When she came to Kroger in February 2006, Marie Pettijohn was looking for her first job after college. She never expected to stay with the company for her career.


During her time with Cincinnati-Dayton division, Pettijohn served as an assistant store leader, store leader, division merchandising manager, division operations manager and – today – she leads a district.


Motivating her team to win


In 2019, Pettijohn was tapped to be a relief district manager for District 5.


“My proudest moment in 2019 was being selected to be a relief district manager,” said Pettijohn. “I held that role from August through October, and during that time I won the P8 District Managers’ Challenge.”


To win the challenge, she set out a plan and told her team to “go big or go home.” They went after sales and stayed ahead for each week of the four-week selling event. Pettijohn said she was inspired by the store teams’ motivation.


“I told them to ‘go big,’ and they did,” she said.


Leading with a passion for people


Spending time with Pettijohn, it’s easy to see how she can inspire results like those achieved during the District Managers’ Challenge.


“People are loyal to people,” she said. “Kroger is a people business. Milk sells itself; our people are what set us apart.”


When leading her team, Pettijohn makes expectations clear, coaches results and gives constant feedback.


“Our associates need to understand what’s expected of them and then be held accountable to those expectations,” said Pettijohn.


Following in the footsteps of strong women


Pettijohn continues to live the ideals she learned from her grandmother, mother and aunt. Each woman taught her different lessons that she brings to Kroger every day.


From her grandmother, Pettijohn leaned to be compassionate.


“My grandmother taught me the importance of changing my delivery if a message isn’t being heard,” she said. “If I’m not getting the results I need, I include others in the discussions.”


From her mother, Pettijohn learned the importance of teamwork.


“I’m the oldest of six kids,” she said. “If one of us was in trouble, we all shared the consequences – and if one of us did something great, we all were rewarded.”


And from her aunt, Pettijohn learned to be inclusive.


“She taught me the importance of looking to everyone for advice,” she said. “Throughout my career, I’ve leaned on women and men for feedback and different perspectives.”


In her Kroger family, former Cincinnati-Dayton division president Sukanya Madlinger has long been a mentor for Pettijohn.


“She truly exemplifies what a ‘people business’ looks like,” she said. “I understood from her that people are loyal to people, not corporations – and it’s something I live by every day.”


In addition to Madlinger, Pettijohn appreciated mentorship from Tish Williams Spurlock, who taught her how to understand different perspectives. She also recognized ongoing support from Kacie Maushart and Maria St. Germain.


Celebrating a big milestone


Pettijohn is excited to be named a 2020 Top Woman in Grocery.


“I’m proud to share the stage with fellow Cincinnati-Dayton teammates Evelyn Miller and Meaghen Sorrel,” said Pettijohn.


While as with everything else this year, the Top Women in Grocery celebration will look a little different, it isn’t dimming Pettijohn’s enthusiasm.


“Winning this award is a dream come true,” she said. “My future at Kroger is bright – I love working with associates and across the division. For me, the sky is the limit!”