William S. 'Bill' Davila, Supermarket Executive
m. abt. 1930
- William S. 'Bill' Davila, Supermarket Executive1931 - 2014
- H. William S. 'Bill' Davila, Supermarket Executive1931 - 2014
- W. Dorothy Kraft (add)
m. 6 January 1952
Facts and Events
About William 'Bill' Davila
- William S. "Bill" Davila, son and only child of Salvadore Davila and Amparo "Polly" Lopez, was born 25 April 1931 in Los Angeles County, California. He began his career in the supermarket industry with an after-school job sweeping floors in the produce department, for $1.10 per hour, at Vons Grocery Company in 1948 at age 17. His early goal was to become a Produce Manager, but he worked his way up to President and C.E.O. of Vons in 1984, when he became the first executive of Mexican-American descent to lead a major supermarket chain in America. Bill Davila served his country in the States Air Force from 1951 to 1954, and after his military service, returned to Vons where he achieved his goal of becoming a Produce Manager. During his service in the Air Force, Bill Davila married in Los Angeles, California on 6 January 1952 to Dorothy Margaret Kraft, mother of their three daughters and two sons together, and his wife and love of more than 62 years.
- In 1959, Davila was promoted into Vons corporate office, working in the company's Advertising Department, which he eventually headed up before being promoted into higher executive positions. His background in advertising likely played a role in his becoming Vons' spokesperson in radio and television commercials, which he hosted in both English and Spanish. These advertisements made Davila famous far beyond grocery industry circles and increased his visibility as one of the leading advocates of marketing to consumers of latino descent. Davila pushed initiatives during his tenure to boost the company's standing among latino consumers. In one of those initiatives, in the late 1980's, Vons opened Tianguis [an Aztec word meaning marketplace], one of the first supermarkets to catering primarily to Hispanic consumers. At a Mexican American Grocers Assn. convention in 1986, he grew frustrated with food companies that still seemed reluctant to expand into neighborhoods with large Latino populations. Davila was also well received as the company's television spokesman, starring in commercials in both English and Spanish during his tenure. Davila was known throughout his career for "giving back" to the industry and also to many charitable causes, serving as President of the Western Association of Food Chains until 1991, and serving two terms as President of the "Food Industries Circle", a food industry foundation that has raised millions of dollars for cancer research and treatment at the City of Hope.
- For his charitable work and giving back to the community, Davila received several accolades and awards, including "The Hispanic Excellence Award" from Northern Trust of California in September, 1991, for "promoting positive images of Latinos in California and inspire Latino youth to achieve personal and professional excellence".
- When Davila retired from Vons in April, 1992, he remained President Emeritus and spokesman for the chain, which is now owned by Safeway, Inc.. Davila was honored by the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business as the Food Industry Executive of the Year in 1994. After his retirement in 1995, Davila became a member of the National Advisory Board of Trustees of the Citizens' Scholarship Foundation of America, a national, nonprofit educational support and student aid service organization, and also established an educational foundation, the "William S. Davila Scholarship Fund", that gives scholarships to Latino students who intend to work in the grocery industry. Bill Davila passed on February 14, 2014 [Valentine's Day], and is survived by his wife, Dorothy; daughters Lisa Franklin, Diane Jones and Deborah McGuire; sons David and Bill, Jr.; and 12 grandchildren. He was known as a gracious and caring man by the many people that knew him.
Vons Commercials with Bill Davila
- Vons Supermarket commercial 1986.
- Los Angeles, California, United States. Los Angeles Times, 15 February 2014, Secondary quality.
Bill Davila dies at 82; rose from sweeping floors to president of Vons
A first-generation Mexican American born in L.A., Bill Davila started at the bottom at Vons in 1948 and was named president in 1984. He starred in the chain's ads for many years and became a prominent cross-cultural figure.
By David Colker
February 15, 2014, 9:09 a.m.
