Strength in Her Genes

Chances are, you have something in common with Andrea Karns. She calls the pandemic “the most stressful experience I’ve ever been through.” Karns Quality Foods operates nine grocery stores in four counties, and she’s vice president of sales and marketing.

“We’ve had the stress of sourcing our products—making sure we have flour, meat, and other products available. But more than that, for the first time ever, we were taxed with, ‘How do we keep our team members and customers safe during a worldwide pandemic?,’” says Karns. “That’s a phrase I never thought I’d say—it was a scary spot to be in.”

She describes “nonstop” working conditions and a “proactive approach” since March. For example, they began using touchless thermometers to take employees’ temperatures and installed plexiglass before they were requirements. Karns was the first grocery chain in the area to offer “hero pay,” which recognized grocery store employees as frontline workers. And there were days when she drove a truck around to deliver disposable vinyl gloves, while her father drove to New Jersey to pick up masks.

What does it mean to be a Woman of Strength?

“To be honest, it’s a very humbling phrase,” said Karns. “I’m honored to represent any element of the grocery store industry. If you work hard, it’s an industry where you can go far. And I think my strength comes from a desire to make my grandfather and father proud.”


“The fact that we’re family-owned and operated is our differentiator,” says Karns, who’s one of five family members currently involved in the third-generation business launched by her grandfather. “There are individuals who shopped here since my grandfather founded the business as a butcher shop in 1959.”

She calls her grandfather (who passed away in 2000) and father “the most incredibly hard-working team members I’ve known.” Having them as role models creates pressure and a responsibility to prove herself.

One of the projects she’s proudest of is Karns’ $5 donation bag program. Twice a year, customers can make $5 donations to underwrite grocery bags filled with up to $8 worth of groceries that Karns provides to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. “Every time we hold this drive, I’m floored by the quantity of donations,” Karns says.

At home, Karns spends family time with her husband, their 4-year old daughter, and two dogs. Her husband, an attorney, opened his practice about a year ago, so Karns says they both “work hard for ourselves.”

They enjoy hiking and cooking together as a family. So what does a grocery executive cook at home? “I’m awful at cooking the same thing twice,” Karns says with a laugh. “I like constantly trying new recipes.”