Our Story

Stater Bros. Markets is rooted in the American tradition and proudly celebrates a rich legacy of service to this great nation. Tracing its beginnings back to a small grocery store in Yucaipa, CA, twin brothers and World War II veterans Cleo and Leo Stater purchased the original Stater Bros. Market from W.A. Davis with a $600 down payment.  In the midst of the Great Depression, Stater Bros. officially opened for business on August 17, 1936.

Headquartered in San Bernardino, CA, Stater Bros. Markets is proudly celebrating over 80 years of serving Southern California families. Today, Stater Bros. operates over 170 supermarkets in seven counties throughout the area, and has approximately 18,000 employees with annual sales of over $4 billion.

In 1981, Stater Bros. late Executive Chairman Jack H. Brown, a proud Navy veteran born on Flag Day, took the helm of Stater Bros.  Under Brown’s leadership the Company grew to become the largest privately owned Supermarket Chain in Southern California and the largest private employer in both Riverside and San Bernardino counties.  Brown passed away in 2016. 

Prior to his passing, Brown appointed seasoned supermarket industry executive Pete Van Helden to the position of President and CEO.  Van Helden, who now holds the position of CEO, reports to Stater Bros. Chairman Phillip J. Smith who also celebrates his birthday on Flag Day.

Over the years Stater Bros. has become an iconic Southern California mainstay and trusted household name by consistently providing generations of customers with exceptional quality, everyday low prices, friendly service, fresh product offerings and full-service Meat Departments.

The Company has been named amongst the Top 20 companies in the United States to offer exceptional job security for its employees according to a recent report published on Forbes.com.  The Company has also been rated as the “best place to shop for groceries” among Full Service Supermarket Chains in Southern California according to a Leading National Consumer Magazine. 

Additionally, the Company remains steadfast in its commitment to “not just doing business in the community, but being part of the community.”  Since 2008, Stater Bros. has contributed more than $80 million in food and funds to countless local organizations that support hunger relief, children’s well-being, education, health, and help for our Nation’s Veterans and active service members.  

Our founders Cleo & Leo

Sometime between 1912 and 1915, Clarence and Mary Stater moved their family from Miller, Missouri to Escondido, California. During the Depression they moved farther north to the Yucaipa Valley, a small rural community situated just south of the city of Redlands, California. The depression had taken a heavy toll on their livelihood. They were struggling and on the verge of losing their small farm.


Out of desperation, the family made a decision that would shape their future and have a profound effect on thousands of lives in the years to come. It was mutually agreed that Cleo, one of the twin sons, would sacrifice his last year of high school and look for work to help support the family. Jobs were extremely scarce during the winter of 1931 but Cleo was persistent. He was willing to do anything and applied everywhere. After weeks of disappointment, he walked into a small grocery store on West Yucaipa Blvd. owned by W.A. Davis, and although Cleo had no experience and knew nothing about the grocery business, Mr. Davis agreed to pay him 10¢ an hour to man the cash register, sweep the floor and stock the shelves.


Cleo worked hard and as time passed, Mr. Davis taught him how to take inventory, maintain accounting records, cut meat and everything else involved in operating a grocery store. After five years, Cleo, now 24 years old, was making $30 a week and had learned all of the business fundamentals. His loyalty and diligence had made him a valuable employee for Mr. Davis, and the educational sacrifice and the financial contribution that Cleo was able to provide helped his family recover.


In 1936 Davis offered Cleo the opportunity to buy the business, which included the store and the inventory, the land, a company truck, a 10-acre apple ranch and the W.A. Davis five-room home on the corner of Yucaipa Ave. and E St., all for the total price of $10,000.

Years later, Cleo recalled, “He wanted $600 as a down payment, which was like a fortune back then when a dime would buy two pounds of oleo. Then he wanted the balance in $300 monthly payments.”

Cleo went to Leo, his twin brother, to discuss ways to obtain the financing. The twins sold their Chevrolets to raise the $600 down payment because, they said, “Owing that much money, we were not going anywhere anyway.” However, they were still short $300 for the first monthly installment. After exhausting all other options and about to give up, Cleo decided to take a chance and approach M.D. Holsinger, the richest man in the valley, who owned the town lumber company. Cleo recalled, “He just looked at me and said, ‘If Davis is crazy enough to sell you his store for that small price, then I guess I’m crazy enough to loan you the money.'”

So the first 1,225 sq. ft. Stater Bros. Market, located on West Yucaipa Blvd. opened for business on Monday, August 17, 1936.

