Longtime manager retires

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Serving Malibu residents has been a rewarding experience for Ralphs’ Market Store Manager Lee Ford, who will retire after 44 years of working in the grocery store business.

Ford has been commuting for 18 years from the Palisades to the Ralphs store in the Malibu Colony Shopping Center.

As he began his career, Ford started bagging groceries at Hughes Market in the Palisades, while he was in college. One thing led to another, since grocery stores usually promote from within.

He went from bagging to working in the liquor department and then became a cashier. He then started to run the store at night and became a manager after that.

“I like to be around people,” said Ford about his job. “It’s constantly changing, unlike an office job.”

The customers have different wants and employees have various needs, he said, adding that the work is like a balancing act, which requires people skills.

“There is no time to be bored because everyday is different,” said Ford.

Since he has served Malibu residents for so long, Ford feels close to the clientele who shop at the market.

“They are not just customers, they are friends,” he said.

And customers agree with his point of view.

“People like him because he is flexible on behalf of the customers,” said Sue Johnson, a customer. “He is personable.”

And Ford is not only personable with customers, but also employees; many who have been at the store longer than him, will also miss him.

Deborah Caraway has worked at the Ralphs store for 24 years.

“He has been a great manager,” she said. “We’re all upset to see him go.

“A lot of times when customers couldn’t get things here, he would go and get them elsewhere,” said Caraway, as she spoke about the type of service people could expect from Ford.

As a manager, Ford also made sure the store would serve the community in times of needs.

During the 1993 fires, the store stayed open for extended hours and the employees helped people who were displaced by the fire. The employee break room was made available to some people who lost their homes, or could not get back to their houses.

As he nears the end of his career, Ford said that nowadays, because the economy is so strong, the hardest part of managing is to find competent help.

“Finding competent help and people who really want to work is hard now,” he said. “Right now the store could use 15 new people.”

But this is not easy because most of the people who work at the store don’t live in Malibu.

“And right now they can get a job anyplace, they don’t have to spend the money commuting,” he said.

Since Ralphs took over Hughes Markets, it’s basically the same type of grocery business, said Ford.

“Some of the people didn’t like it because they liked Hughes,” he said. “People don’t like change. But you just have to adapt to the change.”

And change is coming for Ford, who will retire on Oct. 12.

He has already made plans that will keep him busy, since he enjoys traveling, fishing, woodworking and spending time with family. Another occupation that will continue to keep him busy is amateur radio. Ford has been involved with the disaster communications in Malibu through the Sheriff’s Dept. and he plans to continue to help when a disaster occurs.

The manager also plans to come back to Malibu to fish off the pier and visit as well.

Another demonstration of his commitment to the community, Ford was the recipient of the Dolphin Award, also known as the Harvey Baskin Memorial Award, which is given yearly by The Malibu Times to local business people for their outstanding service.

“I am thankful for the support I have received within the community over the years,” said Ford. “That’s going to make it hard for me to leave.”

Art Postajian, who will be transferred from the Palisades Ralphs store, will replace Ford when he retires.