Chesterton Strack & Van Til Store Director, Stephanie Flynn, is a Portage-native and her career in the industry started early as she began working in a grocery store when she was 19 years old.
“I guess it was my calling,” Flynn said with a smile.
After high school, Flynn went to work with Aldi where she spent 14 years climbing the ladder before making the switch over to Strack & Van Til.
“Through a mutual friend, and her advice, I joined the Strack-family in 2006,” Flynn described. “From there on I got to know the company and I was delighted by how family-oriented and family friendly they were. They’re very involved in the community to a great extent.”
What struck Flynn after moving over to Strack & Van Til was the togetherness of the company, the sense of inclusion and how valued each individual is as a member of the team.
“As far as treating their employees and their managers, we’re all a big family,” added Flynn. “We care about each other just like you care about your friends and your neighbors. I think that’s why we’ve lasted because we have loyalty towards one another and we all work so hard to make this successful.”
“It’s a lot of teamwork when it comes to this kind of business. If you don’t have teamwork then you don’t have anything because you can’t do it by yourself.”
Flynn spoke about Strack & Van Til CEO, Jeff Strack, and following his lead to make the regional grocer stand out in Northwest Indiana and beyond.
“Jeff (Strack) has to rely on all of us and, with his demeanor and personality, it’s just easy to follow him because he’s very caring,” said Flynn. “He wants to listen to you and take your advice and your ideas. He cares about the store directors all the way down to the utility clerks and what their input is, and what they have to say.”
In valuing community outreach to a great extent, Strack encourages it’s employees to get involved and make a difference in their communities.
“Strack’s allows you to pursue what you’re passionate about in that community aspect,” Flynn said. “If you’re into the schools and you want to focus on and give back to the schools, Strack’s empowers that store director to focus on what they care deeply about.”
“Each one of our stores is individual,” she said. “We run our store through our individual tastes and Jeff allows us to do that. We’re not cookie-cutter and that’s why he relies so much on our individual tastes and personalities. One thing I learned when I started in 2006 is that when I set a goal for myself, and what Strack’s gave me was, once I obtained that goal I realized this isn’t enough for me. So Strack’s kept welcoming me to further my expectations which far exceeded what my original goal was. They far exceeded any expectations, they supported me, and backed me, and of course I couldn’t have done it without the people that I work with.”
Over the last several years, Strack & Van Til has updated many of their locations. Just walking into a new or updated store creates a different and special atmosphere that has been hugely beneficial to Flynn, her team and her customers.
“It gives you pride,” Flynn said. “You’re happy to be in the business that you’re in because you’re able to provide a comfortable working and shopping environment. When you have a nice presentation you feel better about what you’re displaying and selling. The whole atmosphere feels fresher and more attractive.”
“Your regular customers get to know you by name, you see them two or three times every week, and you know what they like, what they’re looking for, and what makes them happy,” she added. “To take what a customer asks for, then have it available for them the next time they come in, and just to see their face is reward enough. Those little things, you have to take that and run with it because you can’t beat it!”