Planting Seeds for Lasting Legacy

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Weekly blog from the N.C. Retail Merchants Association
By: Andy Ellen  |  February 11, 2016

In recent weeks, NCRMA and its grocery division the Carolinas Food Industry Council lost three of the people who were instrumental in the organizations’ growth over the last 30 years.

These three men – Dick Backer, Avery Roberts and Landy Laney – loved their businesses and loved their state, and planted the seeds that grew to make NCRMA one of the top trade associations in North Carolina as well as one of the most respected State Retail Associations in the United States.

What seeds will you plant to follow in their footsteps?

Richard “Dick” Backer (9/15/27 – 1/11/16) of Carlyle & Company Jewelers in Greensboro served as NCRMA’s Chairman of the Board in 1992. However, Mr. Backer did not simply complete his term and close the door on his involvement. Instead, Mr. Backer led the NCRMA Building Committee in the sale of its Glenwood Avenue Office and purchase of its St. Mary’s Street Office so that NCRMA could be closer to the General Assembly and accommodate an ever-growing staff.  Mr. Backer was the stalwart that helped transform the North Carolina Retail Self Insurers Fund (NCRSIF) from a quiet workers’ compensation fund into a real member benefit for NCRMA members, especially independent retailers.

There were days when NCRSIF could have taken the easy path and sold its book of business, but Mr. Backer was the champion of staying the course and ensuring that NCRMA always be there to offer workers’ compensation insurance to its members. Today, NCRSIF is First Benefits Insurance Mutual (FRBIM), the 20th largest workers’ compensation company in North Carolina with plans to expand into South Carolina and Virginia. But more importantly, FBIM is still focused on being the carrier for independent retailers.

Avery Roberts (8/10/26 – 1/16/16) was a Human Resources Professional for Roses Department Stores out of Henderson, North Carolina. Mr. Roberts served as NCRMA’s Chairman of the Board in 1988 and later as the Mayor of Wrightsville Beach. Mr. Roberts was a zealous advocate for NCRMA and believed that every retailer operating in North Carolina, especially those headquartered in North Carolina, should be involved in the Association. Mr. Roberts was a key driver in the formation of the Merchants Political Action Committee so that NCRMA could help elect more business-friendly legislators and increase its political muscle to make NCRMA much more effective in the North Carolina General Assembly. In 2015, NCRMA was recognized by theSouthern Political Report as one of the top five trade associations with regards to political muscle in North Carolina. And it was the only retail association ranked in the 13 states covered by this political trade magazine.

Landy Laney (1932 – 1/13/16) served as an executive for both Ingles Markets and W. Lee Flowers and as a Board Member of the Carolinas Food Industry Council. When the North Carolina Food Dealers Association, a successful 70-year-old trade association, merged into NCRMA in 2005 some coming from the Food Dealers Association were skeptical of how the merger would work and how the new members would be treated in the merged organization. Mr. Laney made sure that the merger was a success always working for the betterment of CFIC and always ensuring that everyone was united in the common goal of making the merger a long-term success.

Besides their drive to succeed and being successful businessmen, all three of these individuals knew that when we love something – our families, our companies, our employees, our customers – we want to spend time with them, we want to encourage them and cheer them on, and we want to ensure the best for them. These men were genuinely good people who wanted the best for their companies and their employees. They shared also a common goal to take NCRMA to the next level. What will you do to take NCRMA to the next level in your own way?

If you would like to become more involved in NCRMA, feel free to reach out to me at andye@ncrma.org. We are always looking for the next seeds to plant in the growth of the Association.

Andy Ellen
NCRMA President and General Counsel


“If you expect your trade association or professional society to serve you well; you must become an actively engaged evangelist for your association. You must bellow it from the rooftops; the value you receive from your membership. You must tell all your colleagues, competitors, and suppliers why they too should become members. More members, among other things, mean a louder voice in legislative matters, more programs to help you improve your business, and better affinity programs.
Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE