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LUBBOCK, Texas -- Regional independently owned chain United Supermarkets, Ltd., here is growing its Hispanic banner one store at a time, thanks to its recent purchase of two stores that formerly belonged to Tyler, Texas-based Brookshire Grocery Co. United Supermarkets signed an agreement late last week to purchase the two stores in Wichita Falls, Texas, with plans to reopen them on June 23 under the Super Mercado banner.
The stores, located at 3801 Jacksboro Highway and 3164 Fifth Street, will be the second and third of United’s Hispanic banner, which is still a work in progress, spokesman Eddie Owens told Progressive Grocer. "These stores will provide us an opportunity to refine our Hispanic format -- to test the concept and see what works," he noted. "We are especially interested in offering more prepared foods that our Hispanic guests will be attracted to. We've already developed some new recipes."
Converting the stores to the Super Mercado banner will take several months, the company said. Guests to the stores will eventually be treated to fresh-made tortillas, tropical fruit frescas, produce from around the world, and a full-service carneceria, featuring fresh fajitas, carnitas, and chorizos, among other specialty items.
The company's long-term goal is to develop more United Super Mercado stores, since it sees Texas' growing Hispanic population as a "very important market going forward," said Owens.
United's c.e.o., Dan Sanders, echoed that sentiment in a statement. "Our company is entering a new growth phase. The purchase and rebranding of these two stores under the Super Mercado banner will allow us to better serve the Wichita Falls area while refining our offerings to the rapidly growing Hispanic market," he noted.
Wichita Falls, a city in northern Texas with a population of just over 100,000, is somewhat lighter in terms of Hispanic population than other Texas cities, according to Owens. But the company saw an opportunity to expand the Hispanic banner in the area, since its other banners -- the conventional United Supermarkets and the upscale Market Street -- are already nearby.
The North Texas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will be involved in the development of the new Hispanic stores, which will be a great advantage, said Owens.
"We look forward to working with United to maximize the potential of these two stores on behalf of our citizenry," said Joe Nieto, president and c.e.o. of the chamber, in a statement. Nieto added that he is already working with United officials to form community advisory boards for the two stores.
The company's only existing Super Mercado store opened in June 2000 in Plainview.
In other United Supermarkets news, the company is planning a multi-million dollar investment in the Lake Country area in Graham, Texas, with a hybrid store that implements characteristics from United's conventional banner and its Market Street banner, according to Owens. The store will retain the United Supermarkets banner.
The project, which is in the early phases of development, will emphasize fresh foods and unique specialty grocery offerings. Plans include a new deli/prepared foods area complete with in-store dining, an upscale in-store bakery, an expanded presence in fresh produce featuring organic vegetables, and a full-service meat department with expanded seafood offerings.
Brainstorming for the concept has been underway for several months, and employed both formal research and informal discussions between United management and members of the company’s Community Advisory Board in Graham.
United will temporarily consolidate its operations into the Highway 16 location beginning June 25. The Fourth Street location will close June 24.
"Our vision for the future of our operations in Graham is to operate one larger store, putting our 'best foot forward' and offering our guests a wider variety of unique and targeted solutions to improve the quality of life enjoyed by residents of the Lake Country area," said Sanders.
United hopes to begin construction in February 2007, with completion of the project in summer 2007.
-- Jenny McTaggart