Before taking on an after-school job with the company, CEO of Ritchies Fred Harrison was just a young teenage entrepreneur. Fred grew fruit and vegetables and sold them to his local store in Frankston for pocket money. There was always an offer to work for the company, but Fred was passionate about becoming a professional tennis player. From the beginning, he never adhered to the rigid structure of larger organisations. He registered with others as a four-person tennis club called Independence, winning a pennant flag with no formal venue or written constitution. Since adolescence, he was more partial to the less formal, more flexible structures of being smaller and independent.
After studying economics and politics at Monash University, Fred realised that neither area of academia was going to provide him with the career he wanted. He also came to see that being a professional tennis player was not on the cards for him. During his university holidays, the position of assistant manager at his local Ritchies became vacant. Fred accepted the position, which set his trajectory for a long and bright future with the independent retailer.
I first joined the business in 1975. It was a small company predominantly based on the Mornington Peninsula. Our key focus was Frankston, and we had three sites there. I was a student at Frankston High School at the time and started as a casual boy working after school. When I started, the company was 105 years young, but its roots and history have always been stores on the Mornington Peninsula. Now were the largest licensed supermarket chain in Australia. We have 70 stores and were as far north as Brisbane, predominantly along the east coast, and all the way through to the western district in places like Camperdown, Cobden, and Timboon.