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Food Town President Plans More Growth in Houston

Mike Lewis, president grew up working in the grocery industry. However, he had no intention of making it a career and especially had no intention to run the chain his father, Ross Lewis, founded.

Lewis Food Town, which does business as Food Town Grocery stores, was started by Ross Lewis and six other people in 1994. Ross Lewis retired in 2014, at which point Mike Lewis took on the role of president.

As a college kid, Mike Lewis spent his summers working at grocery stores. He had always wanted to own his own business, so after graduating with a degree in economics from Texas A&M University, he launched his own gift basket company, Fruitful Thoughts. In 1994, he ran the gift basket company and helped his father as a night manager at the original Food Town. After about five months of doing both, he realized he needed to choose one or the other. He sold the gift basket company and worked for Food Town full-time.

Mike Lewis worked his way up to vice president and eventually became president when his father retired in 2014. Today, the company has 31 locations and ranks as the eighth-largest grocery store in Houston, according to Houston Business Journal research.

What do you take into consideration for the location of a new store?

The diversity of the customers around the store location. The price of the lease. We do not build our stores from the ground up. Instead, we lease space that was previously a grocery store or could be built out as a grocery store.

What has been the biggest challenge for Food Town?

In 2016, we had 16 store locations. We then purchased all 16 Gerland’s food stores. We doubled our locations overnight. The biggest challenge has been trying to merge Food Town and Gerland’s. We’re finally getting on the right track.

What do you love most about the grocery industry?

At the store level, it’s the customers. Everybody has to eat. The diversity of the customers is great. It’s so great to hear the stories of the customers through the years because everyone has a story. I don’t work at the store level so much now. But the best part of working at the corporate level is working with vendors and seeing what happens behind the scenes.

What advice would you give someone who wants to make a career in the grocery industry?

It’s a good choice. Our store directors make really good money. It’s not something out there that is really advertised. University of Houston has a new degree for retail management. Food Town, along with other retailers, are working closely with UH to best prepare the new wave of talent for the retail industry.

What’s in store for the future?

There are plans in the works for Food Town opening more stores in the future. There is nothing specific yet. We have a letter of intent to open a new store inside the Houston area. April 2019 will mark Food Town’s 25-year anniversary. I would like to see the family business prosper. When it’s my time to retire, I hope both of my sons will want to take over the family business and work together to make Food Town flourish.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Closer Look: Mike Lewis, president of Food Town

Hometown: Houston

High school: Dulles High School

Family: Wife and two sons

Favorite restaurant: Killen’s Steakhouse

Currently reading: “Not A Good Day to Die” by Sean Naylor


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