Marchi celebrates 20 years as Cape Schnucks manager

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
As manager of Schnucks, Dennis Marchi has plenty of things to juggle each day.

When Dennis Marchi was a boy, his grandfather Dory took him out in the back yard of Marchi's Crestwood, Mo., home and taught him to play baseball.

His grandfather knew his way around a bat and ball -- he had even played in the minor leagues for a bit. He also knew to be successful in this finicky sport, you had to be able to acclimate yourself to the constantly changing situation and think quickly on your feet.

So he decided he wanted his right-handed young grandson to be a switch hitter, a skill that would prove invaluable when trying to out-think a cunning pitcher.

At first, Marchi struggled. But he worked at it and eventually proved a pretty decent left-handed hitter. Eventually, as a catcher, his team went on to win the city championship.

"It taught me how to adapt," Marchi said. "It really taught me that I could do anything I set my mind to. That was a valuable lesson."

It's one that he has used for more than three decades as an employee of Schnucks, most of them as manager of the popular Cape Girardeau grocery store. In fact, in January, Marchi celebrated his 20th year as the manager of the local store.

"You kind of shocked me when you said he's been down there 20 years," said Harvey Massarand, the retired district manager for the Cape Girardeau store.

Massarand hand-picked Marchi to relocate to the Cape Girardeau store in late 1984. He still remembers why.

"He has a certain charisma about him that relates to customers," Massarand said. "They feel very comfortable in that kind of atmosphere and in his presence."

Marchi always has an up-beat personality, Massarand said, and added that he's not a heavy-handed boss.

"He wasn't a person who took on a superior attitude," Massarand said. "He's part of the workforce. He doesn't portray a boss image until he really has to. His most explosive term would be darn or dab gum. He's not an emotional, up and down guy."

He fell in love with Cape Girardeau quickly, Massarand said.

"Dennis had the opportunity to be promoted to division manager," he said. "But he would have had to move back to St. Louis. We discussed the quality of life he enjoyed and we both agreed it was far better there than taking a promotion."

Marchi remembers selling newspapers outside of a Schnucks store near his home when he was young, but his first grocery store job was with a store called Bettendorf-Rapp, which he went to work for when he was 16 as a bagger.

"I kind of liked the grocery biz right away," Marchi said. "I only made $1.75 an hour, but I did everything at Bettendorf. I learned a lot there."

But after a while, Schnucks bought the store and Marchi became an employee of basically the only store he would ever work for, if you don't' count the weekends he spent at his father's gas station.

Initially, he worked in departments across the spectrum -- every department but meat, he'll tell you -- but that gave him a good well-rounded knowledge of the grocery business.

He remembers once when the manager handed him a cash drawer for the first time he would be a checker.

"I about had a heart attack," he said. "Besides, they put me on the express lane. I was a nervous wreck."

After the sale of the store in 1970, he transferred to the Schnucks store in Crestwood near his home. It was there that he met Lou Damrich, a store manager who inspired Marchi into becoming a store manager someday himself.

"I thought, I'm going to be a store manager like Lou," Marchi said.

Marchi was promoted through the ranks as managers of different departments, from dairy to frozen food. He took various managerial duties in Croeve Cour, St. Louis and other stores.

"I learned a lot," he said. "I just kept pushing myself one step at a time."

In 1979, he went to a small store as manager in Belleville, Ill.

"I didn't have a lot of resources," he recalled. "But I learned to make a small number of people work as a team. It really helped me develop."

He returned to a St. Louis Schnucks until he was tapped to come to Cape Girardeau. It was the first time he moved away from his very close-knit Catholic-Italian family.

"I didn't know what to think: All I knew was it was a good opportunity," he said. "They told me I would only be here three years, but I've never left. But I really love it here. It's my home now."

MEET DENNIS MARCHI

Age: 54

Position: Store manager, Schnucks

Education: Graduated from St. Louis University in 1973, with a degree in marketing and management

Personal: Married to Kathy, his high-school sweetheart since 1973, with two sons, Chris, 30, and Todd, 25. He is the board president for the area recruitment group, MAGNET, as well as a longtime member of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce and a member of the United Way board.

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