The Kenny Family ShopRite of Delaware
WILMINGTON – What is today New Castle County’s most popular grocery store chain started with some entrepreneurship 25 years ago from Bernie Kenny.
The family patriarch, an operations expert with extreme attention to detail, founded Delaware Supermarkets Inc. and opened the first two Kenny Family ShopRites in Delaware in 1995. It’s since grown to include four more stores and expanded the number of Kenny family members participating in the operation, led today by Bernie’s son, Chris Kenny.
With community support for the stores high, the family formed the Kenny Family Foundation in 2008 as a charitable organization to provide active assistance to local organizations. Today, they support over 1,000 charitable organizations in New Castle County with micro-grants and partnerships, feeding hungry neighbors, caring for the elderly, and educating children.
This year’s COVID-19 pandemic has been a unique one for the chain’s six stores, with both increasing opportunity as well as challenges.
Chris Kenny noted that grocery stores are counter-cyclical in such times of economic depression, with sales increasing as people go out less to restaurants and buy more grocery to eat at home instead. But he noted that his family’s stores have hundreds of positions open that are difficult to fill right now, due in part due to temporarily higher unemployment benefits.
“That’s a very difficult situation for all of retail that wants to stay open,” Kenny said, noting he hopes to see higher employee totals back in 2021.
He noted that the stores have very strict safety and sanitation protocols that follow guidelines set by federal, state, and local officials. The company also brought on a licensed dietician with knowledge of foodborne illness and pathogens who has been aiding the stores’ protections against the airborne COVID virus as well.
Kenny credits much of the company’s success to its employees and management who have adjusted and pivoted as needed in these historic times.
“We have a pretty stable and senior management and executive team that’s been with us for sometimes decades. Most of them have come through the organization and built up through the ranks,” he said.
Kenny said that he enjoys being a family-owned business, because it allows them to integrate with their market much more easily.
“You’re able to present a more community-facing organization because you live here, you work here, you play here, and your associates do the same. You’re invested into the health of the environment where you’re doing business,” he said. “If you’re an out-of-state multinational, regional or national competitor, you’re not sensitized to this immediate location.”