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The end of Alhambra's Super A Foods? *Corrected

Location

Super A Foods

300 West Main Street
Alhambra , CA United States

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.

Chicharones (Pork Rinds) at Super A. | By Nate Gray

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?”

Oaxacan cheese at Super A. | By Nate Gray

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.

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5 thoughts on “The end of Alhambra's Super A Foods? *Corrected”

  1. Super A Foods has been around for years and it is always sad to see another business go. Unfortunately, with a slow economy and a changing Main St. developing into a high-density corridor, it has not kept up with it’s functional utility.

    The West Main St. Corridor plan that the city has implemented about 5 years ago has called for a renewed development of our growing Main St. As we see today, Super A Foods has a large setback of its building frontage from the Main St. sidewalk due to its parking lot. Not only is this valuable space inefficiently being utilized, but it has not been in alignment with other business frontages along the corridor which is up front near the sidewalks. This supermarket is slowly losing its sync with the surrounding area. The property itself represents the older strip-mall design, with a large setback away from the main street to accomodate parking of suburban commuting customers.

    With this area’s urban renewal, Super A Foods is most likely finding it harder to find new customers. Mixed-use developments with commercial food establishments, shifting demographics, and developments elsewhere have probably made this business difficult to thrive. I have walked the streets in this area several times and many customers of this market are senior citizens (perhaps those living across the street above Denny’s and Burke Manor). With this in mind, its probably no wonder there are so many senior citizens exposing themselves to pedestrian incidents. And with perhaps only locals providing main patronage, no amount of food variety will offset the limited scope of its surrounding market.

    If a new supermarket will someday replace this one, my main concern is the pedestrians across the street who make their daily food purchases. For the sake of safety and traffic congestion due to the high-use of cross-walks by locals (high school students, senior citizens, etc.), a pedestrian tunnel or bridge as an alternative crossing would be very practical.

  2. Count me as one glad to see it go. I wish city officials would consider getting another food source market less “ghetto-y.” Why not a Trader Joe’s or Sprouts? Why do they always have to go with the inferior stores like Kohl’s or Food For Less?

    As for me, I’ll continue shopping in South Pasadena for better quality.

    1. Maybe the latter draws more customers??? Look at Costco. Low price equals more customers. Highly doubt quality is better at south Pasadena. Just overpriced but similar quality for most of their groceries.

  3. I too would like to see Super A remain in Alhambra. Super A has been a great neighborhood market for years.

  4. I’m really saddened to hear that Super A Foods may be torn down. It’s such a nice grocery store. If there is any way that Super A Foods can remain in Alhambra, please make that happen.
    Thank you.