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Kevin Davis

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Bristol Farms

Age: 43

Kevin Davis has had a long climb up the ladder starting out as a box boy and working his way through the ranks to become head of Bristol Farms, the growing L.A.-area chain of upscale food stores with annual revenues of more than $90 million.

Davis wasn't looking for a career only extra cash when he began working as a clerk's helper at a Ralphs store during high school and then college at UCLA.

But he kept getting promoted and, by his senior year, Ralphs Grocery Co. recommended him for a scholarship at USC's business school. Davis left UCLA and his plans to become a corporate lawyer (he was majoring in political science and pre-law), and began as a junior at USC.

When he graduated in 1978, Ralphs gave him a store to manage and eventually a district. Within a few years, people were starting to take note; Business Week named him one of its "Fast Track Kids" a list of 50 young businesspeople pegged as future CEOs.

And so it happened. Last month, Davis, 43, who left Ralph's in 1996 after 24 years, was named chairman and CEO of Bristol Farms.

Davis acknowledges it was hard to leave. "I was brought up in Ralphs' family environment. I even owe my education to Ralphs. But I saw a great opportunity to do something cutting edge and learn a lot more in a start-up environment," he says.

Davis believes that, if he had waited much longer, he would have been seen as someone too entrenched at Ralphs. "I'm at a time in my life when it was appropriate. It would have been harder to get someone to take a chance on me if I had waited much longer," he says.

Davis says he has always worked hard "we used to joke that a half day was six to six," he says. But he still finds time for his wife, Cindy, and six kids. They're expecting the birth of their seventh in July.

Lisa Steen Proctor

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