Ernesto Medina and his wife, Karina Flores-Pereyra, the independent owner-operators of the new South Pasadena Grocery Outlet, wanted to reach out and engage in the community before opening their doors.
One of their first stops was the Holy Family Giving Bank, looking to partner with the organization that gives back in a big way as they prepare for their October 1 opening at 1401 Huntington Drive at the former home of Big Lots, which vacated the property for a nearby move to Alhambra.
Grocery Outlet owners are known for being community-minded, caring, and generous, traits found in Medina and Flores-Pereyra who reached out to the local Catholic church as they begin to find their footing in the city.
“We are so excited to have you,” said Marlene Moore, who runs the Giving Bank. “When the banner went up, saying you were coming I said, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe Grocery Outlet is going to be right here.’”
A warm welcome was extended to the new establishment on Monday as South Pasadena Mayor Bob Joe met the local Grocery Outlet owners at the Giving Bank on the corner of Oak Street and Fremont Avenue. Moore gave a small gathering, including Medina and Flores-Pereyra, a behind the scenes tour in how the operation reaches out to those in need.
Much of the food at the facility comes from the South Pasadena Trader Joe’s with support also from the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank as part of Feeding America, a hunger relief organization. Every Monday cars drive up outside the Giving Bank as individuals are given bags of food. Before the coronavirus pandemic outbreak back in March, Moore explained that Trader Joe’s would send two of its employees to volunteer for two to three hours.
“To serve our clients in a dignified manner is huge here,” she told the group. “We establish relationships with our clients. They are part of Holy Family. We serve them the way we would want to be served. There’s no reason for anyone not to come to our doors, no matter where they live. If someone needs food, we supply it.”
Joe stressed that the City of South Pasadena has a “very good relationship” with Holy Family and Union Station’s Shower of Hope effort, in which the Pasadena homeless shelter provides a mobile shower unit and personal hygiene supplies for the less fortunate every Wednesday. Holy Family partners with Union Station in the effort by providing its parking lot from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays throughout the year.
In addition, Union Station supports the effort with a caseworker, who provides support services to the homeless to help them move forward with their lives. Among its many services, Holy Family also holds a flu shot clinic through Los Angeles County each year for those less fortunate.
Joe stressed that Medina and Flores-Pereyra have “added so much” by instantly making an impact and becoming part of the South Pasadena community long before the store even opens.
Having Grocery Outlet “is just a positive thing for our city,” stressed the mayor, noting it’s the first franchise venture for the new owners who reside in San Gabriel with their young children.
Medina initially contacted Moore to find out more about the Holy Family Giving Bank and came away impressed. “We are so excited to have you,” Moore told the couple on Monday. “You’re going to see that this is really a wonderful community. It’s very special.”
The new business owners say it’s important to create “a foundation of relationships of working together,” noted Medina. Looking for employees, Grocery Outlet will hold a job fair in the parking lot of the Holy Family Giving Bank at the corner of Fremont Avenue and Oak Street in the city on Wednesday and Thursday, September 2 and 3, from 8 a.m. to noon.
Medina and Flores-Pereyra are looking forward to creating a lasting relationship with the Holy Family Giving Bank. “We were doing our research who we wanted to partner with before we got here,” he explained, noting that he comes from a Catholic background and feels close to the church. “Marlene was looking for us and I was looking for her. Everything we can do to help South Pasadena and the surrounding areas with our donations is just a win for everyone.”
They also expressed an interest in working with the Institute for the Redesign of Learning, a leader in special education in Southern California, also located in South Pasadena.
Among those at Monday’s event was South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President Laurie Wheeler, joined by the chair of the chamber board, Sam Hernandez. The new Grocery Outlet operators met with Wheeler, telling her how much they wanted to become a big part of the community’s fabric. “I was so excited to hear you were actually selected to be at this location,” said Wheeler.
Medina praised Wheeler for being a “tremendous help to us,” as the new store operators get to know people around town. “Everyone has been very helpful.”
As he left the Giving Bank, Medina showed his gratitude to Moore. “Thank you for the warm welcome,” he said. “I think this is going to be a good relationship.”