Category Archives: Gratitude

Giant Eagle CEO Laura Karet on company’s prospects: ‘We have big aspirations to grow’

Laura Shapira Karet, chair and CEO of Giant Eagle, at VisionPittsburgh at the Duquesne Club.

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic years, Laura Karet sounds fully confident about the prospects for Giant Eagle today.

“We have big aspirations to grow,” said Karet, who spoke Tuesday before a sold-out audience at a VisionPittsburgh luncheon at the Duquesne Club downtown.

Amid an ever-crowding competitive climate in which everyone from Aldi to Amazon.com Inc. is selling groceries, Karet spoke as the CEO and chairwoman of a retailer that has grown to more than 470 stores and annual revenue of $11.1 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2022.

In a fireside chat led by Pittsburgh Business Times Publisher Evan Rosenberg, Karet talked about Giant Eagle’s origins. The company was started by five families during the Great Depression and its ownership continues on today in a retail industry often dominated by publicly traded national chains.

Karet’s story of Giant Eagle’s ongoing growth and expansion came in two distinct parts, the first fueled by petroleum sales and the company’s decision to diversify its store types, the second by the pandemic.

“Twenty-five years ago, we realized customers were starting to change their shopping habits,” she said.

She recalled how about 20 years ago Kroger, the Cincinnati-based grocery chain that doesn’t operate in the region, started putting gas pumps in their parking lots and how quickly Giant Eagle decided to do so as well.

The result soon led to the launch of the company’s GetGo convenience store chain.

Karet recalled how quickly establishing gas pumps at Giant Eagle stores as well as for the new GetGo locations resulted in major boosts in sales for everything else.

“We started buying gas pumps as fast as we could,” she said.

She added GetGo is now differentiated by its approach to food, noting there are now more GetGo locations than there are traditional Giant Eagle stores for what’s become a major growth vehicle for the company.

Giant Eagle also was able to benefit from the major societal disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, a global health crisis in which the grocery chain operated as one of the few places people were allowed to shop amid the wave of government-required shutdowns.

“When Covid happened, our business grew enormously overnight,” she said, adding Giant Eagle quickly worked to roll out an online delivery service that had been in the works.

That was as much of a challenge as an opportunity.

With GetGo expanding and the company also rolling out more and more Market District-branded stores, including in smaller formats, Karet sounded as though Giant Eagle has carved out a sustainable niche and territory for itself.

That’s despite sometimes jarring industry consolidation.

“When Amazon bought Whole Foods, it was like a bomb went off in the industry,” she said at one point.

Yet Karet doesn’t expect any changes to the competitive landscape to come any time soon from the proposed merger between Kroger and Albertsons. Roughly handicapping it as a 50/50 proposition to go forward, Karet expects such a merger to take years to fully pull off and integrate.

“We’re pretty big but really small compared to them,” she said of the two chain grocers.

She sees lots of opportunity for Giant Eagle to grow and expand as it becomes more difficult for smaller operators to compete.

“There’s too many opportunities, which, by the way is a good problem to have,” she said.

Karet noted how the company is active in converting established Giant Eagle stores into Market District stores, establishing new smaller-format Market District locations, as well as expanding its WetGo car wash business along with GetGo as a now proven store model.

“We’re pretty convinced we have a unique model that will allow us to compete in this hard changing world against people who are much bigger than us,” she said.

Karet recalled her early days in her career when she said she had “no interest in coming back to the company,” wishing instead to chart her own course, working early in her career for such companies as Procter & Gamble and Sara Lee.

Now, after taking on the title of chairwoman at Giant Eagle last year, Karet expects she’s worked in just about every position at the company, outside a few, such as chief information office and in the real estate department.

However, none of them equaled the kind of grounding she received actually working in the stores.

“The best training by far was working in the stores growing up,” she said.

