Largest local Hispanic supermarket chain credits family roots for its success

Victor Flores, also know as Mr. Wow, the spokesman for La Bonita Supermarkets. June 10, 2016.

The unique sound of Victor Flores’ voice and his friendly smile have become a regular part of Spanish-speaking TV in Las Vegas. He’s employed at La Bonita supermarket, often appearing in commercials for the local grocery chain, which has catered to Hispanic Americans in the Valley for 27 years.

In 1991, Michoacán natives Jaime and Sylvia Martinez started La Bonita as a simple meat market on the corner of Stewart and Eastern avenues.

And despite its growth into six full-scale Las Vegas supermarkets with 750 employees, the couple remains focused on serving the local community.

“For us, it has always been about hard-work, discipline and a strong family foundation,” Jaime Martinez said. “When we see need in underserved areas for our type of supermarket, we look into it, and usually go from there.”

The Martinez couple moved in the 1970s from a small town of 2,000 in the southern Mexican state to Los Angeles. After more than a decade working in hospitality, Jamie and Sylvia came to Las Vegas, where they tapped into their family roots.

Raised on a ranch where his father owned livestock, Jamie opened a meat market to serve the Valley’s growing Hispanic population. He named it after his father’s favorite milking cow in Michoacán, which had light brown-colored polka dots. The name La Bonita in Spanish translates to “the beautiful one.”

Their transition to the valley allowed the couple to avoid the high costs of living and industry competition in California, Jaime Martinez said. The carniceria (meat market) had just five employees when it first opened.

Five years later, the family saw demand for expansion a few miles north. By 1996, La Bonita supermarket opened on Las Vegas Boulevard North and Stewart Street, featuring an array of Mexican tortillas, cheeses, vegetables, seasonings and spices. It was the only full-scale supermarket at the time to sell such items. By 1997, the original meat market moved a block down the road and underwent major expansion to become La Bonita’s second full grocery store.

Armando Martinez was just 5 years old when his father opened shop in Las Vegas for the first time. Now the general manager of La Bonita’s stores, Martinez says despite the market’s ongoing success, its ownership has no plans for expansion outside the valley.

“I don’t think the goal was ever to be a major grocery store or a major business operator,” Armando said. “They just wanted to serve their customers. And I think that has been the driving force behind it.”

The company’s community involvement, which includes engagements with the American Red Cross, St. Jude, Three Square, Communities in Schools, City of North Las Vegas and Springs Preserve, has all come as a result of “just wanting to have a good business.”

“At the end of the day we are part of the community,” Armando added. “We live here and our kids were raised in Vegas.”

The chain plans to open a new 50,000 square feet store, just north of Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road, in the spring.

“Every time we opened up a new store, people were asking when we were going to open in Henderson,” Martinez said. “We finally took a look at the demographics and we liked what we saw out there.”

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.