Son shares how supermarket chain has evolved and adapted over years
Those who have seen the movie “A Star is Born,” may recall Lady Gaga in front of Super A Foods. The grocery store lights, iconic sign and parking lot serve as her stage as she sings for co-star Bradley Cooper.
Perhaps somewhat coincidentally, Hollywood would be where the food retail industry also was introduced to Super A Foods 50 years ago.
Jim Amen, president of the company, started working with his late father, Lou, at age 12. When he was 18, Lou Amen opened the first Super A Foods store in Hollywood.
However, the Super A Foods story is one of adaptation and perseverance. The store was sold a year later. Lou Amen then bought four Food Fair Supermarkets, which would become the new Super A Foods locations.
Jim, his oldest son, recalls this as a challenging time for the business. “We opened four stores at one time…nobody knew who Super A Foods was. So we had to build a name. And dad, the great entrepreneur, a great advertiser, was able to build that company up.”
Already an established grocer, Lou Amen had solid relationships with vendors and distributors.
“My dad was always great to everybody…and he had a long history before Super A was in the grocery industry,” Jim said.
These days, Super A Foods is known to cater to Hispanic customers. However, this was more a matter of adapting to community demographics as they evolved over time.
“Over the years, the areas that we were in became highly Hispanic,” Jim said. “We pivoted and learned…we’re before the Hispanic chains, there was no Hispanic chain in those days. We just learned on the fly.”
As a result, many of their customers grew attached to the Super A Foods brand, as did their children. That loyalty continues today.
“Most of our customers have lived here a long time; third-, fourth-, fifth-generation Hispanics,” he explained. “So we’re a little bit different than some of the other chains.”
And change seems to be coming again, as Jim noted that some areas where the company has stores, such as Highland Park and Division Street, are experiencing gentrification.
“We have a lot of young kids moving in that are buying homes there because they’re close to L.A. and they don’t want to drive 30 minutes to get to work. So it’s been a real challenge.”
However, it’s not a challenge that his father didn’t prepare him for.
“I always knew this was the business I was going to stay in,” said Jim, adding that the company has overcome riots, earthquakes, severe weather and COVID-19.
During the height of the pandemic, he shared how the stores were operating at one point with 25 percent of employees out on leave. That work ethic to keep pushing through adversity rubbed off on Jim and his siblings, who help run the independent grocer today.
“Dad was a horse. Dad worked his tail off. He worked from sunup to sundown,” he said.
Lou Amen died in May 2020 at age 90. He had worked up until the Friday before his death.
When Jim’s not at work, he most likely can be found at one of the top golf courses across Southern California and the country. It’s a hobby he picked up from his parents, both accomplished golfers. One of his goals, in fact, is to play Golf Digest’s top 100 courses in the U.S. The only one he hasn’t played yet is Augusta National.
Click below to view The Shelby Report of the West‘s special anniversary issue highlighting Super A Foods and its founder, Lou Amen.