Bill Davila, a first-generation Mexican American who worked his way up from sweeping floors at a Vons market to being president of the supermarket chain, knew that some executives in the industry were not sure how to pronounce his last name. Was it the Spanish DAH-vee-la or the Anglicized duh-VIL-a?
Davila, who was also the genial spokesman for Vons in TV and radio commercials, was used to walking in both worlds. "I'll respond to either pronunciation," he said in a 1987 Los Angeles Times interview. "It does not make any difference to me.
"I know who I am."
Davila, 82, died Friday in a convalescent home in Duarte from complications of Alzheimer's disease, said his daughter Lisa Franklin.
He was known as a hands-on, gregarious executive who would visit stores to check on operations. "He's constantly talking to customers, talking to employees, continually picking up pieces of paper off the floor, darting behind counters and tasting things," supermarket consultant Norman McMillan said in 1987.
Although Davila tangled with some Latino political figures over employment issues, he pushed initiatives during his tenure to boost the company's standing among Latino consumers, including opening several specialty supermarkets. At a Mexican American Grocers Assn. convention in 1986, he grew frustrated with food companies that still seemed reluctant to expand into neighborhoods with large Latino populations.
"I've been listening to all the discussions about a 'new-found' market, but it's been here a long time," he told a Los Angeles Times reporter. "It becomes clear that these folks are not visiting, they're here to stay."
William Davila was born April 25, 1931, in Los Angeles. His parents divorced when he was young and he was mostly raised by his mother, who was a secretary in a finance company. In 1948 a family friend helped him get an after-school job at a Vons, sweeping the floor in the produce section. The pay was $1.10 an hour. "My goal in those days was to one day become a produce manager," he said in the 1987 interview. "I thought if I could become a produce manager, I would have really reached a very lofty level."
Davila served in the Air Force from 1951 to 1954. He returned to Vons, reaching his goal of becoming a produce manager in 1955.
Although he didn't have a college degree, Davila joined the company's advertising department in 1959 and eventually headed it. Several more posts followed — he was named president of the company in 1984.
The advertisements he hosted, in English and Spanish, made him famous far beyond industry circles. He was often recognized, once even in Hawaii when at a stop light. "They are responding to his credibility," said advertising executive Bonnie Baruch. "He is Vons."
Which is why it came as a surprise in 1990 when he said he would take early retirement. Although there were rumblings he was forced out, Davila maintained he made the decision because he wanted to work toward boosting business prospects in the Latino community.
He remained on the Vons board and continued to do its commercials. He declined offers that he run for political office on Republican tickets and in 1994 drew rancor from some in that party for a full-page newspaper ad in which he attacked Proposition 187, a measure backed by California's GOP Gov. Pete Wilson that denied many public services to immigrants who crossed the border illegally.
Davila established an educational foundation that gives scholarships to Latino students who intend to work in the grocery industry. He attributed his own success in the business, however, simply to hard work.
"There's always something you can be doing better," he said in 1987. "The day that we think we have arrived is the day that we have taken our first step backward."
Davila is survived by his wife, Dorothy; daughters Lisa Franklin, Diane Jones and Deborah McGuire; sons David and Bill; and 12 grandchildren.
- Biography and genealogy master index: a consolidated index to more than ... biographical sketches in over ... current and retrospective biographical dictionaries. (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, c1980-).
Name: William Davila
Birth - Death: 1931-
Source Citation: Who's Who among Hispanic Americans. First edition, 1991-1992. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. (WhoHisp 1)
Who's Who among Hispanic Americans. Second edition, 1992-1993. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. (WhoHisp 2)
- Pasadena, Los Angeles, California, United States. Pasadena Star-News, 20 February 2014.
William S. Davila
April 25, 1931 –
February 14, 2014
Bill was born in Los Angeles, California, to Salvador and Amparo (Polly Lopez) Davila. He was an only child. He attended Mt. Lowe Military Academy in Altadena before graduating from Polytechnic High in Los Angeles.
