At just 88 years old, Stanford Alexander has worked in the family business more than 75 years.
As a kid, Stanford loaded groceries into cars at Weingarten’s Food Market. After attending graduate school and serving in the Air Force, he joined Weingarten Markets Realty (now Weingarten Realty) in 1953.
Stanford was elected vice president of the realty company in 1956. Still serving as our current chairman, he has served on the board in various roles for the last six decades. The company wouldn’t be what it is today without Stanford.
Literally. The company might not be a REIT.
When Stanford joined the realty company, its sole purpose was to develop land for new Weingarten’s locations. But the post-WWII suburban expansion created a new demand for accessible retail outside of downtown areas.
The realty company put the recent graduate in charge of researching and joining the new shopping center trend. In the beginning, Stanford acted alone as researcher, developer, leasing executive, marketer, property manager, and landlord.
Had Stanford not accepted the challenge, it’s impossible to know if anyone else in the company would have stepped up to the endeavor – or if they would have succeeded to the same degree.
We spoke to Stanford about his 78 years in the retail business.
What was your first job with Weingarten’s grocery store?
When I was 10 or 12, my dad had me carrying groceries out on a buggy [shopping cart]. I had a little buggy and I carried groceries out to the ladies’ cars. They’d give me five cents and I’d go buy a candy with it. That was my first job.
You didn’t get free candy from the store?
(Laughing) No, I had to buy it.
How long did you work at Weingarten’s?
I graduated in 1945 from high school. I went to University of Texas and graduated there in 1949. I worked at Weingarten’s until I went off to graduate school in 1950.
What did you do after graduate school?
I spent about a year in the Air Force; I was a second lieutenant. I got direct commissions out of Harvard Business School. I went to Lakeland Airforce Base first for training, and then I went to Kelly Airforce Base, which was the supply depot for the Air Force. Did some work there. That lasted until the Korean War was over in 1953.
How did you start working for Weingarten Markets Realty?
When I came back to work in the supermarket [in 1953], I went into the Executive Training Program. I was trained in each department, and I think I liked the bakery the most because I could taste all of the products that we made.
My uncle, Abe Weingarten, told me, “You know the youngest members of the family don’t get the best jobs, so you want to try something different.”
Joe Weingarten [another uncle] started Weingarten Markets Realty in 1948 to develop properties for the grocery stores. The reason being that the realty company took on all the debt instead of Weingarten’s.
Shopping centers were just coming in existence at that time. We had only one outside tenant – Weiner’s department store. [Abe] suggested that I [join the realty company and] go around the country [and learn about shopping centers] since they were just coming in existence.
The first deal that I did was – I made leases with Walgreen’s, Mading’s Drugs, and Western Auto, and Oshman’s. That was really the start of doing shopping centers. I had at the time two people that worked half-time at Weingarten Markets Realty. I ended up doing about 70 locations for Weingarten’s stores. We had about 100 stores in 1980.
Was it difficult to have your dad and your uncle as your bosses?
No, because they were wonderful; extremely supportive. The real mentor of mine was my uncle, who was then president of the [realty] company. He was really a pioneer of that time because few people were [building shopping centers].
Did you like working in leasing?
I loved leasing space. That’s what I love doing—building relationships with people I did business with. I did something that was very helpful for them and very helpful for Weingarten Markets Realty. I think that hopefully I’ve passed that along to our associates—that building relationships is the most important thing we can do.
What makes a great company are the people that make up the company. Hopefully we’ve created an environment [here] that’s one of loving what you do and having integrity in everything you do. You have to have both of those ingredients to have a good company.