The Peña family began the journey that would lead to the formation of Compare Foods in 1978, opening their first supermarket in Woodside, Queens. After the success of this first store, the family expanded in the supermarket business, eventually having stores in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Manhattan.
After gaining experience through operating these stores, Eligio Peña had the vision of a supermarket chain that would provide quality products, exceptional service and low prices to the community. After three years of working to make this dream a reality, the first Compare Foods opened its doors to serve the community in October 1989 in Freeport, N.Y. After seeing initial success with the first store, the family opened a sister store in Brentwood, N.Y.
Compare Foods has been embraced and supported in its communities because the company works hard to better the communities in which it serves. It sponsors and supports local groups such as churches, youth services and non-profit organizations. It constantly looks to make the neighborhood and its surrounding area a better place to live.
Today, the company has more than 50 locations spread along the East Coast, with 21 of them owned by the Peña family. Compare Foods is mostly known for having a diverse international selection, quality fresh produce and fresh custom-cut meats.
The company’s name translates to both Spanish and English-speaking customers, and the organization has always striven to be inclusive.
“The success of Compare Foods is attributed to an incredibly strong work ethic along with family values that allowed 15 siblings to work together and support each other,” Jorge says. “This ensured that everyone in the family grew and no one was left behind. We created a commitment to every community that Compare Foods entered. Community involvement has been a huge part of the success of Compare Foods, part of how we show that we care about our customers, their needs and the communities where we operate.”
The company’s target customer is the one that seeks an international flair in the kitchen and wants to explore with different spices and cuts of meat, as well as uncommon fruits, vegetables and roots. Compare Foods looks to draw in the multicultural customer based on a shared openness to different flavors.
One new concept that the company recently launched is GalaFresh Farms, which seeks to draw in a different clientele. “GalaFresh Farms is our response to the need for more organic and natural products for the health-conscious individual or family,” Jorge says. “GalaFresh combines our experience in quality meats and produce with the shift in the market towards gluten-free, organic and natural. GalaFresh is one of the ways we are responding to customer demand.”
GalaFresh Farms is the company’s attempt to capitalize on the trends that are shaping its industry. Customers are looking for the right experience when they walk into the supermarket, and they are looking for a supermarket that offers them everything they need in one place to live a healthier and happier life. Cookie-cutter stores that don’t cater on a local level to their customers are missing the boat when it comes to the personalized services and products that customers are looking for.
Making major investments in the new GalaFresh Farms brand is a key part of the company’s plan to try to capture the shifting consumer interest in organic, natural and healthier options. At the same time, it is regularly making investments into its current locations to remodel stores where needed and offer locations that are clean and organized.
Compare Foods (and GalaFresh Farms) knows that it must have strong vendor and supplier relationships, which is why it takes a hands-on approach to vendor management. It strives to have contact with vendors daily, and it is a member of the National Supermarket Association.
“That is an association that seeks to defend the rights of the independent supermarket owner and to fortify vendor supplier relations through different social events, seminars and trade shows,” Jorge says.
Ultimately, Compare Foods understands that it operates in a highly competitive industry. It knows it will face challenges such as rising overhead expenses in an era of big-box stores and legislative hurdles that make success more difficult for small businesses. To thrive, the company knows that it needs to listen to its customers and be able to quickly give them the products they are looking for at good prices. More importantly, it must offer them service that makes them want to keep coming back to the company’s locations.
“Customers today expect a higher level of service than any other time in our history,” Jorge says. “As a business owner, you must find ways to emphasize this with your employees. At the end of the day, those are your representatives at the front lines on a day-to-day basis. When it comes to making sure you are properly servicing your customer, your people must be trained and prepared to succeed.”