Article from Pittsburgh Business Times: https://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/news/2023/03/14/laura-karet-giant-eagle-vision-pittsburgh.html

Joseph DiSanto, Ambassador of the Star Lofts Pittsburgh, with Laura Karet, CEO of Giant Eagle

Many exciting things happening in Downtown Pittsburgh at your Star Lofts Pittsburgh home next to the Benedum Theater. http://www.starloftspgh.com

New Marquee for the Benedum Theater

Benedum Center’s famous marquees are getting an upgrade in the Pittsburgh Cultural District downtown.

Crews are upgrading the marquee on 7th Street and the Stanley Photoplay board on Penn Avenue.

The goal is to increase functionality and reduce energy consumption.

Both signs will maintain a “classic” look because the Benedum Center is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The challenge is to address the deterioration on the marquee,” architect Alan Hohlfelder said. “And make sure it can be restored in an identical way to how you see it now. It involves a lot of custom metalwork and integrating updated displays. We’re going to match the style and colors in the original sign.” 

The project is being funded by a $1 million pledge from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. 

The restoration is expected to be completed in the fall, in time for the 35th anniversary of the reopening of the Stanley Theater as the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts.

You are right across the Penn Av from the Benedum when you home is at http://www.starloftspgh.com

Pennsylvania leaves change color in Fall.

Fall is the perfect time to watch the foliage around us explode in color. Deep reds, bright yellows and cozy oranges shimmer in the wind for just a few weeks before the branches are once again bare and the cold weather ensues.

But why do leaves change color in the fall, and while we’re at it, why do they fall off their trees at all? 

Why do leaves change color and fall?

What leaves do for a tree

In a nutshell, leaves make food for the plant they are attached to, whether that be a tree, a shrub or a flower. Leaves are connected to its plant through a vascular system that carries these nutrients around the plant, similar to how our human vascular system carries blood around our body. They do this all through a process called photosynthesis, a system you probably remember learning about way back in middle school. 

During the warmer months that make up spring and summer, leaves work constantly to convert sunlight into nutrients for the plant. Chlorophyll, the chemical that gives leaves that green color, absorbs light energy and contains it in the leaf, which then interacts with the natural enzymes found in plant cells found in the leaf. That reaction between the light energy and the enzymes helps to break down the chemical components in the water (supplied to the plant from the roots), breaking it down into oxygen and hydrogen. 

The hydrogen reacts with the carbon dioxide found in the plant enzymes to create a form of sugar, and that sugar is what’s funneled through the plant’s vascular system to provide the nutrients the tree needs to grow. Any remaining oxygen is released through miniscule pores found on the leaf’s surface. 

A forest road covered in fallen autumn leaves that are green orange yellow red and brown

Leaves are falling all around…

Not all trees are able to handle the colder weather later in the year, so they drop their leaves until spring peaks its sunny head around the corner a few months later. 

Interestingly enough, leaves don’t just fall off with a strong breeze or a cold wind; the trees actually shove the leaves off! If anything, this season should be called “Push” rather than “Fall,” if we want to be scientifically accurate. But anyway… 

If we think of leaves as solar-powered cooks, then during the summer months these tiny cooks are working all day every day to make the most of that bright sunlight, all the while depositing an abundance of food and nutrients into the plant. It’s a great system, and those leaves make it well-worth the effort of keeping them around full-time.

In the colder months, though, the days are much shorter and the sun is not nearly as direct. The quality and quantity of sunlight decreases with each passing day, and the tree has to decide if it wants to keep its staff of full-time chefs all winter long, or if it wants a break. It takes a lot of nutrients to keep leaves alive, and if the leaves themselves aren’t able to make a lot of nutrients in the first place, then the tree can be quickly sapped of its reserve. Plus, if the water in those leaves gets cold enough to freeze, then the leaves could die completely and damage the tree’s vascular system.

For these trees, then, it makes more sense to get rid of its leaves and go dormant over winter, rather than hang onto the leaves and run the risk of a bad freeze. 

The process by which trees drop their leaves is a fascinating one, and it all starts with the decreasing sunlight.

