The Fermanian family of Super King Markets in Southern California is living the American dream, finding success through much hard work and determination. This year, they are celebrating the company’s 30th anniversary.
Of Armenian heritage, the family lived in Lebanon before moving to Abu Dhabi to escape the war. Peter Fermanian, his wife, Mary, and son Jake moved to the United States in 1989. Their younger son, Shant, was born later.
Peter Fermanian continued working as an air conditioning technician for a few years before taking a chance on getting into the grocery business.
He said he loved the food business, as he had grown up helping in his father’s produce store. Now, the family is on its third generation of working in produce and grocery.
Peter and Mary Fermanian opened their first store in Anaheim, California, in 1993. The store was small, about 2,500 square feet, and featured produce, meat and grocery. It was called Anaheim King Market.
The undertaking required dedication and long hours.
“We were not working three, four hours a day. We do every day 20 hours. When you’re working hard, everything is going to be easy,” Peter Fermanian said.
Vache Fermanian, Peter’s brother, had been working in the jewelry business when asked to join the family business. They decided on the “King” part of the name in honor of their father, who they called “the king of fruit.”
The Anaheim store, which had a large produce section, became successful and the business started to grow. After expanding to about 7,000 square feet, customer demand led to an even larger location. About 10 years after starting the company, the Fermanians had opened a 30,000-square-foot store.
After 30 years, Super King Markets now has eight stores in Los Angeles and Orange counties and is one of the highest volume independent supermarkets, Vache Fermanian said.
The brothers attribute the success to following their vision and finding their niche. They focused on what they knew best – produce. While the other departments – such as grocery, liquor, meat, service deli – are important, produce is Super King’s niche. Working together as a family also is key.
Peter, Mary and Vache Fermanian worked closely together and put in long hours when building the business. “We will always be not afraid to take the risk. So we jumped and we took a lot of risk. With every store we opened, it was a big risk,” Vache Fermanian said.
As it expanded, the company bought stores closed by other grocers and “turned them around and made them successful stores,” he said.
Super King works with a couple of hundred suppliers for produce, grocery and meat. These partnerships have contributed to the company’s success, along with its associates and customers.
The brothers noted the loyalty of their customers and also how lucky they have been to be surrounded by good associates.
“We always build a good team. The team does the job and makes our life easier,” they said.
Jake Fermanian, VP of Super King, said he saw how hard his family worked when they started the business.
“I saw them put in 20 hours a day, every day, for many years, seven days a week. I think I was 7 years old, and I really recognized the meaning of hard work and what that looked like. Even with today’s generation, I think it’s unmatched what they did,” he said.
As an example of the family’s work ethic, Jake Fermanian recalled “they would go to the produce market at 1 a.m., they would receive produce at 6 a.m., they would open the store at 7 a.m., they would take a lunch at 1 p.m., they would take a 30-minute nap, then they would go home at 9 p.m.” He said they would sleep for a few hours before starting over again at 1 a.m.
“I remember those days very clearly. I was a young kid and, just again, watching this thing evolve from a 3,000-square-foot store with five employees to…eight stores. It’s been a dream. And hopefully this dream continues to grow with the generations to come,” Jake Fermanian said.
After graduating from college in 2007, he joined the company full time in the meat department as a buyer. He also worked in marketing and IT before becoming involved in other areas. As the company added more locations, the importance of “structure, technology and process, and systems and people” became more evident. Today, Super King is a top retailer in the U.S., Jake Fermanian said.
He has learned a lot from his father and his uncle. “We spend a lot of time together and we try to vet things out – high risk, low risk, [a combination of the two]. I’m probably the high-risk guy in some cases, and in other cases they are, so it’s been a good dynamic.
“With my cousin [Clara] coming into the business now, it just allows a little bit more of an opportunity of new life, new vision, new blood. Hopefully, she finds that passion and can innovate and add value to the company.”
The brothers added that, to succeed in the business, it is important to like the job and working with the family. “You have to like the job; you have to put in the time and the energy,” they said.
Clara Fermanian recently graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in business administration. She, too, worked at Super King while growing up.
“We were always involved from the very beginning, whether it was decorating cupcakes in the bakery or attending ad meetings,” she said. “We were always sort of sitting in and learning as much as we could as little kids. So since then, I’ve had that interest. Just waiting to get that education, and then join the family business.”
She said she is trying to absorb as much as she can. “I love it. I love the busy days…I’m at corporate, but I love being in the stores. I love communicating with our customers. I love spending time with our store directors, walking the store with them. That’s where I learn the most.”
Clara Fermanian currently works closely with the center store buying team – grocery, DDF, bakery, mixed nuts and liquor. “Between those five departments I’m staying pretty busy,” she said.
Although not an official family member, VP of Operations Damian Valdez has worked with the Fermanians for 15 years. He came aboard after being recruited from another Southern California retailer. When he started with Super King at its Anaheim store, the company had two locations.
A bit apprehensive to move from a 15-16 store chain to one with two locations, Valdez said he felt from his first day that he had made the right decision.
“It was a big change, a drastic change for me in my life. But so far, 15 years later, here we are today. I’ve enjoyed much success, thanks to the family,” he said.
Valdez said building the corporate office from the ground up was “very near and dear to my heart because I saw what we came from to what we are today. And the fact that I was able to touch from A to Z – from design, concept and just overall finished product – meant a lot to me personally. The end result definitely speaks for itself.”
He said he would love to see Super King continue to grow and succeed. Customers are always asking what’s next, where’s the next location.
“We’ve done a really good job as a company to set up our infrastructure to explore rapid growth, although that’s not the direction we want to go,” he explained. “We want to make sure that it’s the right location and it’s the right approach for the company and the direction we want to go in.”
For more information, visit superkingmarkets.com.
To view the full anniversary section on Super King Markets presented by The Shelby Report, click here.