Arturo Tresierras
Executive Vice President, Tresierras Supermarkets

Interview by Leon Worden
Signal Multimedia Editor

Sunday, December 4, 2005
(Television interview conducted November 16, 2005)

Arturo Tresierras


From: Rachel Price
Date: December 4, 2005

    Tresierras did not occupy the old Safeway store right after they moved out. Safeway left in the early '60s and relocated to Old Orchard Center. For years, downtown Newhall had Dillenbeck's Market in that space.

    "Newsmaker of the Week" is presented by the SCV Press Club and Comcast, and hosted by Signal Multimedia Editor Leon Worden. The program premieres every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, repeating Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
    This week's newsmaker is Arturo Tresierras, executive vice president of Tresierras Supermarkets. Questions are paraphrased and answers are presented in full.

Signal: A lot of people who've been to your store on San Fernando Road in Newhall probably have no idea there actually is a person named Tresierras — and not just one Tresierras, but several. Who owns this store?

Tresierras: There are two owners. There is Richard Tresierras, my father, and there is Daniel Tresierras, his brother.

Signal: So you were born in to the supermarket family.

Tresierras: I was born in the supermarket family. My mother was a checker. I was destined to do this.

Signal: How many stores does the Tresierras family have now?

Tresierras: Once we open the new Santa Clarita store, that will be our eighth store.

Signal: By "new" you mean the one everybody sees under construction right now?

Tresierras: Yes, the one that has been under construction for nearly two and half years. That one.

Signal: Has it been a grueling approval process with the city of Santa Clarita?

Tresierras: I think it has been a learning process. It's been very educational. I have never entitled anything in my life, so starting from scratch with an architect and going and trying to do everything that we felt would be appropriate for a great supermarket, it takes time — two and a half years, I guess is what it takes.

Signal: When is the store going to open?

Tresierras: This thing should be open, God willing, by March. Spring 2006.

Signal: How big is the new store, and what makes it different from the one you have on San Fernando Road today?

Tresierras: Well, the little one in downtown — I like to talk about this one because it is somewhat of an anomaly — if you have seen it, it doesn't look great unless you go inside. That's when it's really good. It has 19 parking spots — which is nothing. It is just under 7,000 square feet. It's tiny by any market standard, and we have crammed as much as we can in there.
    We have a conventional carniceria, which is a full-service butcher shop, and produce, and grocery, and we diversify into all the categories — dairy, everything. Five check stands. Very small in scale.
    With the new location, we actually have space to really stretch our grocer arms, if you will. We will have approximately 30,000 square feet. We will have nearly 248 parking spots. We will have a full-service restaurant inside.

Signal: A sit-down restaurant?

Tresierras: There will be some seating. There will be a tortilleria, (with) fresh tortillas made daily, which is also a maseria, so masas for tamales and stuff like that will be available, as well. Of course, the legendary Tresierras carne asada will be in the carniceria. We pride ourselves on that. We believe we have the finest carnicerias, bar none.

Signal: Do you have some special recipes?

Tresierras: Oh, we do. We do. First, we start out with the highest quality beef; we start out with Harris Ranch choice-grade beef for the beef, and Foster Farms and Zacky for the chicken, and Farmer John loves us. They are just down the way. So everything's extremely fresh. The recipes, a few of them, primarily the ceviche and the carne asada, which everyone likes — those are traditional recipes from my grandmother. We've been able to standardize them to where you can come to expect the same quality every time. It's consistent. It's a wonderful thing.

Signal: The "little" store you currently have in Newhall — did your family buy it right after Safeway left?

Tresierras: Yes, we did, actually. We went in there in 1981, so we have been in this community for nearly 25 years. We went in there — and I remember the day. I was with my father and his brother and there was an old gumball machine that Safeway had left over, and I loved that gumball machine. So I just went in there and asked them if I could have it, and they said sure. But it didn't have a key. So, popping money into it — well, it was in my room as a child, and the money is still there. But there are no more gumballs, and I just don't know what to do with it.

Signal: So it became a bank but you can't get the money out.

Tresierras: It's a piggy bank. Unfortunately it's not accruing interest.

Signal: When and where did the Tresierras chain start?

