At 21,111 square feet, the store is double the size of Megamart’s average supermarket, and sits a few block away from another location that will remain open. Megamart has thrived in cities with large Hispanic populations, such as Riverdale Park and Gaithersburg, since it began in 2004.
Immigrants from Latin America have come to rely on the chain for seasonings, beverages and other fare from back home. But the newest store will carry a wide selection of Caribbean, Indian and African items, said Gerson Lopez, one of four partners in the chain.
“We want to take care of those communities; they don’t have a lot of options,” said the El Salvadoran grocer. “So 70 percent of the goods in this store will be dedicated to them, but we’ll still have quite a lot of Spanish foods.”
Competition from Korean-owned grocers and mainstream stores such as Giant, which have expanded their ethnic offerings, has grown fierce over the years amid an influx of immigrants, Lopez said.
“Ten years ago, nobody respected the Hispanic community. They’d charge 50 percent more for Hispanic goods. So we opened our own stores,” Lopez said. “There are a lot of Hispanic stores now, but they’re all doing the same thing.”
Echoing Lopez’s sentiments, Ramon Arbaiza, owner of El Amate restaurant, said that despite all of the Hispanic families that call East Hyattsville home, the neighborhood lacks diverse retail options. He said that is why he opened a 140-seat white-table cloth bistro at Adelphi Manor in December.
“People want a place where they can sit down and have a nice diner,” said Arbaiza, who has three other restaurants in Olney, Silver Spring and Ashton. “People kept telling me there was nothing like that in Langley Park. When Ledo’s Pizza closed ... it presented the opportunity.”
El Amate serves Tex-Mex and El Salvadoran cuisine, and features a live mariachi band on the weekends. Arbaiza opened his first restaurant, El Andariego, in Silver Spring 23 years ago. He grew to love the restaurant business while working at his mom’s diner in El Salvador as a teenager.
Over the past decade, Latino businesses such as Megamart and El Amate have blossomed in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. The number of Hispanic-owned businesses in Montgomery grew 56 percent to 11,555, while in Prince George’s they shot up 48 percent to 6,412 between 2002 and 2007, the most recent figures from the Census Bureau.
“The guys [at Megamart and El Amate] have wonderful stories to tell. These are immigrants who came over here, worked incredibly hard and have had remarkable success,” said Marc Ratner, chief executive of Bethesda-based Streetsense, which owns Adelphi Manor and the retail portion of the Arts District Hyattsville a few miles away.
Streetsense, he said, was attracted to the property because of the untapped potential of the neighborhood.
“It’s a part of the MSA [metropolitan statistical area] that people have ignored,” Ratner said. “There are plenty of consumers in the trade area with disposable income and money to spend. It was simply a matter of identifying an undervalued asset, reaching out the community and seeing what they really wanted.”
Ratner said the new stores set the tone for the types of tenants Streetsense hopes to attract to fill the two remaining spaces at the shopping center.