Land of Opportunity – O’Brien’s Market
Presented by Prime Shine Car Wash……..a series spotlighting entrepreneurial achievement.
O’Brien’s Market is a Modesto grocery store that operates three stores in Stanislaus County. The market, which was founded on College Ave and Orangeburg in Modesto, in 1978 by Chuck O’Brien, has expanded into a major force in the market that currently employs 265 local people.
Tell me about your career and professional life. What have you done in the past that has led you to where you are now? The only job I’ve had from 1965 until today is at a grocery store. What first interested me in the business was a moment in 1962 when I saw a truckload of Swanson TV dinners being delivered to Save Mart. It just fascinated me and I thought that that would be a good thing to do. I started working for Save Mart in 1965 and went on to work for Save Mart, Lucky’s and Angelo’s before starting my own store.
What challenges have you had to overcome in your professional life and how did you achieve that? The biggest challenge was finding our niche. In the grocery business today, you have to find your niche to set yourself apart. The niche we found was an old-fashioned meat counter and USDA Choice meat. So we don’t vary from that. Ever. We have our niche and we continue to cater to the people who like what we do.
What are some of the accomplishments of which you are particularly proud? Growing the business from a little mom and pop corner store and ultimately taking over other stores and building stores that were bigger and shopping centers to go along with them. I’m also proud of our staff. I think coming from a strong family and maintaining a family atmosphere in our store has led to great people staying with us, some of them from 1978 until today. What do you think makes you such a success as an entrepreneur? I’ve never been the smartest cookie in the cookie jar, but I’ve always been the hardest worker. Plus, I’ve surrounded myself with good people and had good counsel from people in other businesses and our customers. It’s great to hear wonderful comments from people, and it’s great to hear comments from people where we fall short of their expectations. Because if you don’t know where you failed, you don’t know how you can improve. It’s great that people take the time to point out where we don’t meet their expectations so we can be better as a company.
What are your plans for the future? To continue what we’re doing to serve our clientele. And that means continuing to look for new, more local and more wholesome foods. At our Dale Road store, we’ve got a local honey producer, we have local almond butter producers and we have many natural, organic and gluten-free products. As the trends in health change, we try to stay on top of offering products to match. What advice do you have for business people when it comes to achieving their goals? I think you have to decide who you are and what you want to do first. Then stick to those values and learn as much as you can. There are people in your industry that will gladly mentor you and it’s your responsibility to learn as much as you can. When I look back at those beginning years, if I hadn’t been open to learning, I never would have made it. That’s something you have to stay open to.
What advice do you have for business people when it comes to achieving their goals? It is so important to have people you can trust to have very open and honest dialogues with about your business. Trying to figure it out all by yourself can be very challenging and lonely. Being in an environment where you have people you can trust and rely upon is essential.
What do you like about doing business in the Modesto community and why do you think this is the Land of Opportunity? The best part of Stanislaus County is doing business with your friends and neighbors, and having employees that are your friends and neighbors. This is the land of opportunity because if you’re willing to work and learn as much as you can, you can make a success out of yourself. Not only for yourself, but for the people around you.