• This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," June 11, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

    Click here to watch the interview

    NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You know, on a day we honor Ronald Reagan, I’m really excited about two guys I think Ronald Reagan would just love, because they personify his passion. Their passion was their livelihood, and their customers who shopped at their Omni Foods, they were loyal, and they were passionate as they come. With some customers, it was almost a cult status to shop in their grocery stores.

    In February 2000, though, a massive fire engulfed a number of buildings. Among them, one of Omni’s main stores. And as I wrote in "More Than Money," instead of laying off their workers, Jack and Suren Avedisian decided to rebuild and continue to pay 85 employees, even while they were not working. It is my honor now to welcome the father-and-son team, Jack and Suren Avedisian, the heroes from "More Than Money."

    Gentlemen, it’s so great to have you here in the flesh.


    SUREN AVEDISIAN, OMNI FOODS: Nice to be here.

    CAVUTO: A number of people have talked to me about the book and said, "I want to see Jack and Suren on your show. Get ‘em on. Get ‘em on. All right, so they’re on.

    Why did you guys do it? A store burns down, you are not compelled to keep paying people. Why did you do it?

    J. AVEDISIAN: We made that decision very easily, because the night of the fire, we were standing in the parking lot with all of our people. And at the same time, the question comes up, as we think about it, and thought a little bit ahead, how quickly can we reopen the store? And we honestly believed that there was only one answer to that, as quickly as we could.

    And then you need to think about your people. And as we did that, we made that decision that evening. It was a simple...

    S. AVEDISIAN: It was actually...

    CAVUTO: It was real quick, right? You were saying like -- boom.

    S. AVEDISIAN: It was that afternoon. Everybody was standing there watching the fire burn with us, and everybody was panicking, of course, because a lot of them are wondering about their next paycheck. And we just said, "Just don’t worry, we’ll take care of you."

    CAVUTO: Yes, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the delays. You know, they go and...


    S. AVEDISIAN: Well, as I said to you when we spoke...

    CAVUTO: And more delays and more delays.

    S. AVEDISIAN: ... it was one of those things where you continue to go on as long as you can. And, yes, we did reach the point where we started wondering, can we go much further than this?

    CAVUTO: Would there have been a breaking point for you, where you’d just say no mas, can’t do this?

    S. AVEDISIAN: I think there may have been at some point. If it had gone on for, you know, eight or nine months, we might have had to do something different. But we had a lot of pressure being pushed upon us by our customers to try and reopen. We were putting pressure on the city and the demolition crew to get the thing done so that we could get our people in there. And we had a contingency plan set up that basically rolled on a weekly basis as to when we could do things and how we would move forward.

    CAVUTO: Now, Jack...

    J. AVEDISIAN: We had an awful...

    CAVUTO: ... you could have accepted a big insurance check, and you and Suren could have just walked away.

    J. AVEDISIAN: Sure. Sure.

    CAVUTO: Why didn’t you?

    J. AVEDISIAN: Well, we had -- the first thing is that we had the belief that we could reopen that store within a period of time that made sense to us. And I guess the most important thing was to take care of the people that worked with us.

    They made that store, they made it all the years that we were there prior to the fire. And we anticipated the idea of being around for many more years. And I guess our attitude is, in taking care of our people, they’ll do a better job for us in satisfying customers.

    CAVUTO: They were very loyal, too. All of them stayed for the reopening, right?

    J. AVEDISIAN: Right.

    CAVUTO: And customers came back.

    J. AVEDISIAN: That’s right.

    CAVUTO: Like it was a cult thing to come back, right? Do you guys, knowing how good you were to your people and the reputation a lot of -- we were saying during the break a lot of reputations businessmen and women have in the country. It’s not good, and here you guys stand out. But I’m wondering if you really do stand out, if there is just a lot of good people like you who don’t get much press. What do you think?

    S. AVEDISIAN: I think there are a lot of good people out there. And you don’t get the adversities put in your face that force you to step up to the plate sometimes. A larger company has a lot of other resources to put to bear against what they want to do. And if we were a very large company, it wouldn’t have been an -- it would have been a lot easier decision to move people around. But in our case, as a small company, we had to react differently.

    CAVUTO: Yes, but all the more reason.

    S. AVEDISIAN: That’s right.

    CAVUTO: A small company to say, who cares, we’re out of here.

    S. AVEDISIAN: No, but we believed in the people. We believed they needed to be taken care of. Yes, it was a tough economic time for employment...

    CAVUTO: Yes.

    S. AVEDISIAN: ... because trying to replace those people quickly would have been very difficult. But it was the right thing to do for our people.