Big Saver Foods
Meat | Hot Foods | Produce | Grocery | Bakery | Tortilleria
Uka Solanki came to the United States from India to obtain a degree in electronic engineering from Pacific State University in 1973; however, he took a detour from his career path to take a chance on a business opportunity. Today, that gamble has paid off, and Big Saver Foods Inc. operates one of the largest grocery store chains in Los Angeles.
His daughter and Director of Corporate Relations, Jyoti Solanki, says the company is known in the area not only for its service and competitive prices, but its dedication to giving back to the community.
Big Saver Foods initially found success by focusing on a niche market – Hispanic Americans – and catering to their specific needs. Today, it caters to the specific needs of communities, such as African-Americans and Asian-Americans that it serves.
In 1973, Solanki’s father joined a group of friends in purchasing a drive-in dairy and convenience store in Redondo Beach, Calif. The experience inspired them to aim higher, purchasing a grocery store in Torrance, Calif. However, the store was too large for the partners to handle, and they sold it within a year.
Uka Solanki took his share from the sale in 1977 and purchased Big Saver Foods, a small independent grocery store.
Today, there are 14 Big Saver Foods locations in the Los Angeles, Orange County and Riverside areas. Solanki says her father‘s success comes from persistence and focus on serving his clientele with an authentic experience and working to make the surrounding community a better experience.
SERVING CUSTOMERS’ NEEDS
Big Saver Foods stores are full-service supermarkets, with many including delis, tortillerias and bakeries.
The stores’ strengths are primarily in meat and produce, Solanki says; which are prime concerns for the company’s main demographic. The company says it strives to create a “back home” shopping experience for the millions of Hispanic consumers in the Los Angeles area.
Meats and Produce are a major focus for Big Saver Foods because so many of its customers prepare meals from scratch, Soalnki says. The company says it also stresses everyday low prices.
It is launching a tortilleria concept in several stores that offers traditional dishes. “More people are getting prepared foods,” she says. Big Saver Foods is also getting into private-label products that would be less expensive than brand names items.
Big Saver Foods is riding a wave of support of independent supermarkets in Los Angeles, as independents are regarded as offering better customer service and prices than large national chains, Solanki***** think you see stronger independents today that provide full-service markets,” she says.
PILLAR OF THE COMMUNITY
Beyond the service Big Saver Foods provides to its customers, the company and Uka Solanki also work to improve the communities they live in. Solanki says her father’s philosophy is to give people a “helping hand, not a hand-out.”
Education us one of the areas Uka Solanki and Big Saver Foods supports the most. The company provides an annual scholarship to its employees and their children. Through the Uka Solanki Foundation, it adopted two local elementary schools to provide them with books and other support materials for Los Angeles County’s Wonder of Reading youth literacy program.
Uka Solanki has also established a lecture series on Indian studies, as well as a Center on Indian Studies at the California State University Long Beach. The program brings a scholar in the field of India studies of the school’s campus to lecture students and faculty as well as elementary and high school students. In 2004, the Solanki Family donated $ 500,000 to endow the Yadunandan Center for India Studies at California State University Long Beach. He has also given money to found schools for girls ages 10 through 18 in Junagadh, India.
The foundation is a supporter of the Boy Scouts of America, and the San Gabriel Valley Council named Uka Solanki its Man of the Year in 2003 for his contributions.