Ruben and Suleika Aguilar: Working as a Family for Families
By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña
Ruben and Suleika Aguilar, independent operators of the newest grocery store in San Ysidro, are bringing the border community low price produce and more nutritious options all while having the opportunity to become business partners.
The couple, who recently moved to the area, decided to dive into this project because they were drawn to the opportunity of working together and teaching their two daughters the value of hard work.
Grocery Outlet and Bargain Market is an outlet grocery store that offers brand-name groceries and produce at 40 to 70 percent reduced prices. The new location is the first in San Ysidro and the 17th Grocery Outlet in San Diego County.
“The community has welcomed us with open arms,” Suleika said. “This is a community that works a lot and that also deserves to have good products.”
Their goal is to bring name-brand products that the community is accustomed to, but at the same time introduce them to organic or healthier brands that are often inaccessible to them because of the price or unfamilarity with the products, Suleika said.
She added that it is important to have someone who understands the needs of the community and can not only provide them with the products they want but also serve as an example that, “what you want can be achieved.”
A child of immigrant parents, Ruben was born in the United States and raised in Palo Alto, California. He began working as a bagger at Lucky Supermarkets when he was a teenager and worked his way up to hold the position of store manager for over 25 years.
Suleika was born in Mexico and grew up next to the border of Guatemala. She worked in a variety of fields like biomedical engineering and real estate.
Being her own boss when working in real estate became something that Suleika valued and is something that drew her to having a business with her husband who she said really wanted to have his own store.
“We put it together it’s the same dream,” Suleika said. “We are working together, we run a business, we are with our family, and we are close to Mexico. It’s great.”
Suleika felt a connection to San Ysidro because after living in the U.S. for 17 years, she felt that it is a community that makes her feel at home because it reminds her of Mexico due to the culture and large number of Spanish speakers.
While the process of operating their own Grocery Outlet and Bargain Market took work and dedication to complete a lot of training, Suleika said they had the support they needed.
She said the company trusts that families and husbands and wives can work together.
“Every couple has different strengths, different opportunities, so the company allows you to discover your opportunities inside the store and you can decide what area you want to focus in,” Suleika said.
And although many married couples could not imagine working with their partner, Suleika who has been married to Ruben for 17 years, sees it as a positive thing.
“It’s hard but at the same time it’s the best part because I trust him,” Suleika said. “He’s on my side and he knows I’m on his side so we are very strong in different ways so together we are a good team.”
Currently, Ruben and Suleika are working 16 hours a day at the store and although that seems like a big sacrifice, she shares their motivation, like many parents, is to have the ability to put their daughters through college.
She also said that they hope to give back to children and elderly in the community because they firmly believe in sharing.