Chariton (AP) -- Dwight Vredenburg, who helped to turn Hy-Vee Food Stores, Inc. into Iowa's largest employer and a major Midwest grocery chain serving seven states, died Thursday (February 28, 2002) at Lucas County Health Center from complications of a stroke. He was 88.
Ron Pearson, who succeeded Vredenburg as president of the company in 1983, said his predecessor was a pioneer who helped lead the grocery industry from the mom-and-pop era to the introduction of the modern supermarket.
Vredenburg began sacking beans in the back of his father's small grocery store in Lamoni. He was promoted to wait on customers at age 15. It was one of many promotions Vredenburg would see in the Hy-Vee empire until his retirement at age 75 in 1989. In 1930, Charles Hyde and David Vredenburg -- Dwight Vredenburg's father -- opened a store in the small town of Beaconsfield in Ringgold County -- a partnership that was the birth of Hy-Vee.
By 1938, with 15 stores spread across Southern Iowa and Northern Missouri under various partnerships, the owners decided to incorporate as Hyde & Vredenburg, Inc.
Dwight Vredenburg, then 23, was selected as president. The chain's name was changed to Hy-Vee in 1953.
Vredenburg said he got the job because he was the only one who graduated from college. He had earned a commerce degree in 1935 from the University of Iowa and was managing a store in Centerville.
Over the next 45 years, he led the company to become a major grocery chain in Iowa and the Midwest. In 1983, when Pearson succeeded him as president of the company, Vredenburg retained he titles of chairman and CEO until his retirement in 1989.
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