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From bag packer to store manager

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You could say that Lindo’s Group of Companies manager Zach Moniz knows the business from the ground up. He started packing groceries there at eight years old with his siblings, Hannah and Carrie.

“We would be outside playing and we would hear the phone ringing inside,” said Mr Moniz. “We would will it to stop, but we knew we had to answer. Then we would troop off to Lindo’s for the next five or so hours to help with packing because they were short of packers.”

Despite a few childhood grumbles he always expected to work at the store as an adult.

“Today I manage a lot of the Information Technology aspects of the business and handle the marketing,” he said.

It is his voice that is regularly heard promoting the store in radio and television advertisements, but he is one of 17 family members who work in the store, including his parents William and Cassie Moniz and his siblings. His maternal grandparents, Harry and Marion Lindo, started the company over 50 years ago as a small butcher shop. The store has grown from its humble beginnings into two large grocery stores, one in Warwick and one in Devonshire.

If Lindo’s has been effective at anything it is branding. It’s not just a grocery store; it’s the store with all those funny commercials, the store that regularly supports diabetes fundraising efforts through events such as the Lindo’s to Lindo’s 10K fundraising run for the Bermuda Diabetes Association, and the store that refuses to open on Sundays.

“It was never my intention to become the face and voice of Lindo’s, it just kind of worked out that way,” said Mr Moniz. “We were doing something that required a radio spot. Carla DeSousa who was working at Bermuda General Agency (BGA) at the time, said you need to do this spot. She brought me into the studio. After that that was it. Michael Spencer-Arscott writes a lot of our radio ads. He has a pretty cool mind when it comes to the creative stuff.”

In one memorable commercial a customer asks Lindo’s Warwick branch manager, Dai James, for fish. Mr James goes out, jumps in the water and comes back with a large rockfish. The customer is unimpressed by his efforts and states that she actually wanted tuna.

“We try to inject humour into it, so you associate a positive feeling with Lindo’s,” said Mr Moniz. “That was my favourite commercial. We filmed Dai in the tank at the Aquarium. Beforehand, we put the word out to the local fishermen we were looking for a rockfish to use in the commercial. Allan Card caught the fish. So we filmed the commercial around the time that they caught the fish and then filmed parts of it later in the week.”

In university Mr Moniz studied psychology at the undergraduate level and business at the master's degree level. He joked that he only uses the psychology on himself to cope with the stress of the job. Stresses in the grocery store business can be minor and slightly amusing, like the customer who brings back a locally grown head of lettuce because there is a snail in it.

“You do realise vegetables are grown in dirt,” is Mr Moniz’ dry comment. “You can’t get any fresher than that.”

The more serious stresses might be trying to keep a business running in a poor economy, with elements of the community accusing grocery store owners of overcharging customers. He feels these claims are unfair and untrue, at least when it comes to Lindo’s.

“What I want people to know about Lindo’s is that we offer quality products at a fair price,” he said. “There is a lot of talk around that grocery stores charge anywhere from 100 percent to 300 percent markups on items. That is just not true. It makes grocery stores look unfair.

“To say what our markup is would be giving away our competitive advantage, but it is not anywhere near 100 percent. We have an ever increasing bucket of expenses to consider. That markup is to cover those expenses. Every time we have incurred a large increase in expenses we have generally absorbed that, especially over the last five years.

“Where the consumer feels the pinch is with the increase in shipping or with an increase in the cost of the item in question. Duty for me has been pretty fair. On the things that are necessary, such as sugar, flour and milk, the duty is already at zero. I believe government is already doing their job and has been doing their job through the previous government. You’ll feel it when shipping goes up or the cost of that item to me goes up. For example, if the cost of one laundry detergent rises out of the United States, then the price will change here. If the cost drops in the United States then the price will drop here. Prices actually fluctuate all the time in a grocery store.”

At the moment the extra expenses incurred by increases in expenses like oil and gas are being absorbed by the company.

Another stress on grocery stores is trying to provide fresh produce despite having to ship much of it halfway across the world. A rainstorm in California might seem a world away and yet it can have a disastrous impact on vegetables and fruit like lettuce and strawberries which are grown in the region.

“The containers get loaded on Fridays and arrive on Mondays,” he said. “What I get in the container is what I get. We have to make a choice based on what it looks like coming out of the container. If you are in business you have to put it on the shelf. It’s either that or don’t put anything on the shelf, and then you run the risk of not having what people want. It is kind of like a double-edged sword. If we had a crystal ball and we could see what was going to happen it would be a lot easier, but we don’t. You have to go with the punches and do what you can. The staff in the produce department at Lindo’s have to be credited because they do an amazing job.”

He is a big fan of locally grown produce and he praised local farmers for the product they produce.

“They probably grow produce that is as organic as you can get,” he said.

Because local farmers often use fewer chemicals to grow fruits and vegetables in Bermuda, the result can sometimes look a little smaller than American grown items.

“It tastes great though,” he said. “I don’t think people realise what we have in terms of local farmers.”

As to the next generation at Lindo’s, he has four children ranging from 14 to four years old. His oldest son Jacob, 14, has already moved past packing groceries and regular helps with stocking shelves and works in the warehouse. His daughter Ruth, 10, is eager to come and pack groceries. His two youngest Isaac and Joey are still a bit young.

“When they are old enough it will be up to them what they want to do, but I will bring him here so he will learn the value of work and understand what work is all about,” he said. “I think that is what my mother and father did with us.”

Over the years Lindo’s has made several decisions that might seem unusual in the grocery store business. They are not open on Sundays, for example.

“It was a decision based on our Christian faith and our customers and staff have respected that,” said Mr Moniz. “We don’t feel it has hindered our business and we do not feel any pressure to open on Sundays.”

He said one of the rewards for being in the business was hearing older customers talk about the days when they shopped at his grandfather’s butcher shop when it was located at Devonshire Bay and on the Garthowen Estate.

“It is satisfying to know that I am a part of something that was here a long time before I was and will hopefully be here a long time after I am gone,” he said.

From bag packer to manager: Zach Moniz at Lindo’s Family Foods in Warwick.
From bag packer to manager: Zach Moniz at Lindo’s Family Foods in Warwick.
From bag packer to manager: Zach Moniz at Lindo’s Family Foods in Warwick.

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Published May 06, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 04, 2013 at 12:13 pm)

From bag packer to store manager

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