Hormones inside the leaves can sense when there is less sunlight and lower temperatures, so those hormones will activate a process called abscission that starts to shut down the production process. This means that the chlorophyll stops working, changing the leaf’s color back to its natural state of yellow, orange or red (yes, leaves are not naturally green!). It also means that tiny cells begin building a wall between the leaf and the twig it’s attached to, slowly cutting off the flow of nutrients and water from the leaf. 

These abscission cells eventually grow thick enough that the leaf is shoved completely off the twig with just the slightest of breezes, falling to the ground in that magnificent display that we just love to watch. And, because those cells formed such a thick wall, there is no open wound on the branch where the twig was, and the scab of plant cells keeps the twig protected all through winter as the tree lies dormant.

This process is purely self-preservation, and we see this happening in other adverse conditions, too. When faced with a particularly horrific drought, the tree may cut off nutrients to leaves or branches in order to strengthen the more vital parts of the tree. The tree will reactivate these dormant pieces when there are enough nutrients available, and the process starts all over again!

Food for spring

Wading through a forest full of fallen leaves can feel like trudging through snow, as there are just so many leaves! Yet when we return in spring, those blankets of leaves are gone! Where do they go?

Fallen leaves decay through natural processes, as fungus, bacteria and invertebrates cover the forest floor and provide the vital processes of decay and deconstruction that keeps the circle of life running smoothly. 

Webs of fungus called mycelium send tiny strands of hyphae into organic matter around them, where those hyphae secrete enzymes that break down the chemical structure of the fallen leaves. The nutrients extracted from those leaves are transported through the mycelium to the trees and plants all around it, feeding and strengthening the forest through this massive underground web. 

Finally, small critters and bacteria eat through the remaining leaves, breaking down the physical structure and secreting even more nutrients into the soil via their waste. 

In the end, all the nutrients stored in those bright green leaves returned right back to the ground, where they will feed the tree yet again come spring. Then, the cycle continues once again.

Fall is a magical time for many reasons, but seeing how this brief interval of time can so drastically affect the livelihoods of deciduous trees makes it all the more fascinating.

Enjoy the beauty of the changing color of the leaves. Take a short rode from your home at http://www.starloftspgh.com to the Laurel Highlands this weekend.

Happy Fall! Best, Janet.

Celebrate the theater district.

After many months, the streets of the Cultural District will again be bustling, the theaters and galleries will be full, and arts lovers from around the region and beyond will share experiences, live and in-person. Lights On! A Three-Day Celebration of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District marks this special occasion with free outdoor performances, gallery exhibitions, and more, September 9-11, 2021.

Your home in the Pittsburghs Cultural district at http://www.starloftspgh.com

Butterfly Magnet

This beautiful plant has a rounded, compact habit with flower spikes that can be as long as 12″. Just spectacular! Lavender Cupcake Buddleia is a great addition to any garden because it attracts butterflies like crazy, it’s an amazing pollinator, and hummingbirds love it as well.

This plant grows to a size of about 3′ 6″ high and wide and it responds well to pruning and should be cut back in the fall so it grows nice and full the following growing season.

Butterfly Bush, Buddleia ,Lavender Cupcake

Ahhhh, May!

If you’re into spring as much as I am, then you’re sure to appreciate National Wildflower Week (May 3rd-9th), when I’ll be spreading wildflower seeds along the front edge of my yard, so later this month passersby can appreciate the flowers as much as the honey bees and butterflies will.

And, speaking of flowers, Mother’s Day (May 9th) is always a big holiday and shouldn’t be missed.

This year, when planning your Mother’s Day celebration, think about everything that the day stands for… not just expressing our gratitude to our own mothers but appreciating mothers of all kinds — from birth mothers to foster mothers, from godmothers to grandmothers, and even mothers whose only children are covered in fur and walk on paws (or fly, or swim…).

Think about what M-O-T-H-E-R means to you and how to convey that to your subscribers, followers, fans, and customers.

And, until next time… May the fourth be with you!

Have a great day! Janet