News

At long last, supermarket opens in East Palo Alto

East Palo Alto residents like Mi Pueblo, hope for diversity

The supermarket chain Mi Pueblo opened a 35,000-square-foot store in East Palo Alto last Saturday, filling a gaping shopping hole that has existed for three decades in the multicultural city.

"It looks first rate. The food looks fresh," customer Jim Olstad said Tuesday morning.

He stopped in to try the counter-service Mexican eatery inside the store.

"It might be a new favorite restaurant stop," he said.

The supermarket is located in the Ravenswood 101 Shopping Center off of U.S. Highway 101 and University Avenue. East Palo Alto's last full-service supermarket closed in the 1970s.

Brightly painted in primary colors on the outside, the new market on the inside features vibrant murals along its walls and strings of flags overhead.

Mi Pueblo's selection mirrors that of a traditional American supermarket, but with a focus on Hispanic food products. There are fresh concha pastries and large cases of meats, including pigs' feet, along with cereal, Coca Cola and neatly organized produce. There's even a small assortment of Asian foods.

This week, the atmosphere at the market seemed mild-mannered during the day. But Mi Pueblo came alive at dinner time, thanks to the smell of carnitas wafting out into the parking lot.

Many residents stopped by after work to pick up ingredients for dinner.

Gabriel Hernandez came all the way from Sunnyvale because he said this location has a better selection than the Mi Pueblo in Mountain View.

"We needed it for a long, long time," East Palo Alto Police Officer Tracy Frey said. "Older people come here. There are a lot of young families, too. You can imagine how hard it is to have to pack up, get in the car and drive to another city."

East Palo Alto residents said that before Mi Pueblo opened, they traveled to Redwood City, Mountain View or Menlo Park for simple grocery runs.

"Every time we had to go to the store, we had to go to San Antonio" Shopping Center in Mountain View, said Antwon Watts of East Palo Alto. But he said he dealt with racial profiling whenever he went there.

Questions about race have also been brought up with respect to Mi Pueblo. At an East Palo Alto City Council meeting last month, some residents expressed fears that the market would cater only to Latino shoppers.

The city's population is approximately 59 percent Hispanic, 22 percent black, 7 percent Pacific Islander, 6 percent white, 4 percent Asian and the rest "other," according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This week, some customers advocated for a racially mixed workforce at Mi Pueblo, saying it would be an important part of the grocery store's assimilation into the community.

"It would be nice if there were black people working there. It feels uncomfortable," said Grace Watts of East Palo Alto after a trip to the new grocery store.

"I think it's nice that it's coming in, as long as they hire minorities other than themselves," said Darrel Matkins, an East Palo Alto resident.

According to Perla Rodriguez, vice president of public affairs for Mi Pueblo, the company went "above and beyond" what was required when it was recruiting applicants. She said the company worked in tandem with the City of East Palo Alto, putting fliers up at City Hall and hosting English-speaking information sessions. Rodriguez said that despite heavy advertising, the sessions were poorly attended.

Nonetheless, more than 40 percent of the store's 200 employees are East Palo Alto residents, 5 percent more than the city required, Rodriguez said.

Mi Pueblo opened its first market in 1991 in San Jose. The East Palo Alto store, located in the former Circuit City space, is the chain's 14th location. The store is open 365 days a year from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Comments

Posted by Bob Wenzlau, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

Mi Pueblo is incredible new resource for Palo Alto as well. I was excited to attend the opening, listening to the Mariachis and the watching the opening event.

For Palo Altan's its importance is the chance to have a "cultural" experience shopping while having an great time. Any family with young kids, or those with students studying Spanish should visit.

What could you do? Sample the cheeses -- they have them all. Look at the meat department, and see the multitude of cuts that you would not find in American markets. They have a multitude of salsas, and vegetables, and pastries -- many that you would not find at regular supermarkets.

