A pupusa maker, Central American bands and a Spanish-language radio station will celebrate the opening of a remodeled and renamed Shopper's Food Warehouse Corp. store in Manassas today. The store, called El Primero Mercado, is the company's first concept mimicking Latin bodegas.
Like smaller Hispanic-owned stores, Shopper's El Primero Mercado will have fresh marinated fajita meat, a butcher on site, a tortilla maker and isles stocked with Latin foods. The store's weekly circulars, which advertise some of its 10,000 products from Mexico and Central America, are bilingual.
Unlike the traditional orange Shopper's store, El Primero is painted purple and yellow. It will also have bilingual signs, a check-cashing counter, money transmitting service and a notary public. It also will sell cellular phones.
"We are catering to the Latino/Hispanic community, but there are a lot of second generation Latinos. We will have the Anglo products that some of the bodegas may not be offering," said Shopper's spokesman Rick Rodgers. If the store does well, Shopper's plans to open other El Primero stores in the region.
Grocery stores catering to Latin Americans have done well in recent years as the immigrant community has grown.
District-based International Wholesalers Corp. has five stores in the District, Maryland and Virginia that distribute mostly imported foods to more than 250 stores. The Todos supermarkets in Alexandria and Woodbridge, owned by Carlos A. Castro, along with a check-cashing operation and a small gift shop, generated $9.4 million in revenue last year.
Giant Food LLC has been increasing its ethnic food lines and adding more products targeted at Hispanic consumers. It recently began stocking an exclusive Latin food line called Mi Casa. For the past few years, Safeway Inc. has been stocking increasing amounts of Hispanic food products.
"We try to do some polling to find out which products are most popular in the local Hispanic community," said Safeway spokesman Craig Muckle. "We are finding when we do have these ethnic products, more of our mainstream customers purchase them as well."