Tresierras: It started in 1944, sixty-one years ago in the city of San Fernando. My grandfather opened a store on Kalisher Street. It was about 2,000 square feet. Small. He opened a little carniceria and just had all the bare essentials. It worked out fairly well. My father was in fifth grade; he would come out and help, along with one of my aunts, and it was really tough to get a business going back then. They didn't really have a whole lot of money.

Signal: And the war was still going on.

Tresierras: And the war was still going on. My uncle, Danny, who was my father's partner, he was serving in the war, as was my father's other uncle, Frank, who unfortunately didn't make it back. He was killed in the Philippines a couple of weeks before the war was over, actually. It was tragic.
    But Uncle Dan came back, and with my dad they helped build it up, and with the assistance of the family — they struggled, and there were good times and there were bad times; they never gave up. The new store now — I don't want to skip to the new store, but they had that store established in San Fernando.

Signal: It was just in a little neighborhood market?

Tresierras: It was a little neighborhood market. Very little. Unfortunately the landlord saw how successful they were with what they were doing, so he didn't renew the lease. He felt he could probably do it himself. That forced my grandfather to relocate to Pacoima, on Van Nuys Boulevard, and that was about 1946. That's when the family really came together to try and make this thing happen.
    By the late '60s, early '70s, they finally had built enough of a nest egg to launch another store, which they did, and another store, Store 3, and technically the little Newhall store is Store 4, and that was in 1981.
    Then we opened Store 5 in Santa Paula in 1997, and Store 6 is what we call Santa Clarita, the big store that's not open yet. While we were getting the process rolling we initiated our expansion campaign, and we opened stores in Camarillo and our newest and greatest store in Oxnard. Things have worked out pretty well for the company.

Signal: Is the Oxnard store bigger than the new Santa Clarita store at 30,000 square feet will be?

Tresierras: No. That's the fun part, actually: The Oxnard store is about 25,000 square feet. So we'll have about an extra 5,000 square feet here in Santa Clarita to play with.

Signal: Will this one be your biggest?

Tresierras: This will be the biggest.

Signal: What is your personal background?

Tresierras: I am the son of Richard Tresierras; he's a grocer, and he knows the grocery business better than anyone. He made a very strong investment in the education of me and my brothers.

Signal: Where did you go to school?

Tresierras: Well, I went to Crespi High School in Encino and played football there, and won. It was fun.

Signal: And beat Hart?

Tresierras: And I beat Hart. And then I went to the University of San Diego and majored in business, with a triple emphasis in marketing, procurement and finance.

Signal: So you really were born into this business.

Tresierras: Yeah. I knew I was going to go into this business, eventually. When your mom is a checker and your dad's a grocer, you can't get away from it.

Signal: Is the demand in Newhall solid enough to support this big an expansion?

Tresierras: Well, this store, in the Santa Clarita Valley, this particular location where we are putting this store, it has a demographical base that supports our concept: essentially between 36 percent and 40 percent Latino. That's a good number when you go with a Latino-concept store. That is the foothold that you need to build over time.
    Beyond that, we've found that we have been able to diversify into other product lines that are not specifically Latino. In fact, they are not Latino at all; they are very conventional — you will find them in just about every supermarket — where you'll have the Jolly Green Giant can of whatever; and you will have some sort of Latino equivalent right next to it. That is kind of the way we approach the grocery piece down the aisles. With the big store now, we will actually have the space to elaborate on each one of those categories. And the perimeter will be a lot of fun.

Signal: Meaning?

Tresierras: Meaning, well, with the hot foods, we will able to have mostly a take-away type of environment where people can order and take bulk foods, whether it would be carne asada, carnitas, or fully made tortillas with tacos and burritos and salsa and stuff, and then as you move around you will get to the tortilleria, where we actually make tortillas in the store daily.
    You get around the perimeter and you will have a carniceria, which most folks are very familiar with, but in the little store in Newhall it's only about 40 feet. The new one will be close to 80 feet, about double. And so we will have about double the variety, as well.

Signal: In conjunction with your big new Santa Clarita store, you're also developing a shopping center next to it, right?

Tresierras: Yes, I have a partner who's assisting me with that. That's going to have some interesting tenants. It will be great. There will be a Starbucks, and there will a Subway, and we understand that Hollywood Video is very interested in going in there, as well as a bank — one of the conventional banks. I know that there was Banco Popular and Bank of America and Wells Fargo all vying for the location.
    So it has really attracted a lot of attention, and it's really exciting to see the whole thing develop in front of us.