Bios

Sometime
between 1912 and 1915, Clarence and Mary Stater moved their family from Miller,
Missouri to Escondido, California. During the Depression they moved farther
north to the Yucaipa Valley, a small rural community situated just south of the
city of Redlands, California. The depression had taken a heavy toll on their
livelihood. They were struggling and on the verge of losing their small farm.
Out of desperation, the family made a decision that would shape their future
and have a profound effect on thousands of lives in the years to come.

It was mutually agreed that
Cleo, one of the twin sons, would sacrifice his last year of high school and
look for work to help support the family. Jobs were extremely scarce during the
winter of 1931 but Cleo was persistent. He was willing to do anything and
applied everywhere. After weeks of disappointment, he walked into a small
grocery store on West Yucaipa Blvd. owned by W.A. Davis, and although Cleo had
no experience and knew nothing about the grocery business, Mr. Davis agreed to
pay him 10¢ an hour to man the cash register, sweep the floor and stock the
shelves.

Cleo worked hard and as time
passed, Mr. Davis taught him how to take inventory, maintain accounting records,
cut meat and everything else involved in operating a grocery store. After five
years, Cleo, now 24 years old, was making $30 a week and had learned all of the
business fundamentals. His loyalty and diligence had made him a valuable
employee for Mr. Davis, and the educational sacrifice and the financial
contribution that Cleo was able to provide helped his family recover.

In 1936 Davis offered Cleo the
opportunity to buy the business, which included the store and the inventory,
the land, a company truck, a 10-acre apple ranch and the W.A. Davis five-room
home on the corner of Yucaipa Ave. and E St., all for the total price of
$10,000.

Years later, Cleo recalled,
“He wanted $600 as a down payment, which was like a fortune back then when
a dime would buy two pounds of oleo. Then he wanted the balance in $300 monthly
payments.”

Cleo went to Leo, his twin
brother, to discuss ways to obtain the financing. The twins sold their
Chevrolets to raise the $600 down payment because, they said, “Owing that
much money, we were not going anywhere anyway.” However, they were still
short $300 for the first monthly installment. After exhausting all other
options and about to give up, Cleo decided to take a chance and approach M.D.
Holsinger, the richest man in the valley, who owned the town lumber company.
Cleo recalled, “He just looked at me and said, ‘If Davis is crazy enough
to sell you his store for that small price, then I guess I’m crazy enough to
loan you the money.'”

So the first 1,225 sq. ft.
Stater Bros. Market, located on West Yucaipa Blvd. opened for business on
Monday, August 17, 1936.

Phillip J. Smith

Smith has been a member of the Stater Bros. “Family” for nearly 30 years and has over 40 years of experience in the supermarket industry.  In 2012, Smith was appointed by Jack H. Brown to the position of Vice Chairman of the Board of Stater Bros. Markets, his most recent position.

“I am honored to have been elected to the position of Chairman of the Board of Stater Bros. Markets,” stated Smith.  “I knew Jack for over 40 years and worked closely with him at three different companies. I learned a great deal from Jack’s mentorship and feel privileged to carry on the values and traditions Jack established while ensuring the company remains competitive in the Southern California supermarket industry,” Smith concluded.      

Smith joined Stater Bros. in 1987 as the company’s Controller.  He was promoted in 1998 to Vice President-Controller, and in 2000 he was promoted to Vice President-Controller and Chief Accounting Officer.  In November of 2000, he was promoted to Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Accounting Officer, and in 2006 he was promoted to Executive Vice President Finance, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Accounting Officer. 

“Given Jack’s unwavering trust in Phil and long history of working together both within and outside of Stater Bros., I welcome and look forward to Phil’s mentorship and direction,” stated Stater Bros. President and CEO Pete Van Helden. 

Smith was also elected to the position of Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Stater Bros. Holdings, Inc.

Pete Van Helden

Pete joined Stater Bros. Markets as President and Chief Operating Officer in 2013.  In 2016, he was appointed to the position of CEO by Stater Bros.’ late Executive Chairman, Jack H. Brown.  Through Van Helden’s guidance and leadership, Stater Bros. remains a competitive force in the Southern California marketplace, committed to meeting the needs of its valued customers as demonstrated by the Company’s recent brand and store refresh initiatives.  

Pete also lends his leadership skills to helping the local community, serving as CEO of Stater Bros. Charities, the philanthropic arm of Stater Bros. Markets.  He is also an avid private pilot, volunteers for Angel Flight West and serves on the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Council.

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