Ken Sobaski

Ken Sobaski, President & CEO, America’s Thrift Stores
ROI Podcast Episode 192

In CEO Podcast Series by Brandt A. HandleyLeave a Comment

Ken has been the President and CEO of America’s Thrift Stores since November of 2013 when he stepped off of the board to assume this role. He spent his first 4 years building the team (21 of ATS’s Top 25 leaders came from outside) putting in scalable systems and processes (Net Suite, Dundas BI tool, Day Force HCMS, Speed Rail Processing system), improving operations and cleaning up the balance sheet. All to prepare for accelerating growth. 

Today, America’s Thrift Stores (ATS) is America’s premier thrift retailer in the Southeast, with 24 stores on track to deliver over $80 million in revenue and $10 million of sustaining EBIDTA in 2021 at a 66% gross margin and $12 million EBITDA run rate.  In the last 24 months, during the pandemic, ATS has added 7 new stores to its base of 17. Prior to the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, ATS’s business was already incredibly healthy, growing total topline sales for 12 straight quarters and same-store sales for 11 straight quarters.  Reopening in June 2020, ATS emerged equally strong, with 4 back-to-back quarters of comp store sales growth, including a historic Q1 where both comp-store sales and Total Sales hit record-breaking levels. Sustaining EBITDA is expected to be over $14 million in 2022 and will more than double over the next 5 years as the company continues to grow comp store sales, opens 3-5 new stores annually, and enters the rapidly accelerating online thrift space. 

Prior to joining America’s Thrift Stores, Ken was a mentor, advisor, and coach to small and mid-size company CEOs as an Operating Partner with Alpine Investors LLC stretching across industries from Online Education to Online Retail Lighting & Design to Retail Furniture to Used Cars to Retail Thrift.  In this role, he coached CEOs and their leadership teams on helping them build and drive their growth strategies and sales & marketing execution. He also stepped into interim leadership roles and helped with sourcing and due diligence on potential new acquisition candidates. 

Ken Sobaski has been a visionary, strategic President & CEO with a history of significantly accelerating growth and inspiring teamwork on businesses across multiple different industries: consumer food, online e-commerce, recreational products, and giftware. He has over 30 years of experience at blue chip marketing-driven companies like Kraft, General Mills, Pillsbury, Polaris, and Capella Education Company, where he grew brands like Orville Redenbacher, Green Giant, Wheaties, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and Polaris. 

Ken’s distinction is his ability to lead his teams to achieve significant levels of growth not reached before. Here are a few examples:

  • At Pillsbury, he took a $600mm refrigerated baked goods business that was flat or declining for 5 years and added $120mm in revenue in year 1, and built a pipeline of new products that grew $270mm of incremental revenue over 3 years
  • At Green Giant he successfully launched Create-a-Meal, a $150mm new frozen vegetable meal starter business, achieving record shares in frozen vegetables, moving to #1 position in the category in 12 months
  • On Orville Redenbacher, he reversed 49-months of declines with 12 months of double-digit volume gains.
  • At Polaris, he grew revenue +34% in just over 3 years by focusing/improving marketing execution and upgrading the dealer network
  • At Capella Education Company (an online consumer education company) he took growth from +15% per year to +25% per year, adding $120mm in revenue in under 3 years

Ken has served on the boards of The Minnesota Diabetes Association, The Twin Cities United Way, and The Council on Aging – Orange County. 

Ken holds a BA in Economics & Urban Studies from St. Olaf College and an MBA in Marketing & Strategy from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University 


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