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Going to the mat: bout with Alabama competitor gets Mad Butcher down, but not out.

Going To The Mat

When the Mad Butcher goes to the mat, it's not to rassle, though with a name like that, the company sounds like a fit opponent for the likes of Hulk Hogan. Last year one of three Mad Butcher-owned stores in Pine Bluff faced off with Food Warehouse out of Alabama, and the latter went down for the count.

"I wouldn't say we beat them out," says George A. Lea, president. "I'd just say they chose to sell out."

Food Warehouse sold out to Jitney Jungle after a little more than a year of competition.

But the Mad Butcher did not come out unbloodied. Sales for 1989 were down to $58 million, from $61 million in 1988. T.E. Hervey, CEO, acknowledges the losses but says sales have since picked up and they're coming back up. Hervey has worked for the grocery chain for 32 years, beginning as an accountant in the original Mad Butcher store in Pine Bluff. He will retire in two weeks but will remain as chairman of the board, though he says he will not be active in day-to-day affairs.

The Mad Butcher chain began modestly in 1955 as a very small grocery store on Blake Street in Pine Bluff. The founders were Allan Bellamy and his mother, Fanny Nugent. The chain earned its provocative name, the story goes, because Bellamy was selling meat real cheap at the Bellamy Nugent Grocery. So cheap that a vendor observed one day, "You know what your competitors say? They say you're mad."

Bellamy responded, "Well then I guess I'm just the Mad Butcher."

The company was always very employee oriented, says Lea, and when Nugent retired in 1973, she sold her stock to the employees, through an employee stock ownership plan. When Bellamy retired in 1983, he also sold his interest to the employees, and the Mad Butcher became 100 percent ESOP owned.

What's so great about working for an ESOP company? "It has always caused me to feel as if I were working for myself and made me very aware of how the company's growth can affect me and all of our employees financially," says Lea.

The 10 stores in the Mad Butcher chain are located in Sheridan, Fordyce, Warren, Dumas, Clarendon, McCroy, Earle and Pine Bluff. Two of the Pine Bluff stores operate under the names County Market and Super Valu. The largest store, with approximately 65,000 SF, is also located in Pine Bluff.

Carolyn Gibson is a free-lance writer living in North Little Rock.

PHOTO : ON THE RISE: Although 1989 sales were down to $58 million, Mad Butcher plans to move up from their No. 40 rank next year.
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Title Annotation:50 Top Private Companies in Arkansas
Author:Gibson, Carolyn
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:company profile
Date:Jul 16, 1990
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