Grocer family seeks success in Minden
Nevada Appeal News Service
A soft-spoken, mild-mannered man wearing a red shirt, black apron and baseball cap was standing in the back of Lira’s Supermarket preparing to scrub out the rear storage rooms.
“We’re hands-on here,” said 63-year-old Jim Lira, owner and founder of Lira’s Supermarkets.
A younger version of Lira was standing nearby, sporting an identical uniform, save the hat.
“We wouldn’t ask our employees to do something we wouldn’t do,” said 38-year-old Mike Lira, chief operating officer for the family business.
Father and son spent the day at their newest store in Minden Village, formerly Sierra Nevada Trading Co., helping employees stock shelves, price items, and clean the building for the store’s grand opening.
“The reception so far has been extremely positive,” Mike Lira said, pointing to a box in the front of the store where customers can leave comments and requests. “The fact is that we are willing to do what it takes to make our customers happy.”
Mike Lira’s enthusiastic brand of customer service comes directly from his father – the man who, Lira said, once drove to Stockton, Calif., to buy fresh lobster tails for customers celebrating their anniversary because their own store in Rio Vista, Calif., didn’t have any at the time.
In 1965, Jim Lira began his career at a Rio Vista grocery store. He started as a courtesy clerk and worked his way up over 15 years to store manager.
When the establishment hit hard times in 1990, Lira and his wife, Shirley, along with childhood friend Bill Dutra, purchased the store and converted it into the first Lira’s Supermarket.
“I grew up in a Portuguese family and our philosophy was all about work,” Jim Lira said.
Family and hard work remain crucial to Lira’s Supermarkets. Mike Lira’s wife runs home deliveries for the Rio Vista store. His sister heads up human resources, and his brother-in-law is chief financial officer.
“There have been challenges, but we’ve been very fortunate,” Jim Lira said.
In 2000, the Liras opened their second store in South Lake Tahoe.
“We struggled at first,” Mike Lira said. “We overextended ourselves.”
He said it took time to adjust to Tahoe market conditions and to build a loyal customer base, but it was a learning experience.
“Now, we can leap over those troubled years,” he said. “Being small and independent, we can adapt to troubled times.”
The third installment in Minden will continue the Lira tradition.
“We don’t have the buying power of Costco,” Mike Lira said. “But we let customers make it a store they want to shop in. We concentrate on the perimeter, on our fresh produce, meat and deli.”
Jim Lira emphasized consumer choice. He said the store stocks products customers request.
“We know if we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will,” he said.
Both father and son acknowledged the importance of their employees.
“Our employees are more than just numbers,” Jim Lira said.
The company currently employs more than 100 people, including about 25 people at the Minden location.
“Our employees have been outstanding, especially considering this economy,” Mike Lira said.
Lira’s Supermarket is located at 1681 Lucerne Street. Call 782-7377 for more information.