More nostalgically I enjoy seeing the families there. Perhaps I will get in trouble for a generalization, but I have been amazed at how wonderful Hispanic families are, and not being Hispanic, this is a chance to glimpse across into the culture.

For the "students" of Spanish, this is a chance to exercise your Spanish muscle, by ordering meats, cheeses and paying the bill. The use of Spanish is welcomed, fun, and I have pushed my kids a bit to test their language skills there. I hope our Palo Alto schools can avail themselves of Mi Pueblo as a must stop for Spanish students.

Congratulations East Palo Alto on a remarkable new development in your community. All the Palo Altos will benefit!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Sounds like a much bigger, better supermarket than we have in Palo Alto. Maybe I should also stop going to Mountain View.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2009 at 8:09 pm

I agree that this is a better supermarket than anything in Palo Alto. Palo Alto really needs better supermarkets. Some of us really enjoy fresh, tasty foods.


Posted by Concerned resident, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Several issues to discuss:-

a) how many employees are local?
b) English signs only ??
c) their website does not have EPA listing.
d) their website main phone does not answer.
e) for how long will the enticing low pricing last?
d) did someone line their pockets?
f) several employees I came in contact do not comprehend english well!!

more later.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:58 pm



"The city's population is approximately 59 percent Hispanic, 22 percent black, 7 percent Pacific Islander, 6 percent white, 4 percent Asian and the rest "other," according to the U.S. Census Bureau"

How times and demographics have changed.

We wish them luck, for those who like genuine Spanish food there is a great Iberian food shop in Menlo Park close to the train station.


Posted by iknowwho, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Nov 20, 2009 at 3:38 am

Mi Pueblo is ok.
I'd prefer a Trader Joe's or an indoor flea market in that spot instead.

cool though...


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2009 at 4:21 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

A pity the article made no mention of the circumstances surrounding the loss of Littleman's and the reluctance of any other market chain to locate there. Like most of that generation's politics of rudeness, the public was loser.


Posted by Facts, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:08 am

Concerned resident:

Maybe you should ahve read the story to get some of your answers:

"According to Perla Rodriguez, vice president of public affairs for Mi Pueblo, the company went "above and beyond" what was required when it was recruiting applicants. She said the company worked in tandem with the City of East Palo Alto, putting fliers up at City Hall and hosting English-speaking information sessions. Rodriguez said that despite heavy advertising, the sessions were poorly attended.

Nonetheless, more than 40 percent of the store's 200 employees are East Palo Alto residents, 5 percent more than the city required, Rodriguez said."

Why do the signs have to be "english only"?
Could be they have not updated their website yet. Do you have any evidence for your "lining the pockets" comments or is that just as scurrilous rumor you are trying to start.
New stores always entice customers with low prices at the beginning--if they try to overcharge later they will lose business (of course it will be tough for them to beat the high prices of the small stores in EPA--no wonder they objected to the new store opening--they will no longer be able to charge $4 for milk.)


Sounds to me like you are a malcontent.


Posted by concerned resident, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2009 at 9:09 am

Stanford Resident,

Thank you for your input. I have nothing against any business, however, I believe in asking questions. You may know that the only stupid question is the one that is not asked. If 40% is beyond the city's requirement, maybe that number needs to be at 75%. Within our 5 mile radius if more people live and work here can you imagine how much less traffic and reduced foreign oil consumption will result.

I may have dreams of grandeur, but, not for personal gain. I have travelled the world, have been a volunteer in the international scene for two years and volunteered locally for many years. I just dream of harmony within a community, with plenty of employment opportunities.

I trust you will try to understand another persons views.

