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Proudly Employee Owned Hy-Vee

September 10, 2012

If you look at the logo of Hy-Vee included in it is the two words “employee owned”.  While there are a number of employee-owned companies very few have become as large as Hy-Vee. Most large companies are either family owned or publicly traded. Hy-Vee took the path less travelled and became a multi-billion dollar business.

The company started out as a partnership between Charles Hyde and David Vredenburg when they opened a small store in Beaconsfield, Iowa in 1930. You can say these two were optimist (or perhaps couldn’t back out anymore) because the stock market crashed earlier in October, 1929.  Unlike many sad stories their business became a success.

At the start of 1938 the two with 14 others incorporated 15 Iowa and Missouri stores as Hyde & Vredenburg, Inc.  Aside from stores the company also had an office, warehouse, mill and meat plant all situated in Lamoni, Iowa.  A bakery was later added.

Early on the company management was encouraged to think of new ideas one of which was employee bonuses which started in 1936 and is still present till this day.  Store managers had a large amount of autonomy in running their stores.  Profit-sharing for store managers started even earlier in 1933.

A major event happened in 1945 when the company bought Chariton Wholesale Grocery and moved its corporate office to Chariton, Iowa.  The Lamoni operations were eventually closed down.  A contest held in 1952 to rename the stores produced the winning name Hy-Vee which is the contraction of the two founders’ surnames.

The business continued to flourish with the opening of more store over the years including adding bakery stores. The company wanted to provide a one-stop shopping experience for customers.  The year 1960 was a significant moment in the company’s history when the Employees’ Trust Fund was created. This allowed eligible employees to share ownership of the company. This was the start of the employee-owned enterprise.

Today Hy-Vee has 253 supermarkets in the Midwest United States. It has headquarters in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Varying in different locations it has groceries stores, health stores, pharmacies, and gasoline stations and convenience stores.  It has 60,000 employees with 2011 revenues of $7.3 billion. Of course it’s proudly employee-owned.

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