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Web Opportunities on Aisle 5

Who: Corwin J. Karaffa

Old Job: VP of distribution, Certified Grocers of California Ltd.

New Job: Senior VP of operations, HomeGrocer.com Inc.

The jury is out when it comes to judging the appeal of online grocers. Is supermarket shopping one of life’s headaches that millions of busy people can do without? Or is it somehow reassuring to push your own shopping cart through an aisle of peaches?

Corwin Karaffa, 45, knows how he’s voting. Last August, he left Certified Grocers of California, where he oversaw distribution for the $2 billion company, to join HomeGrocer.com, a Net company based outside Seattle. He is responsible for distribution, delivery, and facility design for the Web grocer, which currently serves Atlanta, Dallas, and communities along the West Coast.

Old skills that still matter

“What prepared me for HomeGrocer.com was my job in the Navy. I flew A-6 Intruders from aboard the USS Dwight Eisenhower. Back then, I didn’t fear anything — I couldn’t afford to. The same principle applies here. You have to set aside your fears, make a decision, and get to work.”

Learning curve

“Customer service is a real problem at supermarkets. We have a chance to rethink the customer experience. One of our opportunities is to help design a new relationship with customers.”

Teaching note

“When you work in Internet time, you make changes on the fly. If I see a way to improve the layout of a warehouse, we do it in 90 days. At Certified Grocers, that could take 18 months.”FCS