Judging by the reception of throngs of people at the new Mi Pueblo Food Center in San Rafael, CA this store is changing shopping habits, both for the local Hispanic population looking for foods from their homeland, and non-Hispanics who appreciate authentic foods from our neighbors to the south. Located in the heavily Hispanic Canal neighborhood, the area has never had a full service grocery store, causing local residents to either walk long distances, shop at small stores with a limited selection, or find transportation to full service grocery stores located miles away.
Dorothy Deaver, a Marin County resident who just returned from a trip to Central Mexico, said she looks forward to shopping at Mi Pueblo, rather than regarding it as a chore. Instead of waiting long stretches between trips to Mexico, she said, “I’m ecstatic that Mi Pueblo is in town so I can taste my favorite foods at the deli, authentically prepared, and I can find all kinds of specialty ingredients in the produce section.”
After Circuit City went out of business in November 2008 the large site stood vacant for many months, providing the ideal location for Mi Pueblo’s 15th store, and the Canal area’s first. Mi Pueblo was established in 1991 in San Jose and is rapidly expanding throughout Northern California, now employing over 2500 workers in its combined operations. The San Rafael store opened March 17, 2010.
Even the outside of the store looks different from other retail grocery chains and ethnic grocery stores, which often look bland and generic for the former, or small, dark and dingy for the latter. Painted a rich golden hue, its bright façade invites a visit. The billowing smoke from the outdoor grill fills the surrounding air with the savory aroma of barbequed meats. Outdoor seating is available, but once inside it’s hard to resist the multicolor tables and chairs beside the extensive “Hot Deli / Cocina Mexicana”. The deli features foods freshly prepared to order, such as tacos, enchiladas, and burritos and as well as prepared foods to be heated up at home, such as fried tilapia, house made tamales, a variety of meats, and an array of spicy salsas. A tortilla making operation manned by two or three people at a time cranks out tantalizingly fresh tortillas, packaged while steaming hot.
For first time visitors, this is when eyes start glazing over, and it becomes difficult to take it all in. The sights and sounds are unlike any major chain grocery store. Spanish and English is intermixed, mariachi music is playing, cheers erupt from behind the counter and one can’t help but be impressed with how the employees hustle.
Cindy Thomas, an out of town visitor, marveled at the high energy of the staff and festive atmosphere, declaring that, “anyone who is depressed ought to come to Mi Pueblo-no one could feel down in the dumps here.”
Moving toward the bakery the first item one sees is house-made flan, smooth, light custard resting in a pool of sweet caramel sauce. Biscuits, rolls, brightly colored cakes, and cookies are prepared daily in the bakery.
The produce section overflows with abundant, high quality specialty items such as cactus, tomatillos and fresh banana leaves, interspersed with firm, dark russet cones of brown sugar, huge tubs of dried beans and a large number of different kinds of dried peppers, in addition to the standard produce selections. Above the produce sits an array of brightly colored piñatas, standing ready to adorn any celebratory party.
Continuing around the perimeter of the store, more surprises await. Cold cases of fresh fish are artfully displayed beside various ceviche (citrus-marinated raw seafood) concoctions. An assortment of the thinnest slices of meat possible (perfect for tacos), pigs snouts, hooves, tripe, tongue and other unusual cuts of meat fill gleaming cases. A wide selection of cheeses, yogurt and salsa are located across from the meat counter, manned by smiling women ready to provide taste samples.
Mi Pueblo Food Center is the perfect addition to the Canal area of San Rafael, providing high quality foods, as well as personable and efficient service in a clean, bright and festive environment.
Source: Mi Pueblo website-http://www.mipueblofoods.com/