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Sobey brothers inducted to business hall of fame


STELLARTON - Twenty-three years ago, David and Donald Sobey watched as their father, the late Frank H. Sobey, was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

Last night, they followed in his footsteps.

"I remember coming up here and participating and attending that dinner," said David Sobey. "Now we're doing the same thing with our own children and grandchildren."

Established by Junior Achievement of Canada in 1979, the Canadian Business Hall of Fame recognizes business excellence and honours leading business men and women, past and present for their outstanding achievements in business and contributions to Canadian society.

Each year, inductees are selected for their enduring contributions to the economic development of Canada and to the products, processes, efficiencies and human relations of business.

Nominated by their peers, inductees are selected following a careful review of all nominations by an independent committee. The annual ceremony celebrates the lifetime accomplishments of Canada's most distinguished business leaders, past and present.

"It's quite an honour," said David Sobey. "To follow father's footsteps and have it happen at the time of our 100th anniversary of our company, it's just an additional nice thing to have happen. I only regret that our late brother Bill won't be here to join with us in receiving this honour, he was a great contributor to both Sobeys and Empire."

That's not to say it didn't leave David Sobey without an attack of butterflies, however.

"I'm having a case of small-town jitters in this big city," Sobey said yesterday afternoon from Toronto before the ceremony. "I'm looking forward to it, though, they've got a big event lined up. I've got my granddaughters and grandsons here with me."

David Sobey began his career with Sobeys more than 60 years ago, working part time in his early years and in 1955, he was appointed manager of Sobeys first store in Halifax. He returned to the company's head office in Stellarton in 1958 as director of merchandising and advertising. Over the years, he served in many positions, including chief operating officer and chief executive officer. In 1996, he became chairman and retired in 2001 as chairman emeritus.

Donald Sobey joined his father and brothers in the family business in 1958. He joined the board of Empire in 1963 and was appointed president in 1969. In 1985, he was named chairman and retired in 2004 as chairman emeritus.

Over the years, both companies have remained under the direction of J.W. Sobey's grandchildren, although they've come a long way from the grocery store he opened in Stellarton back in 1907.

"It's been a good run," said David Sobey. "Now his grandchildren are starting to run the business."

Now with branches across Canada, Sobeys has grown significantly, but it's still based in Stellarton and the family still calls Pictou County home. "It's always nice to know as we expand across Canada, we can still call Nova Scotia home," he said. "Hopefully, future generations of Sobeys will continue to oversee the company from there."

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