Bill began his career in the supermarket industry sweeping floors at Vons, where he met his wife, Dorothy. Dorothy and Bill were married in 1952. After serving several years in the U.S. Air Force as a drill sergeant, he returned to Vons as a produce manager, eventually moving to the main office to work on the company newsletter. Bill was named President and Chief Operating Officer of Vons in 1984, where he served as the company spokesman. After briefly retiring from Vons in the early 1990s, he returned as President Emeritus from 1992 through 1998. He also served as a director on the boards of Hormel, Home Depot, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Wells Fargo and on the foundation board of Arcadia Methodist Hospital. Additionally, he was a former president of the WAFC.
Most important to Bill was his family. Bill is survived by his wife Dorothy, their five children, David (Anne) Davila, Diane Davila (Craig) Jones, Lisa Davila (Ken) Franklin, Bill Davila and Deborah Davila (Brig Gen Michael) McGuire and 12 grandchildren (Alyssa Jones, Bryan Jones, Allie McGuire, Sarah Franklin, Danielle Davila, Hannah McGuire, Katherine Franklin, Robby Jones, Will Davila, Matthew Franklin, Nicolette Davila and Maggie McGuire). He is best remembered for his great sense of humor, his generous spirit and his belief that anyone can accomplish anything they put their mind to. He will be deeply missed.
Donations in Bill's name would be gratefully received by the William S. Davila Scholarship Fund, which offers financial assistance for college education to employees or children of employees in the food industry. William S. Davila Scholarship Fund, c/o Scholarship Management Services, One Scholarship Way, Saint Peter, Minnesota 56082. For information on services please contact John Cabot at Cabot & Sons, Pasadena, California.
Published in Pasadena Star-News on Feb. 20, 2014
- Bloomberg Business Week.
Mr. William S. Davila served as Chief Operating Officer of Vons Grocery Company in 1992 and served as President Emeritus from 1992 through 1998. Previously, Mr. Davila served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Vons Grocery Company from July 1987 to February 1990. Mr. Davila served as President of The Vons Companies Inc. from 1984 until May 1992. He has been a Director of The Vons Companies, Inc. since 1989 and serves as its President Emeritus. He serves as a Director of Geo. A. Hormel & Company. He served as a Director of Home Depot Inc., since 1999. Mr. Davila served as a Director of Hormel Foods Corp. from 1993 until 2003; Director of Pacific Gas and Electric Company since 1992; Director of PG&E Corporation since 1996 and also was its Member of Audit Committee and Director of Wells Fargo & Co. since 1990. He also served as a Director of Wells Fargo Bank, National Association (the "Bank"), a subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Co. Mr. Davila serves on the foundation boards of Methodist Hospital, Arcadia, and Santa Marta Hospital, Los Angeles.
- United States. 1940 U.S. Census Population Schedule. (National Archives Microfilm Publication T627).
1940 United States Federal Census
Name: Salvadore Davila
Estimated birth year: abt 1931
Marital Status: Single
Relation to Head of House: Son
Home in 1940: Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
Street: East 31st Street
House Number: 137
Inferred Residence in 1935: Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
Residence in 1935: Same Place
Resident on farm in 1935: No
Sheet Number: 8A
Attended School or College: Yes
Highest Grade Completed: High School, 1st year
Salvadore Davila 42
Amparo Davila 32
Salvadore Davila 9
- California, United States. California Birth Index, 1905-1995.
California Birth Index, 1905-1995
Name: Salvador Guillermo Davila
Birth Date: 25 Apr 1931
Mother's Maiden Name: Lopez
Birth County: Los Angeles
- California, United States. California, Marriage Index, 1949-1959.
California, Marriage Index, 1949-1959
Name: Salvadre G Davila
Estimated birth year: abt 1932
Marriage Date: 6 Jan 1952
Marriage Place: Los Angeles, California, USA
Spouse: Dorothy M Kraft
Spouse Age: 20