Small Private Company CFO Winner: Bobby Gabbard, Summerwood Partners LLC

Small Private Company CFO Winner: Bobby Gabbard, Summerwood Partners LLC
Bobby Gabbard, Controller / Summerwood Partners LLC / Bryant

When Bobby Gabbard joined newly formed Summerwood Partners in 1997, he was one among a handful of staffers, and he did whatever needed to be done in addition to his duties as controller.

“We’re up to a little over 600 employees,” said Gabbard, who was born and raised in Conway. “We started with about five. It’s been a great experience taking a company basically from its birth to growth over the years.”

Founded on five convenience stores and a grocery store, 25-year-old Summerwood soon will open its 45th Big Red convenience store to go along with three Family Market grocery stores.

“Going through high school, I realized I liked dealing with numbers,” Gabbard said. “Logically, accounting was a field where you dealt with numbers a lot, and I was always good in math.”

He graduated in 1982 from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting and became a certified public accountant shortly thereafter.

During a three-year stint with the Arkansas Legislative Audit, Gabbard helped audit cities and counties, in one case sorting through financial records in a shoebox kept at a local pharmacy.

He joined Safeway Stores at the Arkansas division headquarters in Little Rock, working as accounts payable manager, accounts receivable manager, sales reporting manager, financial reporting manager and controller during his 12 years with the company, which morphed into Harvest Foods in 1991. 

He was among a small cadre charged with winding down the affairs of the company when a Chapter 11 reorganization became a sell-off of all corporate assets to Affiliated Foods, Kroger and others.

“That was a very tough learning experience you don’t want to go through again,” Gabbard said. “But you do learn a lot.”

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