Regards and happy thanksgiving.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2009 at 9:56 am

iknowwho, your input is irrelevant, as you're not in the couty or city, and don't live locally. A Trader Joe's is being built on Embarcadero in Palo Alto, so that makes 3 within less than 10 miles (a good thing, imo). As for a flea market - no, we need a dcent grocery store much more than a flea market. There are many garage sales, thrift stores and flea markets on the peninsula.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2009 at 9:59 am

Did you means Spanish signs only? I think the signs need to be English/Spanish; ideally, there would be signage in the 4 main languages spoken in EPA: Eng., Span., Tongan and Samoan.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2009 at 11:11 am

@concerned resident: The more restrictions and/or requirements a local government places on businesses - the higher probability that the business will say, "Thanks, but no thanks.", and go somewhere else.


Posted by RWC resident, a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I used to live in EPA and lamented for years why a city of its size did not have a grocery store. I used to have to drive to either PA or MP to buy groceries. It is amazing to me that a company finally chose to take a chance on EPA and open a full service grocery store and people continue to complain and find fault! Who cares if it a hispanic owned company?

EPA citizens: you can now walk to buy groceries instead of having to get on a bus, hire a cab, waste gas in your own car, or ask a neighbor who has a car to take you to the MP Safeway. Think positively and see the blessing in this store opening in your community.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2009 at 12:38 pm

NIMBY whining is why there are no great supermarkets in Palo Alto. I am still mad at the NIMBYs who shut down the Alma Plaza supermarket.


Posted by VoxPop, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm

There are good supermarkets in Palo Alto, just not ones that fit the special needs of the complainers, who also want to be able to drive to the store easily and find acres of unused parking but complain about traffic on the way and in their neighborhoods and would never, ever allow the constuction of a giant supermarket anywhere near their neighborhood or school.

Just sayin'.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2009 at 1:22 pm

None of the supermarkets in Palo Alto have an adequate selection of fresh foods and ethnic foods. I've been having to drive to Sunnyvale and Cupertino to buy healthy tasty food.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2009 at 1:24 pm

P.S. If you want less traffic, then allow interesting stores closer to where people live. If people don't have to drive so much, there will be less traffic. The NIMBYs are causing more traffic, not preventing it.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2009 at 2:43 pm

No, Palo Alto supermarkets are not good, they are small, cramped, boutique style and not full service. Which supermarket sells in store baked bread that is not expensive? Which supermarket sells full range of available groceries? Which supermarket sells hot and cold take out food with space to eat it inside along with a decent cup of coffee? Some have some of these facilities, but not all have them all. Some do have knowledgeable staff that can help you how to cook/carve a turkey or suggest a good bottle of wine to go with it. Most just cut meat or cold cuts without having any idea what part of the animal or even which animal they are cutting. Some have very pleasant staff, but not really knowledgeable.


Posted by Facts, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 20, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Palo Alto has decided what they want in the way of grocery stores--small boutique stores that will not provide too much competition for JJ&F (free market economics have no place in Palo Alto--we must maintain a level playing field so that all grocery stores in PA overcharge the same amount). My advise--go to Menlo Park or Mountain View for real full service stores. As Sarah pointed out, the NIMBYists love to whine about the traffic, but refuse to do anything to address the reasons for all that traffic


Posted by numbers, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2009 at 11:49 am

They claim that 40% of the employees are from EPA. I have spoken with 15 employees and hey have stated that they are NOT from EPA.

Strange.............coincidence..........


Posted by Facts, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 21, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Numbers--so where are they from? how many total employees do they have. Coincidence that you spoke with 15 employees and they were all from somewhere else, EPA--fact or fiction? Your point??


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2009 at 10:10 am

Some various observations...

-People in EPA are excited about this market - people shopping inside are upbeat, the parking lot is crowded. The co-tenants of that shopping center are happy, too. Some have mentioned it's easier now for them to do their growcery shopping.

-People in PA are always complaining about their grocery stores, just like some residents here in EPA. Some people are just never satisifed.

-This thread, like many non-PA-centric threads, has been hijacked and turned into PA-centric comments.

I hope my relief at being able to grocery shop, go to Ikea or Home Depot or Sports Authority, all in one small loop, lasts for awhile. It feels good to have an already-thriving business open in this dreary economy.


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