Harry Eisen, was an Auschwitz survivor who founded Norco Ranch Inc., which became a major egg supplier in the U.S. Mayor Kevin Bash described Mr. Eisen as an excellent and humane businessman who helped boost the local economy by employing thousands of workers and running a cage-free chicken operation. Bash also praised Mr. Eisen for his philanthropy; donating eggs and money to many causes.
Harry Eisen showed entrepreneurial promise at 15 when he and a partner ran a meat production plant in his native Poland. As a soldier, he was captured by the Nazis and transferred to a death camp in 1942. Mr. Eisen and his wife Hilda began to speak of their concentration camp internment in 1993, with the opening of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The Eisens told The Press-Enterprise in 2000 they had a responsibility to tell their grim story. Mr. Eisen still bore the tattooed number 144492 from Auschwitz inked on his left arm.
He and Hilda married and came to Los Angeles in 1948, penniless and unable to speak English. Mr. Eisen worked for a butcher, saved money and bought his first 100 chickens in Arcadia, where he rode his bicycle around selling eggs on street corners. He outgrew the facility he bought, and moved the business, Hilda and their four children. He came to employ more than 400 people, own millions of chickens and made Norco Ranch Eggs a respected brand. “I talked Jewish to my chickens and they laid eggs”, he told The Press-Enterprise. Mr. Eisen sold the business in 2000 to Land-o-Lakes, but continued to work as a consultant and manage his properties in California, Arizona and Nevada.
Castro fled to California from civil war-torn El Salvador in 1980 at age 26, forced to leave his wife and young children behind. He entered the US illegally. “At the time, I worked in the factories. The guerilla unions were taking over the factories and the jobs and there were many kidnappings and killings”.
He worked as a janitor, dishwasher and cook at a restaurant in the Washington D.C. area, before becoming a legal resident in 1986. While doing construction, he saved enough money to reunite with his family in D.C. and even opened a small construction business of his own.
In 1990 he and his wife Gladis opened Todos Supermarket in Woodbridge, Va. The first year was rough. Money was tight, and both Carlos and Gladis still had to work other jobs to help make endsmeet. “My wife was making more cleaning houses than we were at the first store,” Castro recalls. He eventually turned things around and opened a second Todos location in Alexandria, Va., in 1998. By 2001, business had grown so much that he had to move the first store from its 5,000-square-foot space to a 15,000-square-foot building. “That’s when profits really started to roll in,” Castro says. In 2007, he opened another location in Dumfries, Va.
Todos Supermarkets took in $20 million last year and continues to grow. When it comes to starting your own company, there will be plenty of naysayers, Castro says. “That’s why it’s important to always believe in yourself.”