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'America's first supermarket' King Kullen has new president, executive VP

King Kullen has named Joseph W. Brown president

King Kullen has named Joseph W. Brown president and chief operating officer; he is the first non-family member to lead the 91-year-old company. Credit: King Kullen

For the first time since its founding 91 years ago, Long Island grocer King Kullen has a president who is not a member of the founder’s family.

Joseph W. Brown, 63, who worked his way up the ranks at the chain after starting as a teenage produce clerk 48 years ago, has been promoted from executive vice president to president and chief operating officer at King Kullen Grocery Co. Inc., following a board vote by the company’s board of directors Thursday.

"King Kullen has been a part of my life for nearly 50 years. I have witnessed many changes within the supermarket industry during that time but what has not changed is King Kullen’s commitment to its associates and customers and dedication to the communities in which it operates," Brown, a Centereach resident, said in a statement.

Also, attorney and Point Lookout resident Bernard P. Kennedy, 66, who is the great-nephew of King Kullen founder Michael J. Cullen, was promoted from senior vice president of corporate and legal affairs to executive vice president, chief administrative officer and secretary.

In March, Brian C. Cullen and J. Donald Kennedy, the grandson and great-nephew, respectively, of the founder, announced their plans to retire from their positions as co-presidents and co-chief operating officers after 22 years in the roles.

They will remain King Kullen board members.

The Kennedys are brothers.

Michael J. Cullen founded King Kullen on Jamaica Avenue in Queens in 1930. The company markets itself as "America’s first supermarket," a claim confirmed by the Smithsonian Institution.

Headquartered in Hauppauge, King Kullen Grocery Co. has 29 King Kullen supermarkets and five Wild by Nature natural food stores — all on Long Island.

The company is the last major family-owned supermarket chain on Long Island.

In January 2019, Quincy, Massachusetts-based grocer Stop & Shop, which has 51 stores on Long Island, said it would be buying all of King Kullen Grocery Co.’s then-37 stores for an undisclosed price. The deal was called off in June 2020.

King Kullen declined to disclose how many employees it has.

The employees are represented by a union, which provided some employee numbers to Newsday.

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 1500 in Westbury represents 2,400 King Kullen and Wild by Nature employees, including deli staff, produce workers and cashiers, said Aly Waddy, the secretary-treasurer for Local 1500.

UFCW Local 342 in Mineola represents 206 employees in King Kullen’s and Wild by Nature’s meat and seafood departments, union spokeswoman Keeley Lampo said.

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