Fry's launches market tailored to Hispanics
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 4, 2006

Erica Sagon
Fry's Food Stores has opened its first supermarket in the Valley that caters to Hispanics.

Fry's Mercado, at the northeastern corner of 43rd Avenue and McDowell Road in Phoenix, stocks Mexican groceries and prepared foods and features seven shops operated by independent merchants selling clothing, shoes, hats, bridal gowns, CDs and jewelry. A barbershop and medical clinic will also eventually open.

The 66,000-square-foot store is a prototype for the Valley's largest grocer, but Fry's hopes to open more Mercado stores, Fry's spokeswoman Kendra Doyel said. The store was previously a Fry's Marketplace and was shut down briefly last week for remodeling. It reopened as Fry's Mercado on Friday. Roughly 500 people work at the store, and all are bilingual or speak Spanish. More supermarket chains are recognizing the buying power of Hispanics in the Valley. Across the U.S., Hispanic households spend more on groceries than other shoppers each week, $133 vs. $92.50, according to the Food Marketing Institute in Washington, D.C.

In the Valley, Fry's Mercado joins other similar stores, including more than 40 Food City stores, a concept owned by Chandler-based Bashas'. California chains Ranch Market and El Super have opened a handful of locations and are looking to expand in the area.

"Competition is fierce," Doyel said. "There's so much opportunity."

Judi Butterworth, a real estate broker for De Rito Partners Inc. in Phoenix, said it's too soon to tell who the winners and losers are in the Hispanic grocery arena.

"It's going to be a bit of a war," she said, "from where (companies) are locating the stores, to how fast they can get them open, to how they read the demographics."

To select the location for the Mercado concept, Fry's got input from residents living near the former Fry's Marketplace store.

"It fit that neighborhood so well," Doyel said. "It was a store that was ready to be remodeled."

Anna Martinez, 47, of Phoenix, ate lunch Friday at Mi Cocina Favorita, a restaurant within Fry's Mercado.

"You can buy regular products and you can buy Hispanic foods. You don't have to go to separate stores," Martinez said. "And the prices are good."

Fry's Mercado has many of the features that are becoming standards at existing Latino supermarkets in the Valley.

Features include Mi Cocina Favorita, a restaurant that serves traditional Mexican meals for dine-in or takeout, as well as a department where tortillas are freshly made. A kiosk at the front of the store sells fruit-flavored water and ice cream. The deli, bakery, produce department and butcher shop have Mexican products, some of which are not found at Fry's other stores.

Fry's Mercado also has a pharmacy, free check-cashing center and a community room that can be reserved for meetings.

"I'm just overwhelmed," said Margie Salazar, 58, of Phoenix, who was shopping at the store on Friday.

Salazar was happy to see a large display of men's khaki pants, which she typically buys for her sons at other stores.

Fry's, the largest traditional grocer in the Valley, has about 100 stores in the area, according to the company.

The company is owned by Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. but has headquarters in Tolleson.Fry's has a 27.5 percent market share among grocers in the Valley, according to the latest data from Metro Market Studies research firm in Tucson.

Behind Fry's is Bashas', with a 14.3 percent market share; Safeway, 14 percent market share; Albertsons, 10.9 percent market share; and Wal-Mart,
10.5 percent market share.