Mike Roberts Promoted to Vice President of Produce Operations for Harps Food Stores
SPRINGDALE, AR - A conversation with Mike Roberts always starts with a firm handshake, followed by an appetizer of energy and laughter, and a main course of genuine conversation and warmth. All to say, he is one of the reasons why people feel so connected in this industry, and why relationships matter so much to each of us. So, it gives me great pleasure to share that Mike has been promoted to the role of Vice President of Produce Operations for Harps Food Stores.
In this new role, Mike will be doing what he does best, elevating Harps’ produce game, its fresh strategy, and how the company connects with its target demographics.
“I am incredibly excited for this evolution in my career with Harps. My biggest goal and vision is to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among our customers, this includes what I think is my main responsibility: training, educating, and making sure that our Produce Managers have all the tools and resources they need to do this,” Mike shares with me. “I have never forgotten what it was like to be on the front lines. Being a Produce Manager is tough work, and I want to make sure they always have great support!”
On top of these key priorities, Mike would also like to lead Harps in the direction of food waste reduction and feeding kids and families healthier food with sustainable packaging options. Fueled by his experience, perspective, and long history in the industry, Mike informs me that the time is now to pivot the way we produce and sell our food.
For Mike, his time in this industry has happened in the blink of an eye, all 34 years of it.
“I started at a Food 4 Less store in North Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1988 as a part-time job to get through college at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock,” Mike reflects, taking a moment to let his mind drift back to his career origins. “I cut my baby teeth working for Food 4 Less learning the basics and moving into an Assistant Produce Manager’s role and my first Produce Manager’s role. Harps purchased the last 10 stores of the Food 4 Less chain from Wal-Mart in 1995, and that is when I was fortunate enough to be employed by Harps.”
Along the way, Mike managed a few produce departments for Harps between 1995 and 2001 when he was promoted to Produce Merchandiser, and in 2017 when he was promoted to Director of Produce Operations.
“You could really say that I cut my teeth more as Produce Merchandiser than anywhere, being a merchandiser or field support with a district of stores is probably one of the most enjoyable and challenging jobs in the produce industry,” Mike tells me. “Being in this role taught me people skills on a new level and inspired me to make sure that my staff were good leaders in their departments, knowledgeable and educated on the products they were selling, friendly, and had a good work-life balance. I spent many nights on the road in this position but I thoroughly enjoyed it! Being promoted to Director enabled me to spread this thought process to the rest of the company.”
And, as you would expect from Mike, he gives credit to some incredible relationships he has had over the years, including Dennis Baker, former Director of Produce Operations at Harps, whose mentorship was invaluable.
“Dennis taught me people skills that I use every day, and the lessons I learned are priceless,” he says.
Glen Brock, former Associated Wholesale Grocers Specialist, also had an incredible impact on Mike, teaching many of Harps’ current staff of merchandisers and him more about produce than they knew there was to learn.
“I have also learned a lot about the industry and made great connections and friends since joining the Southeast Produce Council in 2011, being a part of the STEP-UPP program really springboarded my career on another level,” he says.
With such a prestigious career behind him and great opportunities paving the path ahead, we want to congratulate Mike on this exciting news and thank him for all that he does for our industry and beyond!