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Buehler’s supermarkets sold to employee stock ownership program

| October 18, 2017

WOOSTER – E&H Family Group, parent company of Buehler’s, announced on Oct. 18 the sale of its 13 supermarkets, including the one in Coshocton, to employees in the form of an employee stock ownership program (ESOP). All 2,100 employees will be retained in the transition and eligible employees will become owners. All 13 supermarkets will remain open with the same hours of operation.

“This was a decision we did not take lightly. Our generation of Buehlers are reaching retirement age and we think this a better option than selling the business to outsiders,” said Dan Buehler, president & COO, E&H Family Group. “We want these supermarkets to be here serving customers and providing good jobs well into the future. There’s no one better qualified than our own employees to carry on that mission. We believe that the transition to an ESOP is a winning solution for the Buehler family, our employees and the communities we serve.”

The ESOP will be operated by the newly formed Buehler’s Fresh Foods, retaining the familiar name and led by an experienced team of Buehler’s veterans, including Dan Shanahan, Buehler’s Fresh Foods president and COO since 2011, Rick Lowe, VP of Human Resources of E&H Family Group since 1977, and Mike Davidson, VP of Store Operations since 2015.

Shanahan will serve as president and CEO of the new company, Lowe will be executive vice president and CAO and Davidson will be executive vice president of store operations.

“We wish Dan, Rick and Mike all the best as they lead this exciting transition. They know this business inside and out, our employees know them well, and we are confident that together, they will continue to achieve great success,” said Dan Buehler, President, E&H Family Group.

“On behalf of the Buehler’s Fresh Foods team, we are happy for the Buehler family and excited for the opportunity to write the next chapter in the great Buehler story,” said Dan Shanahan.

E&H Family Group, owned by the Buehler family of Wooster, also operates 22 hardware stores in Ohio under the E&H Ace Hardware name. The sale has no impact on the E&H Hardware Group, which will continue operating under Buehler family ownership.

The Food Partners represented E&H Family Group in its evaluation of strategic alternatives including as its financial advisor in the transaction.

Buehler’s Fresh Foods grocery store was founded in 1929 by E.L. (Ed) Buehler and his wife, Helen. After opening their first store in New Philadelphia, the Buehler family moved the business to Wooster in 1932 and opened a store near the northeast corner of Public Square. The new store prospered under Ed’s direction with his emphasis on customer service, free delivery, garden-fresh produce and a clean, friendly grocery store atmosphere. Four generations of Buehlers have worked in the family business since its founding.

“This is the right thing to do for our family, our customers and suppliers, and I know my brother Gene and our mom and dad would agree,” said Don Buehler, who worked in the store as a child and who stepped back from day-to-day responsibilities in the family business in June 1997 after decades of service.  “We have deep and longstanding relationships with thousands of customers and farmers in the communities we serve, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their loyalty and support over the past 88 years.”

Don and his brother Gene, who passed away in 2011, were the second generation to oversee the company, and they helped further deepen the family’s ties to the community. They were inducted together into the Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce Business Wall of Fame in 2007 and are both in the Ohio Grocers Hall of Fame.

The brothers’ five sons, known as “The Buehler Boys,” built on that tradition, assuming leadership of the company in the late 1990s.

Rick Lowe, VP of Human Resources of E&H Family Group and now a principal of the new company, has been married to Gene Buehler’s daughter, Linda, since 1974.

“The Buehler family is not going away,” said Dan Buehler. “We’ve always been a family operated independent business that’s very involved in our communities. Our customers are our neighbors and friends. We live in the communities we serve, we’re committed to them and we will continue to support them.”

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