Stepping into Supermex in Pasco is like stepping into a grocery store in Mexico — and that is exactly what owner Jesus Higareda-Diaz wants.
Colorful murals adorn the walls depicting traditional Hispanic foods and produce, piñatas line the ceiling, the smell of authentic Mexican tacos fills the air, and the friendly staff greets you in Spanish.
[blockquote quote="We enjoy giving back to the community, because they have given us so much." source="Jesus Higareda-Diaz, owner of Supermex" align="right" max_width="300px"]
In fact, the motto of the store is “Un pedacito de México cerca de ti”, which means “A small piece of Mexico near you.”
For many local Hispanics, stepping into Supermex is like stepping into their home away from home — although Higareda-Diaz said that his clientele is far more ethnically diverse that you might think, including Russians, Koreans and Indians. He also draws shoppers from outside the Tri-Cities.
Higareda-Diaz and his family settled in California in the late 1980s from Mexico. He was just 13 and for nearly 15 years he worked with his parents, who owned a similar grocery store in California.
In 2002, he moved to the Tri-Cities in hopes of following in his parent’s footsteps and opening up his very own Mexican grocery store. He didn’t have any family here, but had heard it was a growing area and that businesses did well.
Higareda-Diaz opened Supermex El Pueblo Market at 420 W. Lewis in downtown Pasco that same year.
At first, it was hard, he said, but the store quickly started to pick up steam and on Sundays, the lines at the cash register were long.
“When I first came to the Tri-Cities it was like an adventure,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect and it was really hard at first to assimilate.”
It wasn’t long before the little store gained popularity and a loyal following of regulars who returned to the store for its authentic products, reasonable prices, and unmatched variety.
In 2008, he opened a bigger location at 720 N. 20th Ave. in Pasco to accommodate for growth. Shortly after he opened one in Milton-Freewater, Ore., because so many people of his customers were traveling from outside the Tri-Cities to do their grocery shopping at his store.
But managing the three stores proved to be more difficult than Higareda-Diaz imagined, so he sold the downtown Pasco store and the Milton-Freewater store.
“I admire the businesses that can manage multiple locations, but as a small business, I didn’t have that capacity, so I decided to focus just on this store,” Higareda-Diaz said, referring to the 20th Avenue location.
Although the store was larger, it still didn’t have a butcher department and many of the unique products it is known for now.
“Like every business, when you don’t have the money to invest, you have to make a lot of sacrifices,” he said. “When I opened, I really didn’t have a lot of the unique products I have now. I didn’t even have a meat department.”
But his customers liked what he did have on the shelves and they kept returning. And he kept improving.
He attributes his success in the community to many things — but mostly to the wide variety of items he has in stock. There are long aisles dedicated to popular Mexican candies with interesting flavors and the store carries nearly 100 types of Mexican tequilas, all things you can’t find anywhere else in the Tri-Cities. You’ll also find things a wide variety of spices, chilies and other traditional Mexican and Hispanic delicacies.
A Mexican deli serves fresh tacos, quesadillas, and burritos inside the store. And you can pair those with traditional Mexican fruit juices, smoothies, fruits and infused waters, also served in the store.
“As a Mexican, I know what people like, and when I travel there I see what the most popular food products are and that is we try and source,” he said. Higareda-Diaz said the store’s wide selection of Mexican candies is one of its most popular features.
“In fact, a lot of our clients travel to Mexico and often would bring back shipments of candy,” he said.
Now they no longer have to do that because they can find their favorites at Supermex.
Although Higareda-Diaz said some products at the store are purchased from Mexico, the majority comes from California.
“I believe our success comes from our variety but also our prices in produce and meat are very accessible,” he says.
Supermex has a staff of about 100 employees is experiencing exciting growth, Higareda-Diaz said, but he hasn’t stopped growing as an entrepreneur.
Higareda-Diaz has opened a party supply business next to Supermex and in May he plans to unveil a nevería and paletería, or Mexican ice cream and Popsicle parlor.
The success of his business, has allowed Higareda-Diaz to support the community by sponsoring sports teams, school supply drives and making donations. At Christmas, Supermex donated nearly 2,000 toys for children in need.
“We enjoy giving back to the community, because they have given us so much,” he said.
Supermex is at 720 N. 20th Ave. in Pasco. The store is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The phone number is 509-547-8770.
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