Jack Elwir’s day begins about two hours before the sun comes up. The ’s co-owner makes the trek from his home in Santa Ana to Highland Park, several times per week.
Elwir said he rises at 4 a.m. on days he works in Highland Park, making a pit stop along the way before opening the Hi Ho Market’s doors at 7 a.m.
“In the morning before I open up, I go to the produce market in downtown and buy groceries and when I come in, I add it to the inventory,” Elwir said.
The Hi Ho Market was previously a Trader’s Joe’s grocery store before Elwir and his three brothers purchased it in 1988. The Elwir brothers also own H&H Liquor, the family’s first business venture, which is located in Santa Ana.
Elwir said a typical day at the Hi Ho Market includes accepting deliveries from its various vendors throughout the day and stocking shelves.
“We don’t have much time to sit around,” Elwir said. “Maybe in the morning I’ll make a cup of coffee and relax a little bit, but once it hits 9 o’clock, people are in and out all day.”
“If there aren’t any customers, there’s always something to do like cleanup, mop or stock the shelves,” he added.
Elwir and his brothers rotate working between both of the family owned businesses. Additionally, Elwir’s three nephews also work at the Hi Ho Market part-time when they’re not in school.
“I’ve been working here for almost three years now,” Khaled Elwir said. “Every person that comes in here is nice except we have a few bad customers, but everybody else is good.”
The younger Elwir also works at H&H Liquor and says the difference between working there and in Highland Park is the large amount of Latino customers who frequent the Santa Ana store.
“There are more [English speaking] customers here at the Hi Ho and we speak English to them, over there we speak mostly Spanish. There’s also more business here in Highland Park,” 21-year-old Khaled said.
In the 23 years the has been open, the Elwir family has been fortunate not to experience any major hiccups in operation. Their lone encounter with crime was a daytime robbery that occurred 10 years ago.
Since alcohol and liquor is sold at the market, occasionally there have been instances when the brothers have had to deal with drunken people, according to Elwir. However, they take preventive measures by not selling alcohol to those individuals.
“There’s a few people we don’t sell alcohol to because they will drink in the parking lot and we’re not allowed to do that. Business-wise it’s not worth selling to them,” Elwir said.
Dennis Martinez said he usually stops by the market on his way home from work. He’s been a Highland Park resident for approximately seven months.
“I haven’t lived here that long, but the guys that work here are always cool,” Martinez said.
With the state of the economy, it’s not easy keeping a small business afloat. Elwir said the Hi Ho Market has been able to stay in business because their prices are competitive with other stores in the neighborhood.
The brothers have also been able to pass on additional savings to its customers by purchasing wholesale items from Sam’s Club and other wholesale retail outlets.
Elwir said, “If you take care of your customers, they will take care of you. That’s why we have been able to survive in this tough economy because we have a base of customers that come in and we take care of them.”