“La Gloria” is on its birthday: it celebrates 120 years of existence wrapped in memories of golden times, but also of complicated moments and new challenges in the life of this business located in the heart of San José. Juan Carlos Crespo, president of La Gloria, assured that the store reaches this age “without bank debts, low operating expenses and a small infrastructure.”
The Glory Store
“It is not the objective of La Gloria to be the largest chain in Costa Rica in the short or medium term. Rather it is having a highly efficient company that meets its commitments to its partners, to society, to its collaborators and to its suppliers. To that extent that we can be a company, of whatever size, that meets the values of efficiency, productivity and quality of life… I do see a promising future,” Crespo said.
Not an easy road
However, the path to reach this point of efficiency and without bank debts has not been easy. La Gloria made use of a strong “reengineering” -in the words of Crespo- in which they worked, for example, on the size of the operation.
This is how the managers of this company made vital decisions to guarantee the continuity of the business. One of these actions was to reduce the number of stores, which went from six to two: the main one – located on Central Avenue – and another in Liberia.
As for the main store -with four floors for a total of 4,000 m2 of sales area- it was decided to use only two levels. A third will be used for relevant times such as December or special activities such as shifts, bingos, support for entrepreneurs and even a tamale festival.
They also work hand in hand with suppliers and resources and energy were focused on specific niches:
- School and college uniforms
- Large sizes
- Babies, women, men and children
Likewise, La Gloria has not been left behind in terms of online sales. However, Crespo commented that these still represent a small percentage of the total generated by the two stores. Crespo was satisfied that the pandemic found a better prepared and healthier family business in its management.
History of 120 calendars
When La Gloria opened its doors as a “pasaje” (usually covered passage between two streets) in 1902, Costa Rica barely had an independent life of 81 years. And San José was just 79 years old as the capital. The person in charge of offering the people of San Jose at that time a place where they could find quality articles was José María Calvo.
Twenty-six years later the original Spanish owners sold the business to Santiago Crespo Calvo, grandfather of the current president, and went back to Spain.
The new owner and his family had to overcome complex moments for the country; among them, the Civil War of 1948 and the attempted invasion of 1955. Also the economic crisis registered between 1978-1982.
Between the 1970s and 1980s, Santiago’s grandchildren entered the business, two of whom are still at the helm: Juan Carlos and Luis Roberto. They are the fourth generation in charge of La Gloria, which already has among its partners one of the sons of the Crespo brothers (fifth generation).
“When I feel worried or distressed I go back to old photos and think that my grandfather went through world wars, the Spanish flu (in 1920) and other events… so I realize that everything happens, good or bad.
“So everything that has happened and more in recent years of the pandemic, of complex situations, keeps us very hopeful and doing everything we can to move forward,” Crespo said.