Lessons from Leaders: A Conversation with Judy Spires

At D’Artagnan, we are proud to work with leaders in the business of food, from professional kitchens to grocery retailers.We interviewed Judy Spires, who heads Kings and Balducci’s Markets, just before COVID-19 changed everything about the food industry. We want to share that conversation now, with an update from Judy about lessons from the pandemic. Read on for her insights. 

Judy Spires of Kings and Balducci’s Markets

Judy Spires is Chairman and CEO of KB US Holdings, the Delaware-based investment firm that owns the food retailers Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s Food Lover’s Markets. Spires has led an extensive growth effort for both brands anchored by the Three “B” Strategy – Build, Buy and Better.

Spires has spent her entire career in the supermarket industry. It was through her early introduction to the business, as a part-time cashier at ACME Markets while she was in high school and college, that she discovered her passion for the retail service industry.

During her 30 year tenure, she has earned positions of increasing importance in all facets of the business. Prior to KB Holding, Inc., Spires served as President of ACME Markets, after serving as President of Albertsons DFW Division and as President of Albertsons Rocky Mountain Division. Spires is very active in the industry, as well as the community, and has been recognized with many accolades and awards.

As an essential service, grocery stores have had a huge responsibility to maintain the food supply chain and serve their communities during this pandemic. Are there any lessons that you have learned over the past few months that you plan to carry with you moving forward?

Without a doubt the #1 Lesson:  Our associates are even more amazing than I could have ever imagined!  While I have always considered our team our most important competitive advantage, during this COVID pandemic, our people attained the unattainable.  The care and concern they show each other, and the gentleness and patience given our customers when the panic buying began was almost overwhelming. Even as we worked through uncertainty with product, and as we learned and implemented safety protocols – they took every step with a passion in their hearts to always do it right and do it better than anyone else.  I am extremely humbled and will be forever grateful.  Moving forward I know NOTHING will ever stop this team!


What is your favorite D’Artagnan ingredient – and how do you use it in your cooking?

I am a huge fan of the D’Artagnan Duck Bacon that our Meat Merchant Paul Greenblatt introduced me to.  I use it in all the usual bacon ways.  Right now though, I am super excited for the D’Artagnan Berkshire Ham that we’re bringing in for the holidays.  I am going to slather it with a fantastic bay and brown sugar glaze and serve it as the centerpiece to my Easter table. We did a gorgeous photo shoot with it too and this stunner will have a starring role in our holiday campaign.


What advice would you give to others looking to get started in the grocery business?

Success in the grocery business really starts with a passion for people and a desire to give people the very best every single day. Of course, being excited about food certainly helps too.  I think the biggest piece of advice I could offer though is to remember that hard work is not hard work if you truly love what you do.

Do you have a favorite food memory?

I have so many favorite food memories.  My friends tease me that I can remember every food experience I have ever had. A new favorite is the lunch I recently attended hosted by Ariane. She put out the most extraordinary spread of charcuterie, pâtés, cornichons, mustards, roast chickens.  At that table, I felt I like I had been transported to France.  It was magical and exactly how we want our guests to feel when they are cooking at home.

What would your last meal be?

Before I tasted our new Duck Pot Pie (made with D’Artagnan Rohan Duck legs) – which I can’t stop thinking about – I would have said my last meal would be simple and elegant: a perfectly seared tenderloin — pink on the inside, a baked potato dripping with Irish butter and some char-grilled asparagus — I like the fat ones. If I had any room left for dessert, I’d choose chocolate.  Anything gooey and decadent–warm molten cake or warm chocolate chip cookies.

We began 2020 intending to celebrate D’Artagnan’s 35th anniversary, but it has turned into a very different year so far.

Cheers to Ariane!  A brilliant woman leader who has inspired gastronomic excellence among her team and her clients for 35 years.  It’s been an honor selling D’Artagnan in our stores and carrying on her mission with all of our guests.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Judy. We appreciate all you do in the retail space, and recommend that our readers seek D’Artagnan products at their local Kings and Balducci’s markets. 

Since 1985, D’Artagnan has been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, producing superior tasting products by partnering with small ranches and farms. We are committed to free-range, natural production, sustainable and humane farming practices and no use of antibiotics or hormones. That’s why D’Artagnan products have been revered by America’s most renowned chefs for over 30 years. We offer the same high-quality products to home cooks at dartagnan.com, along with recipes and guides to help you live the tasty life.

Are you a business looking to serve or sell D’Artagnan? We invite both chefs and food retailers to reach out and become D’Artagnan customers.

Connect with us on social media to share your cooking adventures. Tag @dartagnanfoods on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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