Peter Baker Flickinger

Peter Baker Flickinger (1928-2014), a food industry executive, art enthusiast, world traveler, philanthropist and dedicated volunteer, died on Jan. 23, 2014.

He served as vice president and was a member of the board of directors at the S.M. Flickinger Co. Inc., a corporation established by and named for his grandfather in 1901 in anticipation of the business opportunities associated with the Pan American Exposition that year.

Smith Michael (S.M.) Flickinger developed a partnership with Crawford Bargar and May Sellstrom Bargar, and the Bargar family of Jamestown for 50 years starting in the 1930s to expand the S.M. Flickinger Company from Buffalo into the Southern Tier, Ohio and the Great Lakes Region.

The S.M. Flickinger Company was the first to create vertically and horizontally integrated manufacturing systems for retailers and wholesalers with the founding of Federated Foods in Chicago, which the Flickinger family and S.M. Flickinger Inc. donated to the University of Chicago to help endow the Business School.

Federated developed many innovative Red & White and Hy Top products sold worldwide by chain and independent retailers including Hannaford, Albertsons, Winco, Red & White, Tops Friendly Markets, Super Duper and Sobeys.

The S.M. Flickinger food distribution and retail company was the first to create a retail franchise model, which it used for independent stores as voluntary groups to collectively buy and advertise to compete effectively versus national and international chains ranging from A&P (the largest chain in the world for more than 50 years) and Weston/Loblaws to Wal-Mart. S.M. Flickinger and its leaders helped Frank Grimes create IGA in the U.S., Canada and worldwide using the S.M. Flickinger franchise model.

Peter Flickinger served as a key leader in developing some of the best chain and independent stores in the Americas, such as S.M. Flickinger, Federated, Red & White and Super Duper Markets, and was recognized as an important industry leader for its significant innovations for more than 80 years.

Peter worked with his friend and fellow board member, Robert Sellstrom (Bob) Bargar, president of Flickinger’s Jamestown division to create the highest food, drug and discount combination superstores in the U.S. Before Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target were created in 1962, Bob Bargar developed the first multi-regional discount department store chain in the Great Lakes region and Middle Atlantic states, Jamesway Discount Stores, which were named for its first location in Jamestown, N.Y. Peter Flickinger studied Byerly’s in Minnesota, Schwegmann’s in Louisiana, and other high-volume U.S. large-format food stores.

After Bob Bargar created the first Super Duper supermarket, Messrs. Flickinger and Bargar developed and built Erie, Pa. West and Erie East Super Duper food, drug and discount combo superstore formats, which had higher sales than Wal-Mart, Wegmans or other large food retailers at that time. They made the Super Duper grand openings exciting by giving children rides in front of the new Super Duper stores on Lena, the “Love That Super Duper” elephant. The Super Duper elephant be-came as ubiquitous in marketing and merchandising as the flagship Super Duper stores.

The Super Duper stores that Peter Flickinger and Bob Bargar developed experienced exponential sales and market share growth when Burt Flickinger Jr., Peter’s brother and fellow S.M. Flickinger board member, negotiated to buy all the A&P stores (the No. 4 U.S. supermarket chain) from A&P’s Buffalo and Syracuse divisions, as well as all the ACME stores from American Stores’ (the No. 3 U.S. food and drug chain) Buffalo and Syracuse divisions. All these acquired ACME and A&P stores were converted to Super Duper supermarkets in western, central and northern New York state through the Adirondack and Thousand Islands trading areas. These large food and drug combo store acquisitions and Super Duper supermarket conversions moved Super Duper from a No. 5 market share to No. 2 after the market leader, Tops Friendly Markets.

In their many years of working together, Peter, his brother Burt Jr. and cousins: Tom and Bill Flickinger and Bob Bargar, and the executive team at Super Duper/S.M. Flickinger and its largest customer, Tops Markets, with its key franchisees, increased their combined market share in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Jamestown and Erie, Pa., from less than 1 percent in 1962 to more than 82 percent in 1982 as A&P, Loblaws/Bells (Weston Inc.) ACME (American Stores/Albertsons) and Star Markets combined share declined from more than 90 percent to less than 10 percent as Tops, S.M. Flickinger’s Super Duper stores and Wegmans continued to expand success-fully versus those key competitors.

