Latino Merchants Offer Online Supermarket

Jorge Guillén (left) and Alex Inoa, coordinators of the online supermarket, (Photo by José Acosta via El Diario/La Prensa)

Jorge Guillén (left) and Alex Inoa, coordinators of the online supermarket, (Photo by José Acosta via El Diario/La Prensa)

In recent years, Dominicans have come to dominate city supermarkets, but they don’t want the future to catch them unawaresTo stay up to date, they are expanding their markets through the Internet, and some combine user-friendly technology.

These merchants make up 95 percent of the more than 400 businesses in New York united under the National Supermarket Association (NSA), and they generate around $3 billion a year.

To make their products available to their customers, not only on shelves but also in cyberspace, a group of them created and began operating one year ago. [The website] is comprised of a chain of 10 supermarkets in four boroughs in the city (except Staten Island) and Long Island, and funded by the entrepreneur Anthony Espinal & Associates.

One of the leaders and participants in the online supermarket is Jorge Guillén, manager of the Cherry Valley supermarket in West Hempstead, Long Island. He said the idea of arose when a group of these small business owners observed that they had a large customer base that wanted to buy at the store in their neighborhood, but they didn’t have time or couldn’t go there for some reason. 

“These people were making orders over the phone or by email. Then we decided to create a webpage where people can access products and do their regular grocery shopping, and receive [their groceries] the same day in the comfort of their homes,” said Guillén.

Delivery is free.

The ordering process

Guillén explained that the system connects the customer with one or several member supermarkets in the neighborhood where the order is received.

“The customer makes a user account, buys online like they do on Amazon or FreshDirect, chooses the hour and day that they want to receive their order, and the form of payment: cash, credit card, or debit card,” said Guillén. “We also accept EBT [electronic benefit transfer] cards for the items approved by this program.”

The member businesses include chains such as Associated, Pioneer, and Compare (etc.), but according to Guillén, now the project’s members are creating their own chain called Cherry Valley.

“The advantage is that these supermarkets are in the same neighborhood as the customer. They sell cheaply, and have a wide variety of fresh, high-quality products for Latinos and other communities,” Guillén emphasized. “So far we’re receiving around 200 orders a week; they’re growing month after month, which makes us satisfied.”

Alex Inoa, the project coordinator, said that “is an answer to an unmet need in neighborhoods, where there are many disabled and elderly people, and homemakers who, after having two or three children, have difficulty leaving [the house] to go grocery shopping.”

Other supermarkets have taken the initiative to incorporate user-friendly technology with the environment, such as the Associated Supermarket located at 44-07 Greenpoint Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens.

The business changed the whole system of lighting and refrigeration to green technology. Leo Gutiérrez, the supermarket’s manager, said they made the decision “because it not only means significantly saving on energy consumption, but it’s also good for the environment.”

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