadership growth and insight in building our industry. Individual nominees were contacted to discuss their key company, industry, community and personal accomplishments, sharing meaningful examples of their roles, as well as goals and aspirations.
When asked, what advice would you give to someone new to the produce industry Justin notes, “Remember that we only sell bananas and berries. Yes, it’s stressful and there will be times when you think things can’t get any worse. However, keep things in perspective and maintain a positive attitude. Don’t get caught up in the daily wins and losses, as long as you and your business are moving in the right direction overall, you’ll be fine.
Justin has been in the industry since 1999 when he started his career at Tops as a cashier. What started as a part-time job after school quickly became a passion and turned into a full-time career in 2004. During this time he worked in almost every department of the store. In 2008, he accepted a position in operations management.
Having set himself the goal of reaching the level of Store Manager at age 30, he achieved it just before his 30th birthday in the summer of 2014. During his tenure as Store Manager, he led a variety of urban, suburban and rural stores. Locations. He was selected as the transition coordinator for various acquisitions made by Tops over the years and spent time in the Adirondack region when the company acquired several Grand Union sites and in the Hudson Valley when it acquired certain Stop and Shop sites. In this role, he led a team responsible for the onboarding, training and development of all transitioning associates.
After moving to the fresh side of the business over the years, he joined the Tops Produce team in 2018 as Commercial Director of the Fruit and Dried Goods category. He quickly embraced the product route and had an immediate impact on sales, quality and variety as well as profitability. It has demonstrated its ability to convert sales into profits while developing households. Once the pandemic hit, he continued to drive sales and also creatively tailored the company’s product line to what the consumer was looking for. He completed the United Fresh Produce Executive Development Program at Cornell University and earned a certificate in the Food Industry Management Program. He also attended Penn State Leadership Academy in 2014 and was nominated for District Store Manager of the Year in 2017. Justin resides with his family in York, NY.