Super A Foods
The bold red sign with the A in the middle is an instantly recognizeable symbol for anyone who grew up in Alhambra in the last three decades. But Main Street's Super A Foods is likely soon to go to make way for new developments on Main Street, following the route of the nearby recently demolished old library and Atlantic Edwards Theater.
An architecture firm is pitching designs to the city for a mixed-use residential and comercial project on the site. City officials have said that a new, highly desirable supermarket will be in the development, but have not revealed which one.
Louis Amen started the Super A Foods Company in 1971, with the aim to entice customers in smaller neighborhoods where bigger named grocers didn’t see a viable market. It opened in Alhambra in 1981, a time when there were few local grocery stores in the area. Today, newer kiosks and displays clash with the wood paneling that have adorned the walls since the market first opened. Amen recognizes that his market is in need of remodeling, but it requires “serious cash” that the company can’t afford.
Meanwhile, cash has flowed into development in other areas in the city as the city has welcomed a number of major chain grocery stores — such as Costco, Fresh & Easy, and Ralphs. “The store is not profitable and the city does not want to work with us on a deal,” said Jim Amen, vice president at Super A Foods. “How do you turn around and make a profit from this economy?”
It's not for lack of trying. Over the years Super A has changed its goods to reflect the diverse community in Alhambra. On its shelves are rare Asian spices and gelatinized coconut water (Nata de coco) from the Philippines, as well as more mainstream goods like name brand cereals, soda or frozen pizza. Not far away are Oaxacan cheeses, fresh masa dough for making tamales and tortillas, and even packages of nixtamal (corn cooked in alkaline, the step before masa) a common ingredient in pozole rojo. While these ethnic goods are available at any number of American, Mexican, Chinese and Filipino grocery stores, it is rare to find them all in one place — even in Los Angeles.
Dates have yet to be disclosed, but it is likely that in the next year, Alhambra will lose this rare multicultural crossroads of goods and people.
*Corrected 4:00pm, August 26, 2011: An earlier version of this story said that the city previously owned Super A. That was incorrect. The property that Super A rents has always been privately owned. The Alhambra Source regrets the error.