Richard Lessans, Former Commerce CEO, Comments on Advisory Role at BFG Supply; Industry Responds to News of Hire

Richard Lessans, Former Commerce CEO, Comments on Advisory Role at BFG Supply; Industry Responds to News of Hire

Monday, April 29, 2013

BURTON, OH - As the industry takes in the news that Richard Lessans, former Commerce CEO, has joined BFG Supply Co. in an advisory role, Lessans is saying he blames "a source I will not mention" for the catastrophic collapse of Commerce Corporation. "My goal is to help BFG be a better Commerce," Lessans says. "I want to help them better understand the independents so that they can serve them better - and help them be more successful." He continues, "A few people have asked if I'm crazy to jump back in the industry, but I'm really passionate about IGCs and truly want to help them. I know some vendors and retailers are angry with me. Hopefully, those wounds will heal in time. Remember, I'm a victim, too - I lost my family's many-generations-old business."

IGC retailers are reacting. "I think it's been difficult for people to totally erase the Commerce vibe just because there is a new name," says Midwest IGC retailer Phyliss Williams, Co-owner of K&W Greenery, Janesville, WI. "Even to get on the website, you still put in 'www.commercecorp.com' - the change has been so surface-only that I think that was a challenge, probably especially for manufacturers and vendors. I think adding Richard on, as well, has probably re-emphasized that challenge." Vendors who lost out due to the sudden closure of Commerce are saying they're troubled. "If the man cannot run his own business and did to the industry what he did, I have serious doubts that Richard Lessans can be of value to BFG. As a vendor, it will take us several years to overcome the loss that we have had with Commerce. We're not the Rockefellers, we're not General Motors - we're a family-owned company," says Guenter Burkhardt, President and CEO, Good Earth Organics, Lancaster, NY.