Signal: What will you do with your "old" store space on San Fernando Road?

Tresierras: We will remodel that and we will make it really nice and put in some seating. We know that we're going to cannibalize the profits from that little store; it's just going to get cut down to practically nothing. So we're going to make it really nice and congruent with the overall plan for Newhall and the redevelopment area.

Signal: Is it still going to be a grocery store?

Tresierras: It will still be a grocery store. Not heavy in grocery, though; it will be more of a perimeter store. You can go and get a sandwich, a burrito, we will still have the carne asada, milk products, what have you.

Signal: You've got some more property on San Fernando Road at 8th Street. Do you have plans for that space?

Tresierras: What I would like to do with that location, actually, is convert it to a barber shop. I want to have a real good time with it — do a lot of the historical applications in the artwork inside. I have an uncle who was a boxer, and a really good boxer —

Signal: Professional?

Tresierras: Professional. It was in the '20s. There are some really cool photos of him (in) the traditional boxing stance, and I would like to pay homage to him a little bit with that.
    And also, my family has been in this area since 1898, and I would like to do the historical applications, make it fun and nice and a really cool little barber shop where everyone can hang out and just wallow in the history of Newhall.

Signal: You mentioned that the 35- to 40-percent Latino population supports your concept; what is your concept? What is the mission of Tresierras market?

Tresierras: The mission of Tresierras market is ultimately to give the customer exactly what they want on a consistent basis. That's always our objective. We are not here for the first visit; we're here for the visit every week. So to get to that 30th visit, you have to be consistent, and you have to be good at what you do.
    To do that, and to be in business for 61 years, you don't compromise in quality. That's why we carry the choice-grade beefs, that's why we carry high-quality produce, and that's why our pricing is excellent. We do all of this consciously, because we know that we are building a relationship with the community, and that's how we go to market.

Signal: Some people have the idea that the local Latino population is entirely in East Newhall, in the Pine, Race and Arch street area — but that's not the case. Where is the Latino population in Newhall right now?

Tresierras: In Newhall I would say it's definitely where we are putting our store.

Signal: With your new store, are you moving closer to your population center?

Tresierras: We're putting it pretty much right on it. The other significant Latino population in the Santa Clarita Valley is (in) Canyon Country, and those essentially are the two (areas), I believe.

Signal: Do you draw customers all the way from Canyon Country?

Tresierras: Yeah, we do. We do. We see customers come out from all over. The interesting thing with our concept, what we see in Santa Clarita, it's not just Latinos. It's non-Latinos, as well. We see everybody come in. Because ultimately everyone likes a good deal. It doesn't matter where you are from or what language you speak, a good deal is a good deal. So that's our strategy. That's how we go to market.

Signal: Vallarta Supermarket has expressed interest in the abandoned Albertsons space in the Old Orchard Shopping Center. Do you see enough of a customer base in Newhall to support two large, Latino-oriented supermarkets?

Tresierras: Well, I think that location — ultimately, selecting a site location for a supermarket is a very logical matter. It's all based on demographics. For that particular area, we looked at that location, and we ran the demographics, and it didn't make any sense. That's why we didn't go there.

Signal: What didn't make sense?

Tresierras: The Latino base is not there, like where we are putting our store. All you have to do is do the homework, demographically, and you will see where the Latino density locations are.

Signal: And it looks like you are right where you need to be.

Tresierras: We're right where we need to be. We do our homework.

Signal: Did you get you involved with the city's downtown Newhall redevelopment plans?

Tresierras: No, its something — I guess it was initiated before my time getting involved here in the city, and it has always been on an agenda, and now it's gotten some inertia going, but no. I am not specifically involved in it.

Signal: What opportunities, or on the other hand, hurdles, do you see with the redevelopment effort?

Tresierras: I think overall, the plan, as I understand it — I am not an expert on the plan; I haven't really studied it. But what I understand is that there is this overlay where they will allow the zoning change to do retail on a three-story building, the retail down below, offices above and then residential on the third floor. Which makes sense, if you look at Old Pasadena or Monrovia; they all follow sort of the same process.
    If you take a look at what's going on with those locations — for instance, let just say Old Pasadena, you have seen that the community actually just evolves with it. It doesn't necessarily transplant the community; it becomes part of it. And it really becomes a hustling, bustling hub of a community, very New York-esque. There's a lot of activity, a lot walking traffic, really exciting stuff, lots of cafÈs. I think that is the exciting piece of it.
    I think the residential piece — there needs to be more residential built into the area. I think there is plenty of space to do it, and in time it will happen.

