Hy-Vee Hispanic efforts lauded

Published 3:01 pm Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hy-Vee Inc. has been given the 2008 Hispanic Retail Excellence Award for its leadership in targeting the growing Latino population, and the Austin store is credited for having one of the largest selections in the corporation.

“We’ve added on to the (ethnic) aisle itself almost 30 extra feet of Hispanic items,” said Mike Silvis, assistant store director. “We probably have one of the No. 1 stores for having this selection, but each store is working on it.”

Austin Hy-Vee Manager Todd Hepler said Wednesday although the award was given to the corporation, his store is credited for its exceptionally large Hispanic foods section. He said in the past year, their Latino-related stock has expanded from a tiny location in ethnic foods to a good portion of the aisle.

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Silvis said Hispanic produce and other goods were not a priority for their store until they learned Cash Wise Foods, who focused more on Hispanic retail, was going to close their doors.

“It’s actually something we wanted to do,” Silvis said. “It’s honestly something we weren’t really into before. We knew Cash Wise was really No. 1 in the game.”

Silvis said Hy-Vee’s focus on the increasing Hispanic population’s needs exceeds just inventory; the Austin store as well as the corporation are working to get feedback from the demographic and hire more diverse people.

“We’ve asked a lot of Hispanic families, ‘What do you want to see us carry?’” Silvis said. “We’re currently looking to add on quite a few different diverse people. We’re lucky to have different teenagers here who know Spanish.”

The award was presented to Hy-Vee during the Hispanic Retail 360 summit held recently in Miami.

Other winners included Target Stores (mass retail), 7-Eleven (convenience stores), Longs Drugs (drug stores), Jewel/Osco (tied in the grocery category) and Best Buy (specialty retail). Last year’s winner was Bashas’ Food City, based in Phoenix, Ariz.