Teresa Soliweg, an Ibaloi, was a potato farmer before she was tapped by Shopwise -- now a big grocery chain -- to supply Baguio vegetables for their first store in Alabang.
"Isa ako sa unang suppliers ng Shopwise. Twenty years na mula noong binuksan nila 'yong store sa Alabang," she recalled.
In the early years of her business, Soliweg personally handled the whole process -- from planting the seedlings to shipping the produce.
Hands-on participation in the supply chain is the secret to business longevity, she said. She had her fair share of sleepless nights and groggy mornings, especially during bad weather when landslides closed all roads that connect the North to the South.
It appears now it was worth it.
She now owns two trucks, which deliver fresh produce straight from vegetable farms in La Trinidad, Benguet.
According to Soliweg, this stable income covered the school fees of her siblings and other relatives. She also managed to build a comfortable home for her family.
A LOW-PROFILE GUEST
Shopwise may not have opened a major store in the last four years.
But this year, as they celebrate their 20th anniversary, they opened a posh, well-designed hypermarket in Circuit Makati.
The retail brand held a formal VIP launch on Thursday, filling the still unopened nook of the lifestyle center with colorful confetti, lively music, and perky clowns.
"Welcome to the new Shopwise," one of the ushers told arriving guests.
Smiling quietly in one corner was the 64-year-old Soliweg, who looked tall and proud in a handwoven Ibaloi dress featuring the loud colors of her tribe.
Upon unveiling, guests excitedly looked for the cheese, wine, and steak section of the hypermarket. Soliweg, meanwhile, walked placidly, heading directly to the fresh produce section.
She carefully inspected the potatoes and cucumbers her trucks delivered a few hours earlier, checking them for any imperfection caused by the long drive from the Cordilleran mountains.
WHERE LOCAL BLENDS WITH INTERNATIONAL
Arleen Aldaba, the CEO of Rustan Supercenters Inc., hailed the dedication of local suppliers in her speech.
She said the brand owes its success -- and the trust of the communities around them -- to suppliers who never fail to deliver rain or shine.
These suppliers come from different provinces of the country, including Quezon Province, Benguet, and Nueva Ecija.
The newly opened Shopwise also has a special corner dubbed "Flavors of the Philippines," where shoppers can find unique local products, such as Cebu's dried mangoes, Davao's tablea, and General Santos City's sardines.
Beyond local products, Shopwise also has a multitude of imported goods, like beef cuts from Australia, and cheese from Holland. They also have various "own-brand products," which serve as cheaper alternatives to popular brands.
COMMUNITY-FRIENDLY SHOPPING SPACE
According to Aldaba, Shopwise is set to open four additional stores this year. They are also optimizing a mobile app, which is set to improve the efficiency of their customer service and reward system.
Such dedication to efficiency is evident in the newly opened store. Each aisle is organized in accordance to product category. Their produce section is also well-maintained and free from foul smell.
Aldaba said it is their aim to turn grocery shopping into a bonding activity for the whole family.
This new branch also has a dedicated corner for snacks, where grocers can buy cooked food for a quick fix.
While Shopwise continues to cater to the ever-changing shopping behavior of consumers, the commitment of local suppliers like Soliweg remains the same -- that is, to deliver the best quality produce, rain or shine. And Shopwise, to be always true to the heart of service.
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