Paul and Jane Hitzelberger have been stalwart supporters of the Diocese of Salt Lake City and of the Cathedral of the Madeleine since they moved to Utah in 2001. Both received their education at Catholic schools and universities; that Christian foundation has governed their lives ever since, they say. Giving back to the Catholic community is just a natural outgrowth of that, Paul Hitzelberger said.
As the owners of 34 Del Taco stores in this market, they say they have been blessed financially in life and feel it is only right to share of the bounty they have received. The Hitzelbergers regularly contribute to the Diocesan Development Drive and to other Catholic causes.
“That’s a part of who we are; our Catholic faith,” Paul Hitzelberger said. “In Utah, it’s right for us to provide support because we don’t have the huge population of Catholics like when we lived in Chicago, Orange County and Springfield, Ill. Jane and I want to do the right thing in each community. Life has been good with us and we want our team to do well and we look at certain key needs and we focus on them.”
Paul Hitzelberger, 74, has retired twice, once from a corporate position at another company and the second time from Del Taco after 15 years as chief marketing officer, but said he always wanted to own his own business. Buying the stores in Utah enabled him to do so and to work in partnership with his wife of 53 years, Jane. Their son Eric works in the business as a senior director, and their daughter Darlene is an advisor in marketing and sales.
The Hitzelbergers have more than 900 employees in their franchise. Their Christian faith is the bedrock of their corporate philosophy, which is to treat their employees as fellow team members in providing families with fresh food at fair prices, Paul Hitzelberger said. “Without them and what they do with every guest – we have almost 160,000 guests – we would not be successful. They’re the key.”
They compensate their employees not only with wages but also profit-sharing; last year they paid out 30 percent of all cash improved over the previous year to their team members.
“We think … of each of our people in a way where we want them to have the best deal in their neighborhood, and want to take care of them,” Hitzelberger said, adding that the company culture is one of “we” rather than “I/you.”
The Hitzelbergers also encourage their employees and guests to support the community. They are involved with school programs in the neighborhoods where their stores are located and also support the National Ability Center, which helps disabled veterans, and the National Guard Charitable Trust.
Faith and family are all-important to the Hitzelbergers. While their four grandchildren, who are now college-age, were raised in Arizona and California, they have sponsored scholarships at the Madeleine Choir School for other young people to receive a Catholic education.
“Jane was instrumental in developing that focus for us personally and for our company,” Hitzelberger said. “We just thought so much of the development of the whole child. It just seemed to be a wonderful cause and a wonderful focus.”
“The Catholic community here has a chance to give not only the education, but adding to it the spiritual support and experiences that make that child see a broader perspective, thinking outside themselves, thinking of others and how to be part of the Christian community that stands tall, very tall in Utah,” he said.
Being involved and supporting the diocese has also allowed the couple to participate with members of other faiths in good works here in Utah, Hitzelberger said. “It has provided an exposure to the faith community and how the Church works with the LDS and other faiths to accomplish good purposes.”
Another aspect of their Catholic faith is their participation in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, an organization that supports the Church and Christians in the Holy Land. The Hitzelbergers were nominated for knighthood in the Equestrian Order by Monsignor Joseph M. Mayo, a retired diocesan priest who is a former rector of the Cathedral of the Madeleine.
“They are both very interested and very supportive of the cathedral and the diocese; they’re just always there,” Msgr. Mayo said of the Hitzelbergers. “They are a wonderful couple.”
Last year the couple took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where they were vested as a knight and lady of the Equestrian Order at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
“It was a life-changing event,” Hitzelberger said. “The pilgrimage allowed us to not only experience the Holy Land but also to see all that the Equestrian Order does there. It means a lot to us to help the Christians there because they are a true minority. It’s a very important part of our life.”