SAN JOSE, Calif. — With the hiring of longtime industry veteran Rich Donckers as president, Mi Pueblo Food Stores here plans to try to extend its reach beyond its core Hispanic base, Juvenal Chavez, chairman and chief executive officer, told SN last week.
“While Mi Pueblo remains committed to serving its core customer and providing an authentic Hispanic shopping experience, Rich certainly will bring a lot of expertise in how we might more broadly market Mi Pueblo to new, diverse audiences,” he explained.
“Mi Pueblo’s customers directly reflect the neighborhoods and communities we serve, and while the majority of our customers are Hispanic, our customer base is becoming more and more diverse every day as there are so many people who simply enjoy great value, quality and authentic Latino foods.
“We are working hard to engage these diverse customers and to have them shop more frequently at our stores.”
Mi Pueblo operates 17 stores in Northern California, from the Bay Area south to the Monterey Peninsula and inland across the San Joaquin Valley, with sales estimated at $300 million annually.
Donckers, who is scheduled to join the company later this month, has been involved with the industry at different levels — helping Wal-Mart Stores establish its supercenter food operations in the late 1980s, then operating a pair of upscale supermarkets in the 1990s and serving as an industry consultant.
“Rich Donckers brings vast retail and leadership experience to Mi Pueblo that is tremendously valuable as we continue to expand,” Chavez said. “His knowledge and experience in retail growth strategies, operations, merchandising, store development and marketing will serve us well as a relatively young company that is growing very rapidly.”
Asked whether Donckers’ hiring signals a move to lower pricing, Chavez replied, “Mi Pueblo works hard to provide our customers the best value for their dollar, in addition to our commitment to extraordinary customer service and quality, and Rich’s experience with low pricing at Wal-Mart will be of great benefit to us.”
Chavez said it isn’t unusual for the company to bring an outsider in to fill a top management position. “Mi Pueblo has a history of senior leaders joining us from outside the company to help it grow. As the company has evolved and our management team has changed, we have brought in new leaders with diverse skills and experiences to support our changing needs.”
Chavez said Mi Pueblo plans to open at least three to five stores a year over the next few years. “Our vision is to open stores everywhere there is need for our unique offerings,” he explained.
“Bringing in Rich Donckers as president will enable me to focus a great deal more on developing our employees and maintaining our organizational culture. Especially during this time of rapid growth, we must focus on maintaining those qualities, values and attributes that have made us successful up until today.”
Chavez, who was born in Mexico and worked as a high school teacher there before coming to the U.S., opened the first Mi Pueblo Food Center in 1994, three years after beginning business with a small butcher shop in San Jose that enabled him to develop ties to the Hispanic community.
Mi Pueblo stores average 35,000 square feet and feature scratch bakeries (panaderias), tortillerias, hot delis and creameries (in-store dairy facilities), plus a full assortment of groceries and perishables in a layout similar to a “mercado” in Mexico or Latin America, the company said.