Pat and Lori Fox: Lake Country’s grocers
Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly continues to grow through acquisitions

By Kelly Smith - Special to Conley Media

June 13, 2019

 Lori and Pat Fox are vice president and president of Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly, the employee-owned grocery chain that began as one store in Hartland in 1988 and has grown to nine stores including one recently purchased in West Bend.
Kelly Smith/Special to Conley Media

HARTLAND — A customer at the Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly in Hartland accidentally tore up $50 in cash while walking out of the store.

The customer forgot a grocery receipt he ripped up was wrapped around the two 20s and a $10 bill he received after cashing a check.

Store employee Jenn Keczmer spotted the remnants of the money in the garbage and retrieved it.

Using cellophane tape, she meticulously pieced the bills back together and later returned the money.

The customer offered a tip. She declined explaining that would be against store policy.

Fox Bros.’ customer service culture is one reason why Carole Hohl decided to sell Klotz’s Piggly Wiggly in West Bend to the Hartland-based grocery company.

Carole and her former husband, Jeff Klotz, were successful business partners for 26 years, owning Piggly Wigglys in West Bend, Fond du Lac and Campbellsport.

Selling the stores after Jeff’s unexpected death in October was “an emotional and difficult” decision for Carole, but she wanted to spend more time with her family, including 12 grandchildren.

She was confident the Fox team at West Bend, and the store managers who bought the Fond du Lac and Campbellsport stores, would maintain the tradition of customer service and community involvement she and Jeff established over two decades.

“I have known Pat and Lori Fox for years,” she explained.

Growth through the years

Pat began his career with the Piggly Wiggly in Plymouth in the early 1970s and served as manager in various stores before starting Pat’s Piggly Wiggly in a small store in a strip mall in downtown Hartland in 1986.

Two years later he and his brother Bob founded Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly at the existing Hartland location, south of the downtown business district.

The company grew to nine stores including Hartland, Hartford, Hubertus, Jackson, Saukville, Port Washington, Slinger, Oconomowoc and West Bend.

Bob retired in 2006 and sold his interest in the company to Pat and his wife Lori in 2010.

“The West Bend store is a great opportunity that fits within our footprint in Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties,” Fox said.

“We are very focused on creating a customer-centric and sales driven-culture in our stores,” Fox added.

“Our team members understand that our customers pay their wages and I merely sign their checks,” Fox continued.

Lori Fox said the 90 employees in West Bend have an opportunity to participate in the company’s employee stock ownership plan.

The Foxes sold the company to the ESOP as part of a succession plan to protect the future of the company and reward the approximately 800 employees for their contributions to the company’s success.

An ESOP is a retirement plan that buys, holds and distributes company stock for the benefit of the employees, providing them with an ownership stake in the company.

The Foxes do not anticipate many significant changes in the West Bend store.

“It is a pretty well-run ship,” according to Pat Fox.

There are plans to expand the liquor store, he said.

West Bend customers will be introduced to the more than 17 varieties of award-winning Fox Bros. brats, as well as Certified Angus Beef, Smithfield Prime Pork, and Gerber’s Amish Chicken, as well as Fox Bros. cheeses.

There will also be a Brat Shack, a signature Fox Bros. contribution to the communities it serves.

 The "Brat Shack" is one Fox Brothers Piggy Wiggly's signature contribution to the nine communities it serves in southeastern Wisconsin. Community organizations can use the concession stand for fundraising events.
Kelly Smith/Special to Conley Media

Community focus

Community organizations use the outside concession stand for fundraising events by selling Fox Bros. award-winning brats and other food products to customers entering and leaving the store.

Fox Bros. makes the events profitable for the group by providing the food items at discounted prices.

Those discounted food items are not included in the more than $1.4 million in cash and donations the company gives to the communities it serves, according to the Foxes.

Community organizations book their fundraisers at the shack months in advance.

“I have had some mornings when I came to open the store at 6 a.m. and there were people standing in line to make reservations for their organizations’ Saturday at the shack,” said Heather Costa, customer service manager at the Hartland store.

The community spirit and fun at the shack is contagious throughout the store, Costa added.

 Lori and Pat Fox of Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly chat with Diane Walters of the Klotz's Piggly Wiggly in West Bend that was recently purchased by Fox Bros.
Kelly Smith/Special to Conley Media

Staying competitive

David Lamerand has a unique perspective on Fox Bros.

As both a grocery industry consultant and former Hartland village president, for two decades he watched the company grow. According to Lamerand, locally owned grocery stores can compete with “big box” and chain-owned stores if they provide quality products, excellent customer service, and establish positive relationships with employees and the community.

“I can remember when Pat worked as manager at the first store on Capitol (Drive). He bought it in 1986 and later brought his brother Bob in,” Lamerand recalled.

In May of 1997, the brothers purchased the Oconomowoc store.

“That was the toughest business decision I ever made. Bob and I were used to having our hands on everything. When you have two stores, you can’t have your hands on everything,” Fox explained.

Fox said he learned the importance of hiring store managers who understand the commitment to providing high-quality products and superior customer service while establishing positive employee and community relationships.

“One of the reasons Pat Fox is so successful is that he cares as much about his customers and employees having a good experience in his stores as he cares about the profit. He is not greedy,” said Milwaukee area grocery consultant David Livingston.

Fox Bros. is a franchisee of Piggly Wiggly Midwest of Sheboygan and in 2011 Pat Fox purchased the Hubertus, Jackson, Saukville and Slinger stores from the franchise.

A family business

At the same time, Lori became vice president of the company.

She has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Wisconsin- Stout and served as executive director of Prevention and Protection of Abused Children in Waukesha County.

“I reminded Pat that I had never had a boss and wasn’t going to have one now, therefore we needed it be a partnership,” Lori Fox explained As business partners, they purchased the Hartford store in 2014 and four years later added the Port Washington location.

They met in the late 1980s when Lori was a regular customer at Pat’s Piggly Wiggly.

“We became friends. After five years, I finally agreed to go out with him. The rest is history,” she explained.