RD Close Up: Esther Ellis, MS, RD, LDN, Rouses Markets
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
During my internship at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, we visited H-E-B where their dietitian spoke to us about her job. It was the first time I’d ever heard of a retail RD and the job sounded like something I would really enjoy. Towards the end of the internship, I decided to send a job proposal to Rouses Markets back in Louisiana. After several conversations, they decided to bring me into the family and I’ve been here for two years.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Learning the grocery business and all its moving parts. There’s so much more than just selling groceries and it took me quite some time to figure out how everything works and the best people to appeal to in order to get certain programs going.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
My biggest challenge is being one dietitian for roughly 55 stores. I could go to a different store once a week and still not hit them all in a year. This is challenging when trying to grow programs and build relationships within the stores and communities. This is something I am still dealing with and learning to navigate.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
Social media as well as online and print communications has really been a huge help in getting the message out to customers. I post weekly to Facebook and write a monthly e-blast. I also have a section in each circular ad where I pick four items and tie in a message. I also contribute to Rouses bi-monthly publication. These have been key to the growth that has occurred.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I have a B.A. in Mass Communication and believe that has helped me in some respects when communicating with stores and guests as well as contributing to media outlets. I have also created a network of individuals that believe in my role within the company and in the community and the encouragement has certainly helped. I enjoy learning and have learned to ask questions of my coworkers concerning their role in the company and how they may be able to help me accomplish my goals within the stores.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
I am particularly proud that my company decided to hire a dietitian. Our stores are in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, so for a store in the deep south to take the initiative to focus on the health of their customers makes me very proud and honored to be a part of.