Onalaska, Wisconsin (WXOW) --- He is among the best known and most recognizable figures in the La Crosse and Onalaska area, both for his business success, and his service to the community.
Now Dave Skogen, who has expanded his Festival Foods stores across the region, can add author to his resume.
His new book is called "Boomerang!" It is based on the principle of bringing the customer back.
Dave grew up in the supermarket business. His father bought a store in 1946 with just 500 dollars. "I was 4 years old - a brother older, a brother younger and we could literally walk from the kitchen to the 2nd aisle of the supermarket." Things were different back in the day.
"The store closed at 6 everyday. We were closed every Sunday, closed holidays."
He went to college but admits he wasn't a "good student."
The store and customer service was what he was good at. Surprisingly, he worked in the meat department for well over 10 years. Dave was determined to try something new, something that still sets his store apart - customer service. "The choice was clear. I know now today that you either grow or die."
He opened the first Festival Foods in 1991 in Onalaska. The store snowballed. Today, there are 18 supermarkets across Wisconsin.
No question he's successful, but Dave says he's proudest of his success with people - customers and employees alike. "Our higher purpose as I've learned is to serve and enrich people's lives."
His management style focuses on appreciation. Employees are team members and he is certainly not the boss. "'Boss' kind of says I'm gonna boss you around. I'm gonna inject fear in you-my way or the highway. I'm gonna boss you around. Now a leader says I've got to walk the talk."
And he's talking in a book that he hopes will inspire others to be successful at something they love. "Find that sweet spot. Find that intersection between what you like to do and what you're good at."
And throw out the rule book. "I hate rules. I like recipes. You can change a recipe."
A little less salt, a little more sugar.
At 72, Dave hopes he's appreciated for the right reasons. "I want them to say he's a guy that really cared. He was passionate. He was philanthropic. He was tough. But he coached me up. He made me better. And when people ask the question 'Why don't you just retire? Go put your feet in the sand'. And the answer is always the same-because I feel I can still make a difference."
Dave says another key to success is being an innovator. You do that by being unique in your market. Festival Foods focuses on customer service and things like ribs on a stick or the flat chicken. Right now they are working on flat turkey.
Dave and son Mark spoke at the luncheon for the Chamber of Commerce's "Business Networking Expo" at the La Crosse Center on Thursday.
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