Now you can get your Marie Sharp's in Ill.:
Latino groceries big in Waukegan
By Ryan Pagelow
Courier News Chicago
WAUKEGAN — The small mom-and-pop Latino supermarkets in Waukegan offer more than just groceries. They offer immigrants tastes of home, whether it's Mexico, Central America or Puerto Rico. Immigrants also can buy international calling cards, wire money home, grab a fresh taco, cash paychecks and find books, magazines and greeting cards in Spanish.
Since the first days when Puerto Rican Ramon Soto arrived in Waukegan with $15 in his pocket and started selling tortillas and produce out of the back of his truck in 1955, stores catering to Latinos have become big business. There are now more than a dozen in Waukegan.
Noting the growing Latino population, Jewel Food Stores have a section devoted to imported Mexican products.
Lewis Produce Market is opening its second large store in Waukegan on the same block as Delray Farms Fresh Market, a chain of stores based in Melrose Park that caters to Latinos.
But despite the increased competition with larger stores that can buy products in larger volumes, most small-business owners agree that the supermercados still have their niche.
"The Latino supermarkets have everyday products, for example a large variety of tortillas, chilies, salsas and fruits and vegetables that are a little more than the American markets are familiar with," said Epifanio Reyes, manager of El Potosi supermarket.
His store has a large selection of pinatas and a meat market, or carneceria, where clients can find fresh cuts that are popular in Mexico. There's also a wall devoted to Latin music CDs and a section for oversized cooking pots used to cook tamales.
Reyes' brothers Jose Luis and Carlos first opened the La Margarita grocery store in Waukegan in 1975.
"When we opened La Margarita, there were only two Puerto Rican supermarkets," Reyes said. "The Hispanic community has grown so much in Waukegan. Now every corner has a store."
One supermarket finding a niche among the supermercados is Lempiras Grocery, which caters primarily to the large Honduran population in Waukegan.
Luis Maldonado opened the store in 1997. He sells homemade Honduran cheese called quejada and Honduran chorizo sausage that varies from Mexican chorizo.
"The Mexican chorizo is more spicy and ours doesn't bite. It's white, like Italian sausage. Mexicans add more red color," Maldonado said.
He has a Honduran and Mexican butcher to offer both styles of meat cuts. He also sells Honduran sodas and bottled Chile de Olancho, a popular brand of hot sauce for people from the state of Olancho, Honduras.
"People come from Chicago and Wisconsin looking for things here," Maldonado said.
Another store catering to Hondurans in Waukegan is Mas Por Menos, which has a large Honduran flag in the window. There's also a Honduran-owned bakery called Hondu Pan.
One of the original supermarkets catering to the Latino population, Colon Groceries, still is open. Originally opened by Puerto Ricans decades ago, the store is now operated by Taysir Awad and his Palestinian-American brothers.
When Awad and his family bought the store in January 2002, they kept most of the Puerto Rican products but added several goods imported from Mexico and Belize to reflect the mix of the neighborhood.
"We added carnitas, menudo, tamales, Belizean hot sauces and salted pig tails," Awad said. "It was originally based on Puerto Rico. We made it international."