East Palo Alto gets first grocery store

November 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
People take it for granted if they need food. They simply head to the grocery around the corner, but residents did not have that luxury in one Bay Area community -- until now. The opening of the new Mi Puebla means people in East Palo Alto won't have to leave town to get fresh food. The new store is bringing excitement as the store opens, but also a little anxiety.

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There's no down time at Mi Pueblo's newest store in East Palo Alto. The city's only full-service grocery store opens on Saturday.

It promises to bring more than just food to a city that has an unemployment rate of nearly 18 percent. Mi pueblo is bringing jobs -- 200 of them. Forty percent of those hired are from East Palo Alto.

"I've applied for over 35 jobs in San Jose, 35, and none of them have called back, but Mi Pueblo did," said Mario Amezquita, a cashier.

Three thousand people applied for jobs at the store. One woman even filled out an application on the spot, while others just wanted to know when they could start shopping.

"The majority of East Palo Alto residents have to leave the city to find their groceries, so they go to a number of cities around this area and they take their money with them," said Perla Rodriguez with Mi Pueblo.

Mi Pueblo has been trying to open in East Palo Alto for nearly a year. One reason it has taken so long is because of the city's merchants association. They fear a store this size will drive them out of business.

At Country Time Market, business is already down 50 percent. Managers say they simply can't compete with Mi Pueblo.

"With my size, I can't. It's a small store. Their store is 33,000 square feet. My store is not even 2,000 square feet," says Azman Mubarak from the Country Time Market.

Now Mubarak is relying on the very community he's served for 12 years to keep spending their money at his store.

Regardless, for many shoppers, it is not about competition, it is about having a choice.

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