Bryan DeVoe, recipient of this year’s Simsbury Business Leader of the Year award, says the award is a reflection of all of his employees.

The following article can be found in the June 2018, 2017 edition of the Hartford Courant.

The day Bryan DeVoe turned 16 was the day he entered the grocery store business.

“The day I turned 16 I walked into Stop and Shop,” said DeVoe, who has owned Fitzgerald’s Foods in Simsbury for the last seven years. “I could barely see over the meat counter. I was a skinny little kid.”

He’s never left the industry, moving from one store to another before working at Highland Park Market in Farmington, a store he managed for 12 years. He bought Fitzgerald’s from previous owner Warren Boyle.

DeVoe was recently named business leader of the year by the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce. One of the reasons why is because of how involved his business is in the community. It’s apparent right from walking in, as signs supporting Simsbury High School athletic teams hang from the windows.

“Any school event, any community event, we never say no, let’s put it that way,” DeVoe. “It’s important. Those are our customers. We need to support them. And they support us, that makes it easy. It goes hand in hand.”

In being business leader of the year, DeVoe said it’s important for local businesses to work together to benefit the town.

“We share the same opportunities but we also share the same issues,” DeVoe, who lives in Bloomfield said. “Whether that be hiring issues, supply issues or traffic issues in town. We are able to come together, meet with the town and share our concerns. And the town has been fantastic.”

When DeVoe took over ownership of Fitzgerald’s he started bringing new ideas to the store that changed what they could offer to customers.

“We are state of the art,” DeVoe said. “We are always ahead of the curve. Like our entree program, most stores will have a couple of shelves that was frozen. We actually have chefs and cook everything using the products that we sell. Customers can get exactly what they want.”

DeVoe wants his employees to have ideas that can bring new things to Fitzgerald’s. One location of the store that has seen improvements is the bakery.

“It’s all store made,” DeVoe said. “About 80 percent of it is our own creations. We let them experiment. We separate ourselves from what chain stores can’t do because it’s labor intensive.”

DeVoe employs a lot of family members, including his daughter, his nephew, his niece, his daughter-in-law and his wife. No better indication of the family atmosphere at his store than when his grandson comes rushing into his office to give him a hug and a high five.

DeVoe said owning a grocery store has been a successful combination of his skills as a trained chef and the many years of working different jobs at different stores.

“My food background is what really helped me excel,” DeVoe said. “That always gave me the edge. I could help with cooking, I knew about products.”

The business leader of the year award, DeVoe said, is a reflection of all of his employees.

“You’re respected by other business people in town and they are your customers, so they’re respecting your business and how you run a business, not just you as a person,” DeVoe said. “It’s a statement, not just personally, but of my business. Which I am most proud of.”