BELLINGHAM - Clarence "Gabe" Gabriel has stepped down as president and CEO of Haggen Inc. and is being replaced by three experienced members of the grocery company's management team.
Gabriel's resignation letter was accepted by the Haggen board of directors Friday, Dec. 7, and was relayed to company employees, said Clement Stevens, who is part of the three-person team that will take on Gabriel's duties. The newly created "office of president" position will consist of Stevens, John Turley and Ron Stevens (no relation to Clement Stevens).
Clement Stevens didn't elaborate on why Gabriel resigned, except to say that he will be missed as he pursues other opportunities. Attempts to reach Gabriel were unsuccessful.
"Gabe spent a lot of hours with the company developing the Northwest Fresh brand, an idea that we will continue to bring to customers," Stevens said.
The new leaders of the company have different areas of expertise within the Haggen company. Clement Stevens is the company's senior vice president of merchandising; Turley is the chief operating officer, and Ron Stevens is the chief financial officer and chief information officer.
Clement Stevens noted that their jobs will remain similar as they take on the office of president position. He said customers shouldn't notice a difference as a result in the change of leadership.
Haggen is in the midst of rebranding its stores with the Northwest Fresh brand, which is meant to better reflect the community with "store within a store" specialty shops, a new look inside, and a focus on Northwest products.
The rebranding began last year and has included its Bellingham stores. The Sehome Village Haggen will celebrate its remodel with an event Wednesday, Dec. 12. Ferndale is the last Haggen store in Whatcom County to go through the remodel.
Headquartered in Bellingham, Haggen is one of the largest private companies in Washington. It has 28 stores in Washington and Oregon. While the Haggen family still has a minority interest in the company, the investment firm Comvest Group bought a majority stake in the company in February 2011. Gabriel was hired soon after the purchase.
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