Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Lupe Abarca, left, and Wendy Olea are socially distanced from customers as they create custom fruit and veggie drinks at the La Isla juice bar in the Vallarta Supermarket.
Vallarta Supermarkets held a grand opening at the old Mervyn’s building on 1467 Country Club Drive and more than 600 people were waiting to see the city’s newest supermarket.
“We have a few stores in the Fresno area and the Central Valley (Visalia and Tulare),” said Ivette Serrano, Vallarta Director of Digital Marketing and Social media. “We were hearing from our team members that a lot of shoppers were coming from north of Fresno. We have team members that live out in that area. We wanted to come into communities that didn’t have options. There’s limited options for shopping in areas. Because we had a few stores locally in the Central Valley, expanding in Madera would be a good thing.”
Madera’s Vallarta is one of the largest in the chain of 51 stores, all located in California, that originated in Los Angeles. It is the seventh store in the Central Valley, with three in Fresno.
“Madera is our northern-most store,” Serrano said. “We are looking going north. It’s because of serving communities that don’t have more options. We’re looking at locations where we can be of value to the community.”
Serrano is excited for the opportunities that Vallarta can bring to the community and from the response the store received Wednesday, Madera is excited for Vallarta, as well.
“The response is completely overwhelming,” she said. “We had such a positive response on Day 1. It goes to show the need in the community for a store like ours. We had about 10 people in line at around 3 a.m. and we had about 200 people at 5 a.m. Because of social distancing, we couldn’t allow the 600 people in line at 9 a.m. into the store at the same time. We were spacing them out. I left about 1-1:30 p.m. and the line was still there for people to go into the store.”
Vallarta totally remodeled the old Mervyn’s building and will be the hub of newer business along Country Club Drive.
“It took several months to remodel the store,” Serrano said. “The planning started early in 2019. For us to get to this point, It has been a long journey. One of the things we are proud of is to be able to serve some of the surrounding communities and some unincorporated communities that don’t have food options. We want to be their new home. We want to be their neighbor and a place they can find anything they are looking for, from a birthday cake, to carne asada to fresh tortillas. It’s just part of our values of being part of the community and help service. That’s why we’re excited because Madera really needs that service. We’re looking forward to fill that void for that community.”
Vallarta Supermarket is just the beginning of what could be built in that area, according to Bobby Khan, Executive Director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission.
“We’re already talking to another company that wants to be on that site, but we didn’t have a building big enough for them,” Khan said. “We need about another 15-20,000 square feet for that building. The parking field has room for building pads. If you look at the plans for that site, there are other buildings planned for that site.”
Vallarta isn’t just your normal grocery store. There are plenty of amenities inside that makes a trip to the grocery store turn into an all-in-one trip with groceries, dinner, dessert and even a snack.
“When you think of a grocery store, you think about cereal and milk and other grocery items,” Serrano said. “When you walk into a Vallarta, you see fresh pan dulce bakery that slaps you in the face when you walk in. There’s nothing in the Central Valley that looks like our Vallarta layout. It’s completely different, even different from our other stores.”
Because the Madera Vallarta is one of the largest stores in the chain, the company was able to fill the space wisely with other additions.
“Every Vallarta has a restaurant, but this one has a larger counter,” Serrano said.
“It offers party trays and catering. We have a full-on juice bar. People know us for our frescas. They also don’t know we have a juice bar. This store affords a chance to show off those departments, which are kind of hidden in our other stores because they are smaller. This juice bar is so beautiful. I sat there watching our juicer cut wheat grass and do wellness shots for our shoppers. That’s something you don’t see a lot. You also see a display case with artisan candied apples. I’m not just talking caramel, but I’m talking about different flavors that take you back. It’s something traditional like a candied apple, but making it culturally relevant for our shoppers.”
In addition, Vallarta has one of the chain’s largest meat counters and a candy shop.
“Our meat counter is 48-feet long. It’s 12 cases side-by-side of our freshest, never frozen meat cuts,” Serrano said. “Our ceviche bar has 12 different types. Talk about variety from all over the world is in our produce. We bring in produce from Vietnam, Chile and Mexico. It’s that variety of international food. The Madera location has a dulceria (candy shop). It is so colorful with a sugar icon on the wall. It looks like a party corner. It’s a delight to walk through that section. Of course, we have our bakery, which we’re known for. We do carry the name brands in the grocery. We have specialty items that make our store a destination.”
After years of waiting for someone to occupy an empty storefront, Madera seems excited about its new tenant — Vallarta Supermarkets.
“We’re super happy about being in Madera,” Serrano said. “I know it took us a while to get here. We are excited to be a part of the community.”