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Local grocer pays it forward — and back — to employees

CARLSBAD — On the evening of April 13, about 300 Jimbo’s … Naturally employees gathered at the Del Mar Marriott for a short meeting with the boss. It was one of those, “You are invited, and you will attend” events — except that no one knew what it was all about.
Any anxiety was soon allayed when Jimbo Someck, the founder/owner of the chain of organic markets, took center stage to announce that he was expanding the company’s existing benefit and bonus package to include a new Happy Hour Bonus Program. The plan provided for a $500 bonus after certain tiers of hours worked were crossed. What’s more, it was retroactive. If someone accumulated 10,000 work hours, they’d receive $500 for that tier as well as an additional $500 for each tier going back to the beginning of their employment and moving forward.
About 40 percent, or 115 employees, received a total of between $100,000 to $115,000.
“It was one of the nicest evenings I’ve had,” Someck reported. “A lot of people thanked me, but the reality was that I have been very appreciative. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful group of people working at Jimbo’s and they deserve it.”
He said he got the idea for the new bonus program after realizing what a good year he had in 2010.
Jimbo’s mission statement, “We Do the Right Thing,” pertains not only to how he treats his employees and customers, but also what he does for the community. The company is involved in community outreach at all four of its locations.
Someck is a former New Yorker who arrived in San Diego in 1973 after a year at Cornell University. He started working at Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market and stayed there for 11 years.
“I was tired of politics and said to myself, ‘If that’s the reality, I want to open my own store,’” he remembers. In 1984 he opened the North Park store. When that was sold in 1987, he used the money to open a store in Escondido. The Del Mar, Carlsbad and 4S Ranch stores followed.
“We built a strong foundation,” Someck explained. “Our senior management team has been here for between five and 20 plus years.
Trish Siscon, assistant manager of the Carlsbad store, was one of the employees to benefit from the retroactive nature of the bonus plan. She met Someck when he came into The Prophet vegetarian restaurant where she was a server in the early 1990s. After training, she opened the Del Mar store in 1992, advancing from cashier to assistant store manager of the Carlsbad store when it opened in 2003.
“I love my job for three reasons,” she explained. “It’s my lifestyle since I’ve been a vegetarian since 14. It’s also nice to work for someone who is passionate about what they are doing.”
Siscon said the third reason is because Someck is simply “a nice guy.”
“Over the years I’ve seen him do things that people don’t know about,” she said. “I appreciate working for him, and with him.”
Despite being a great place to work, Siscon reports that there is some cyclical turnover that creates job openings.
For those who are curious, “Jimbo” really is Someck’s first name.
“I was known as James when I arrived in San Diego,” he explained. “One of the first people I met had a daughter who started calling me ‘Jimbo Bimbo.’ Thankfully the B dropped, but the J stuck. The mom has worked for me since day one. I have been to the wedding of the daughter, and she and her husband are also friends.”