Northgate González Market Celebrates 40 Year Anniversary [Interview with Miguel González Reynoso, Co-President and CEO]

The Latino supermarket chain, which opened its first store in Anaheim, now boasts 41 locations across Southern California.
Photograph by Emily J. Davis

“We have a store where we have the grandfather, the parents, and the grandchild working for us. That tells me that we have done a good job treating people fairly.”

In the 1960s, 17-year-old Reynoso immigrated to California with his father, Don Miguel, and one of his brothers after their small shoe-making shop burned down. His mother, Doña Teresa Reynoso de González, remained in Jalisco, Mexico, with the 10 other children until the couple could afford to reunite nearly a decade later. “We worked in a factory in Garden Grove until we were able to buy a house—and that’s how we got started because I sold my house and my dad refinanced his and then we started the company (in 1980).”

The location of the first store in Anaheim was formerly Northgate Liquor. The family couldn’t afford the $2,500 charge to change the sign, so they adopted the name. “For us immigrants that come from Latin America, the ‘north gate’ is really the land of opportunity, which for us is the U.S.”

All of the family members worked in the store; they didn’t hire their first outside employee for a year and a half. The community seemed to rally behind them. “Without our customers, where would we go? Nowhere. I remember when we barely opened up, we had no experience in the business, so we had no buying power. We didn’t have money to pay anyone, so we did everything ourselves. And the community I guess pictured themselves in us and they just kept coming back.”

Reynoso says success also came from the fact that the market always catered to the community’s needs and reflected a small-town spirit. “Most of the towns in Mexico are very similar, so we tried to keep some of that small-town atmosphere around the stores—so when our customers come here, they find a little piece of their country. To give an example, when we opened up the first store in San Diego, we had these special herbs from Mexico and there was this old lady; when she came in and saw them and smelled them, she started crying. She said she had spent 20 years wishing to smell and eat those herbs and she could not find them.”

The business was committed to providing what customers needed—everything from check cashing and money transfers to authentic Mexican cuisine made in-house. It grew from that single store to 41 locations across four counties and nearly 6,000 employees. But it’s still a family business at heart.

“We kind of get different jobs depending upon the person. Like we have a sister that loves customer service, and there’s a brother that really loves meat so he’s in charge of the meat, there’s another brother that loves baking so he’s in charge of the bakery, and then another brother that is in charge of the tortilleria department. My youngest brother, who is 20 years apart from me, got his master’s in business administration from Pepperdine, and he’s now sharing the presidency with me. My dad passed away 21 years ago, but we kept the unity in the family. We have about 36 of (our) nieces, nephews, sons, and daughters working here, and they are ready to take over. The future of our company is secure.”

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