When Eligio Peña emigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in 1970, he brought his love for people and for community.
But it was in a small convenience store in New York where those twin passions began to take root. Working at the store with his uncle, Peña quickly discovered he had a knack for customer service and an entrepreneurial spirit. After several years, Peña and his uncle bought the business.
“When I came to the country at 19 years old, I had no idea I would end up owning my own business,” says Peña.
Peña had a vision for a store that would deliver high-quality products and service at a low cost, while also providing jobs for people in the community. That dream led, in 1989, to the creation of the Compare Foods supermarket chain.
From its beginning in Freeport, N.Y., the chain now operates in six states, coming to North Carolina in 2002. Its stores are primarily located in diverse, multicultural neighborhoods. Managers make a concerted effort to hire bilingual and minority employees.
“It’s an American supermarket, with strong international ties,” says Peña. “We try to bring the best foods from all over the world to our customers.”
Peña wants his staff to reflect the community for a more enjoyable shopping experience. Most of the employees who work directly with customers are bilingual.
Under Peña’s leadership, Compare Foods works hard to better the communities in which it serves, sponsoring many community groups such as churches, youth organizations and non-profits. For nearly five decades Peña has used his business provide more than just groceries—he has made it a priority to give people in every community the opportunity for success.
Biography written by Olivia C. Cox