Hi Nabor grocery founder Sam Crifasi dies at 88

Sam Crifasi, the founder of the Hi Nabor Supermarket chain, died Wednesday night of cancer. He was 88.

Crifasi founded Hi Nabor in 1963 with his brother, Francis. The original store on Winbourne Avenue was 5,000 square feet. Over the years, the store grew to 30,000 square feet. Hi Nabor added a second store, this one 50,000 square feet, on Jones Creek Road in 1982. In 1992, Hi Nabor opened a store in the Drusilla Shopping Center, but the family is moving that operation to the Broadmoor Village Shopping Center on Florida Boulevard. The new store will have 23,000 square feet and is expected to open in late August.

Hi Nabor is known for fresh meat, homegrown produce, Louisiana seafood and low prices.

Crifasi and his family helped pioneer the use of register scanners. Seven of his nine children work in the family business, according to the company’s website.

J.H. Campbell, president and chief executive officer of independent grocery distributor Associated Grocers Inc., said Crifasi was one of the top retail minds in the area and a consummate merchant.

Crifasi, a naval veteran of World War II and Korea, was a member of the Associated Grocers board for more than 42 years, serving as secretary from 1981 to 2006.

“He was shrewd, perceptive, engaged. He was understanding. He was customer-focused, always willing to do what the customer wanted,” Campbell said. “He was available and accessible to them at all times.”

Those qualities were evident in Crifasi’s approach to stocking his supermarkets. On the rare occasions that Hi Nabor didn’t have a product a consumer wanted, Crifasi would go out and find it for the shopper.

Crifasi also refused to be beaten on prices. Crifasi was in business when the big chains dominated the marketplace. With nine children of his own, Crifasi was very aware of what it took to raise a family and what it costs to feed one.

“He wanted to be sure he provided value every day to his consumers,” Campbell said.

Tony’s Seafood President Bill Pizzolato said he admired Crifasi, who reminded him of his late father, “Big Tony.” Both were hard-working family men and pillars of the community.

Crifasi’s work ethic and family values were an inspiration, Pizzolato said.

Bobby Yarborough, CEO of Manda Fine Meats, said “Mr. Sam” was one of his mentors and holds a special place in his heart.

“He took a special interest in people,” Yarborough said.

Crifasi took the time to encourage Yarborough, even when he was a very young man, to always do his best and continue in the family business. In later years, whenever Yarborough was involved in any community organization or activity, Crifasi always wrote a congratulatory note.

“You could tell he thought that was important,” Yarborough said. “He was just a very special man.”

Crifasi cared deeply about his family and his community. Yarborough said those are two lessons he will always remember.

Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at Rabenhorst Funeral Home East at 11000 Florida Blvd. Visitation Monday at Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, 15615 Jefferson Highway, will begin at 9:30 a.m until the funeral mass at 11:30 a.m.