As Jake Weber walked through the grocery store that bears his name, he made a point of saying good morning to each employee he saw and a couple of customers he knows on a first-name basis.
That’s something he’s done for more than 35 years.
But when he walks through the door of the Village of Oak Creek store now, he’ll be doing so as a customer and not owner.
In what’s been a bit of a whirlwind purchase, Weber is selling the store and its name Thursday, June 1, to the Clark family, which owns eight other stores in the west including ones in Aspen and Telluride, Colo.
“There are so many moving parts to operating a full food and drug, so I understand what’s involved with that,” he said. “So to get it done in this amount of time is a tribute to my existing staff and the acquiring company. I’ve never heard of anything moving this fast in the merger world or acquisition world other than when it’s a crisis, which is not the case.”
The decision to sell had been made within the last month or so. Everything has moved ahead even faster than he had anticipated — but in a good way. So fast, though, that it has yet to fully sink in that the store is being sold.
“I don’t think it’s hit me,” he said. “The way my mind works is that I have to be certain that I’m taking care of everyone and every detail. There are more things to multi-task than I’ve ever had to handle. Fortunately I’m surrounded by great people so I know everything is going to be good. “I have confidence that they [the Clarks] are not just pulling in to do what I’ve done. I can certainly see that they can raise the level of service and the level of what the community expects from this grocery store and pharmacy.”
Weber said there were three components to his decision, The first was to decide what was best for his family. While admitting he’s a little tired, he wanted to assure everyone that the decision was not based on health or any financial problems. It was just time.
“It was certainly done to provide peace for the Weber family as we move on to the next chapter of our lives,” he said. “How much sand is still in that hour glass, none of us know.”
He said the second and third reasons behind his decision were even more difficult beginning with the loyalty he has to his staff. He said he has an undying bond with the people who work for him, which has created more of a family feel than just employee and employer.
The third reason is the community. As active members of the VOC who sponsor and donate to numerous events and programs, Weber wanted to be assured the Clark family will do the same. He said he’s confident they will pick up right where he’s leaving off.
“They are one of the finest independent chains in the Southwest,” he said. “With this purchase they will be adding a very good store to a family operation that is already involved and engaged within their communities. As our community starts to meet them, I think they will see a very bright future ahead. “I’ve been using our family’s motto during this transaction. For us it’s ‘memories forever’ and for the community and the Clarks, it’s ‘memories ahead.’”
For now, the store will remain Weber’s IGA. But as time goes on, he said the Clarks plan to remodel the store and will eventually change the name. But for the foreseeable future it will be business as usual.
That also includes the staff. Weber was assured that the current employees will be able to keep their jobs. The only difference, he said, is that the store will be getting additional assistance from the Clark corporate office.
“Mr. Clark is taking everyone who is a Weber’s employee and the next day they are a Clark employee,” he said. “That’s almost unheard of in our industry. I was overly protective in that part of the agreement as to how I was going to look out for the Weber employees. But Tom Clark Sr. told me, ‘Jake, we didn’t get this far by not taking care of our people. Your people will now be my team on June 1.’”
Weber said he couldn’t go into detail as to what the Clark family has planned for the store. However, he did say he feels the community will approve and as a future customer, he’s excited to see what they have planned.
The Clarks have said they want to wait a bit and get feedback from the community before making any drastic changes or additions because what may work in one of their other stores, may not necessarily work here, Weber said.
The Weber family has been a mainstay in the Sedona area since 1981 when they purchased Oak Creek Market in Uptown. Four years later they moved to the VOC and were located where Sedona Digs furniture store is currently. And for the last 19 years they have been in their current location on Verde Valley School Road.
“Everything had to go perfect in our lives for each of those things to happen,” he said. “And that’s why I look back over that time as an answer to a prayer thanks to the support from the staff, community and God. Starting with Oak Creek Market to coming to this location and now closing that chapter, I know God’s hand has been in our life and has blessed us.”
As to what he’ll miss most, Weber said he’s been so busy during the sale that he hasn’t really thought about that. But once the dust settles, he said he will have a better opportunity to thank everyone from staff to community members who have been loyal customers for years.
“Somebody asked me, So what now?’” he said. “It’s not like I have the need to see the world’s largest ball of twine or the biggest frying pan or even go on some major road tour. I know I’m going to take the kids to Disneyland and I know we’re going to have some personal time to just let our spirit recharge.”