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The Super-Savvy Storekeeper

Corporate VP Rick Provenzano is the quintessential red-blooded American male. He loves sports, works in the family business, and lives in the 'burbs with his wife and their 2.5 kids (the youngest is still a baby, so we'll take the liberty). But there's one part of his life that breaks the stereotype. Provenzano, his dad, and his three brothers run the Phoenix Ranch Market stores.

Say what? A family of Italians owns the most popular and authentic Hispanic grocery chain in town? Yes, it's true.

As kids, Provenzano and his siblings worked in their father's small market, which transitioned to a Hispanic grocery as the neighborhood changed. After the brothers finished college, dad purchased two struggling Hispanic grocery stores in California (known today as Pro's Ranch Market; for store details, go to www.prosranch.com, and see our award for the market).

One of the biggest problems with the existing stores was that there were very few Latinos on staff, says Provenzano. "When people walk into a grocery store, they want to feel welcome," he explains. Hard to do when everyone behind the counter looks different from you. Today, much of the Ranch Market frontline employee base is Latino, and nearly everyone involved with the company speaks Spanish.

Despite the family's vast experience operating Hispanic markets, there's still a cultural learning curve. When Provenzano helped open the Ranch Market central in Phoenix, at 16th Street and Roosevelt, the large kiosk just off the store's main entrance was a coffee bar — "like the Hispanic version of Starbucks," he quips. The store-within-a-store stocked gourmet coffees, tea and Mexican-style hot chocolate.

But, he admits, it was a dud. The family solicited feedback from its customers and replaced the coffee stand with a full-serve beverage bar featuring horchata, Mexican ice cream, and aguas frescas, in fruity flavors from pineapple to watermelon. The change hit the mark.

Provenzano is fanatical about his job, but the sports memorabilia in his office hints at his other passion. "My wife laughs at me because I'm like a little kid when it comes to meeting the players," he admits. "I took my son to the Suns versus Clippers game last year and I snuck between ushers, through the tunnel, and almost to the locker room to get Raja Bell's autograph." Provenzano can claim that the picture was for his kid, but we know the truth.

 
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