The S.M. Flickinger wholesaling business, formerly the largest full-service institutional and food wholesaler and retailer on the East Coast was headquartered in Buffalo and had nine divisions service markets from the Great Lakes region, Baltimore-Washington to the Gulf Coast, became America’s third-largest food supplier, before selling the $1.5 billion enterprise to the No. 3 retailer and wholesaler worldwide. Metro AG Haniel in 1984. S.M. Flickinger’s large food service business to restaurants, hospitals, hotels, schools and government facilities was sold by Metro AG Haniel to Sysco, the No. 1 U.S. food service supplier.

The Flickinger family has a long history of service to the community. His father, Burt Prentice Flickinger, served for $1 a year organizing national food distribution for President Roosevelt during World War II. Glenn and Awdry Flickinger, his aunt and uncle, are remembered for their involvement in the arts. Burt P. Flickinger Jr., his brother, contributed to countless initiatives that benefited Western New York, and is remembered for his leadership as chair of the World University Games, an international athletic event that brought together thousands of guests to our community with help from 25,000 local volunteers.

Together with his other family members, Peter Flickinger served on the management team that resulted in the firm becoming the first locally owned company to achieve $1 billion in annual sales. During a time of rapid change in this industry in the second half of the 20th century, Mr. Flickinger supervised the market research, consumers and competitive analyses, planning, real estate site acquisitions and development of excellent locations for new supermarkets, as well as all phases of constructing and equipping the stores. He was highly regarded for his expertise in the construction and maintenance of warehouses and grocery stores, and had a keen understanding of all aspects of design, engineering and efficiency.

After retiring from the company upon its sale to Scrivner, the U.S. division of Metro AG Haniel, in 1984, Mr. Flickinger devoted his energy, knowledge and experience to several nonprofits, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, where Mr. Flickinger was a longtime trustee, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, serving as chair of Buildings & Grounds for many years at both institutions.

His leadership and foresight allowed for significant improvements to operating systems, handicapped accessibility and long-term investments in these historic landmark buildings to protect them well into the future.

With his wife Susie, Mr. Flickinger was a generous supporter of countless organizations, including many in the arts, science, education, health care and health-related research, as well as the Buffalo Zoo and the SPCA. Their philanthropy made possible the joyful light sculpture, which daily delights all generations, installed on the north wall of the Bunshaft-designed 1962 auditorium addition to the Albright Knox. Most recently, their leadership has been dedicated to restoring and updating the chapel at Forest Lawn Cemetery, where they served together as trustees of the Forest Lawn Foundation. Peter Flickinger will be remembered for his quiet, attentive, constant, generous service and commitment to his community and his family.

Mr. Flickinger attended Nichols School and graduated from the Choate School in Wallingford, Conn., and Middlebury College in Vermont. A longtime member of the Saturn Club, he received a 50-year medal commemorating his sustained association with the club.

After the untimely death of his brother, Burt P. Flickinger Jr. in 1997, Peter B. Flickinger cared for his beloved mother, Marjorie Baker Flickinger, as well as being a very loving and caring second father to Burt Jr.’s children: Catherine Flickinger Schweitzer, Burt Prentice Flickinger III and Marjorie (Molly) Flickinger Ford.

Peter is survived by his devoted wife, Genevieve (Susie); his children: Alexandra Knox Flickinger Secor (John Bosley) of Monkton, Md., Peter Campbell Flickinger, of San Francisco, Calif., and Heather Baker Flickinger Byrne (Anthony, deceased) of Bolinas, Calif.; step-daughters: Gaye E. Campbell-Koncelik (Lawrence) of East Hampton, N.Y., and Clarissa L. Vaida (Jeffrey) of Orlando, Fla.; three grandchildren: Chelsea B. Secor, Colin C. K. Secor and Sophie B. Byrne; three step-grandchildren: Eliza V. Moses (William), Austi V. Campbell and Richard A. Vimmerstedt; cousins: Thomas R. Flickinger and William S. Flickinger; and many nieces and nephews.

Mr. Flickinger was previously married to the late Gracia Millard Campbell.

A funeral service will be held Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 3 p.m. in the chapel at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Delaware and Delavan avenues in Buffalo, N.Y., followed by a private interment at a later date. There is no prior visitation and flowers are gratefully declined. Memorial donations may be made to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 128 Pearl St., Buffalo, NY 14202. There will be a reception after the funeral service.