Signal: What kind of businesses would you like to see on San Fernando Road? Do you have any concerns that some of the neighborhood merchants might be priced off the street?

Tresierras: That's an interesting question. I think ultimately, the area is changing, and the dollars that are available in the trade area are growing. The retail model, as it stands, to access those trade dollars that are available, has to evolve over time.
    I am not a soothsayer; I can't tell you exactly what is going to happen. But I know that in terms of what we have done to support ourselves, is, we have made sure that we are the best at what we do. I'll put our produce up against any supermarket's produce. I will take our meat department, I will put it up against any supermarket. I mean, there are some that will carry extremely high, rare, aged cuts and what have you, but we do what we do, and we do extremely well. Ultimately it is the quality that will bring the people back, and bring the people into the location.
    I think as far as tenants and people doing business in the downtown, it's maintaining a high level of quality, customer service; that's what is going to set the tone for Newhall and the redevelopment in Newhall.

Signal: How are you able to compete against the big guys who can purchase in bulk? Is it the variety you offer?

Tresierras: It is variety; they — the way we go to market is, we have a very small staff, so we don't have a tremendous overhead. We have our own buyer who goes down to the produce docks in L.A. We have our own meat buyer; he handles all those transactions. When you take a company, for instance, let's say one of the chains, they have these vast offices with cubicles and cubicles of people who do these exact functions. It's a finite science, and it's also a very expensive science to maintain all those people.
    I think ultimately, when you have competitive influences like Wal-Marts (and) Super Wal-Marts that are entering the California marketplace, those put pressure onto the chain stores, and in time, those luxuries of having those vast amounts of people and being able to charge what you are traditionally charging for, let's say, a tomato — that luxury goes away once you have cutting-edge retailers like Super Wal-Marts.

Signal: Do you get involved in selecting the particular produce or products you carry?

Tresierras: I do. I make it down to the produce docks. We have a produce warehouse down there, as well as a distribution facility. I go down there and I will meet with some of the houses and see what's good and make sure we stay away from what is not. Mangos are coming in this season; they will be really good and big.
    Aside from that, I really have my hand in a lot spaces in the stores, a lot of functions in the office. Again, we're a very small company relative to the chains.

Signal: You've got to be the grocer, the developer, the...

Tresierras: Everyone wears a lot of hats. When my dad told me it was probably a good idea that you come on board now, he was like, "Get ready to never be bored."

Signal: How long have you been involved in the family business?

Tresierras: I graduated in 1996 from USD and I started in 1998.

Signal: Who in Santa Clarita do you consider to be your competitors? Food-4-Less on Soledad Canyon Road has a selection of products that cater to the Latino customer; are there others?

Tresierras: Well, yes, there are definitely others. You look at the smaller markets that are in the area; if you look around real close, there are little grocery stores, really small ones, and they each do something particularly well.
    Our objective is to try and do everything well, under one roof. Those are competitors. The chains are always competitors; they are very, very good at what they do.

Signal: Recognizing that the idea of Vallarta "busing people in" has gotten blown all out of whack — Vallarta doesn't bus people in, you don't bus people in, but you do operate a bus service.

Tresierras: Yes. The bus service is great. We saw that a lot of people needed help carrying their groceries, or they were — they wanted to buy more groceries but they didn't have the means because they didn't have a car, or they take our shopping cart and wheel it all the way down the road. That's an expensive proposition for us —

Signal: We've seen Tresierras carts all over town.

Tresierras: I know, and I apologize. It's illegal to do that.

Signal: It's expensive to you.

Tresierras: What we found is that we can offer a tremendous service to the people who don't have transportation — they either take the bus or they walk, or what have you, they get to the store, they do their shopping, and we take them home for free.

Signal: Personal service.

Tresierras: Personal service. And we have been doing that for a long time. We've built a great rapport with our customers.

Signal: Any parting thoughts?

Tresierras: Tresierras Supermarkets — we are opening in spring 2006, a big store, and we love Santa Clarita, and we are here to stay.

    See this interview in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.

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