Jim Arkfeld: Store manager proves that hard work, patience pay off

May 11, 2013 

There are many people in the Central Valley who came from humble beginnings and have the strength, courage and perseverance to achieve success for themselves. Jesse Castillo of Los Banos is one of those people.

Castillo comes from a family who were migrant workers in Texas for a period of time and then moved to California, where he was born. He was the youngest of 11 children of a proud, hardworking family that worked the fields here in the Central Valley.

When field work slowed down here, his family periodically did migrant work in Washington state, where they picked apples, asparagus and mint. At other times, they crossed the Coast Range to pick prunes in the San Jose area.

While in high school, Castillo worked in the fields along with the rest of his family. He became very aware of the low pay and backbreaking work needed to earn money to help support his family. It was also apparent to him that years of this type of labor took a toll on a person's body. During this time, he also worked part-time at a local drugstore.

In 1979, he graduated from Los Banos High School. He made the decision that he no longer wanted to work in the fields and raised his sights. He was determined to better himself.

He applied and was hired to work at Builders Lumberyard in Los Banos where he learned about doors, windows and screens along with many other aspects of the hardware and lumberyard business. Eventually he became the yard manager.

Marriage in 1987 was followed by a growing family over the next few years. Castillo decided to seek a job with better pay and more benefits to help provide for his family. His next choice would be vital for the rest of his career.

In 1990, a new Kmart was under construction in Los Banos. Castillo, with a résumé and application in hand, applied and was hired immediately to work at the new store. Little did he know at the time that he was beginning a journey that would provide him opportunity, good pay and benefits along with job security for many years.

He started out stocking shelves at the store. Within a few months, his intelligence, work ethic and people skills were recognized by Kmart management and he was named one of three assistant store managers.

As a corporation, Kmart has gone through three difficult financial periods in recent years which necessitated the closing of stores. Each of those cuts spared the Los Banos store.

Castillo likes to think that good management has helped this store survive. He has always placed very high value on customer service. He says that people have many choices of where to shop and it is imperative for him and other employees to offer the best possible service for their customers.

In the past, he had the opportunity to transfer to other stores in the chain to enhance his promotion chances. Instead he chose to stay in Los Banos and devote his energies to this store.

His hard work and skills paid off and in December 2000, Castillo was named the manager. He plans to continue in that position until his retirement.

Much of the success that he has achieved as an adult he attributes to his father's strong work ethic. His father constantly emphasized the importance of hard work and that value was passed on to all of his children.

Jesse Castillo is proof that ability, hard work and perseverance combined with opportunity leads to success in America. His life's journey has taken him far from the fields of his youth. This former migrant worker has achieved success and is now living the American dream.

Arkfeld is a retired teacher in Los Banos. Send comments or questions to him at columns@modbee.com.

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