Alejandro Lopez immigrated to America in 1995 with his wife and four kids. The Guadalajara native worked for an office furniture company as a furniture assembler before finally leaping into his American Dream.
Opening the El Valle grocery store in Sherwood in 2014, Lopez teamed with his wife and son Abraham to create a place where other immigrants across Central Arkansas could buy hard-to-find foods from across Mexico and Central America.
The 800-square-foot store built a strong reputation among the Hispanic population by offering inventory packed to the rafters with tastes and smells usually found only south of the U.S. border.
This Thursday, aka Cinco de Mayo, the Lopez family will take their ambitions to a much grander scale when they open a 5,000-SF store and restaurant just blocks away, at the intersection of Brockington Road and Warden Road in Sherwood.
“We’ll have it all, starting with the restaurant where customers walk up and order from a selection of ten different Mexican and Central American meals,” said Abraham Lopez, who has overseen the construction of the new store while his parents have managed the original location. “We also have a butcher shop for the first time with chicken, beef and pork, plus all the spices and grains and canned goods they loved at the old store.
“We will also have a full-on bakery here where the baker will get here at 5 a.m. and by 10 a.m., you’ll have fresh bread and pastries- from conchas and churros- to small cakes that we’ll sell by the slice. And don’t forget the cookies and muffins,” he added.
On the business end of things, Lopez notes that there will be two full-time cashiers manning the store and state-of-the-art computerized inventory. Put it all together for a uniquely human touch, in an age when many groceries are shifting to self-checkout only, and Abraham feels that they are in prime position to explode.
“The big chain stores think that they’re appealing to the young people that way, but they’re overlooking their long-term customers who want a human checking them out,” he said. “And they’d be surprised how many young people go to Trader Joes and mom and pops like us over Kroger because they like to buy things that are authentic.”
While Abraham is the main partner of his parents, each of his other three siblings are also making their own contributions to El Valle. The original store will remain open for three months of transition time before becoming storage space for inventory.
“If you come here, you’ll see my face. You’ll see my brother-in-law, you’ll see my mom and my dad,” said Abraham. “We want to to take this grocery store back to the old times when it was all customer based. You knew your butcher, you knew the people that checked you out.
“We want to do away with parking hassles and having to check your own groceries,” he added. “And we’ve found that people will drive as far as they need to to get a taste of home.”
El Valle is located at 7725 Warden Road in Sherwood, AR 72120. Call (501) 834-1555