City Heights consumers have a new option for groceries, and it comes with a free ride home. The family-owned Northgate Market opened on the corner of 54th Street and University Avenue on Oct. 27 in what was formerly a Sears tire center. The new market will complement the important contributions of existing smaller markets for the traditionally under served City Heights neighborhood.
The Hispanic-themed supermarket tries to provide what Store Director Ed Cabral Jr. calls the homeland experience. “Everything you would see back home, you can get here. You don’t need to go to Tijuana,” he says.
City Heights is home to many markets catering to the Latino community, but what makes Northgate Market unique is its size. The store spans 41,000 square feet with wide aisles, similar to a Vons or Albertsons. The City Heights location is the seventh in San Diego County and 34th in Southern California, which allows it to buy in bulk and pass on lower costs to the consumer, according to Cabral. Because of the store’s size, products carried include those from the United States, Mexico, Brazil, and other Latin American countries.
Mexican music booms from the store’s sound system, and shoppers can choose from the Mexican-styled bakery, meat market, and tortilleria. All signage is printed in both English and Spanish. A large counter serves freshly prepared meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Once you are done shopping, you can hop on one of two shuttle vans for a free ride home, if you spend $30 or more. Cabral says the service has been so popular they are considering buying a third van.
Cabral says the store’s owners, the Gonzalez family, “has a huge heart” and wants to get involved in the community. The store will sponsor Little League teams, donate food, and help with fundraisers. Currently, it’s raising money for poor kids in Mexico through a checkout counter program. At Christmas time, the store will give away 1,500 toys to needy families.
The store opening comes at a critical time for many. With high unemployment, Northgate Market received more than 6,000 applicants to fill 148 positions. According to Cabral, those who made the final cut displayed a great attitude, reflected the community’s ethnic diversity, and demonstrated the perceived ability to provide excellent customer service. Most are bilingual and live within a few miles of the store.
Northgate’s choice to locate in City Heights is part of the Gonzalez family’s vision to be the No. 1 Hispanic chain in Southern California. Stores are placed in underserved and highly-concentrated Hispanic neighborhoods. The original Northgate Market was opened in Anaheim in 1980 by Miguel Gonzalez, who immigrated to Los Angeles with his oldest sons after his shoe store burned down in Jalisco, Mexico. His dream was to open enough stores so that each of his 13 children could run their own supermarket. Today the business is run by 12 of the 13, with grandchildren now heavily involved.