State Foods Supermarkets president Mufid Alamsi sits down at his desk in the Sanger store. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
A Sanger-based grocery chain has been in the business of buying failed stores in the San Joaquin Valley and turning them around.
With nine locations open in towns across the Central Valley, including two new stores opening in Kingsburg and Madera, State Foods Supermarkets, run by current company President Mufid “Mike” Alamsi, has been taking over in places where he sees potential. In addition, six other, smaller stores not under the State Foods banner are being run by parent company Alamco, Inc.
Alamsi said the chain’s growth is tied to the opportunities available.
“It’s not one a year, it’s not six a year— it’s whatever we find,” Alamsi said. “We find something we like, we take it.”
These takeovers include State Foods’ flagship store in Sanger, which was once a Save Mart. Purchased in 2013, Alamsi had to undertake a restoration of the building which, among other problems, had been stripped of its copper wiring by thieves. It reopened in 2015.
State Foods has also planned extensive remodeling in one of its newest stores, which is opening in the former Kmart building in Kingsburg. Alamsi hopes to make the store more closely resemble the Swedish motif of the city.
While turning stores around, the chain has managed to not only create jobs, but also save them. According to Alamsi, he tries to keep employees that were on the previous stores’ payroll whenever possible.
“We try to keep the people that are there,” Alamsi said. “You take over something, everybody already knows what they’re doing. You don’t make any changes.”
Among the more than 400 people working for the State Foods brand is Miriam Carranza, who heads the scanning department in the Sanger store. Carranza, who came to State Foods two years ago, stated that it’s a large improvement from her previous job in the Vallarta Supermarkets chain.
“All the owners are very friendly — they practically treat you like family,” Carranza said. “You want to stay here with them, working longer.”
The story of State Foods and Alamco, began in the 1960s, when Alamsi’s father, Mohamed, arrived in the United States from South Yemen, which was still a British colony at the time.
“My grandfather and my uncles lived up in Sheffield, England because with British territory, you could travel to England,” Alamsi said. “My father decided, ‘You know, I’m not going to the U.K.; I’m going to come to the United States.’”
Mohamed Alamsi labored in farms in the Valley for a decade before going into business for himself, opening a convenience store in Reedley in the mid-1970s. He moved operations to another, larger spot in Porterville, before opening his first grocery store in Poplar in the 1980s and another one in Tipton in 1991.
In 1995, the reins of the family business were handed over to Mohamed’s son, Ahmed Alamsi. Mufid was placed in charge of operations in 2003 at age 20, and the operation officially became State Foods. Ahmed remained in an administrative role.
Under its current president, it has continued to expand. State Foods Assistant Manager Maricela Macedo attributes this to Alamsi’s aggressive approach to business.
“He had this vision. I had lunch with him one day and he said: ‘I’m going to have this,’ and ‘I’m going to have this warehouse,’ and ‘I’m going to go out and advertise,’ and then I’m going to open another store here,’ and ‘I’m going to open a store in Reedley,’” Macedo said. “And I just went checking things off that he’s told me.”
Alamsi has described himself as being more aggressive than his father and brother. The entire family is involved in the business, including his son Amir, 15, who works at the Sanger store.
As for the future, Alamsi plans to continue buying shops and fixing failing businesses wherever he can, with no signs of slowing down.
“I really liked his mission. His mission was he had this idea, this is where he wanted to be,” Macedo said. “He’s halfway there, or maybe a little bit more than half.”