Nopales, left, and sabila, above, are available at Rincon Latino Supermarket. (Photos by Grace Goldoni. Click to enlarge)
By GRACE GOLDONI
Rich South American hot chocolate in blocks. Subtropical coconuts. Exotic, prickly and tangy vegetables.
We’re not in your typical white-bread American supermarket. Here on Shrewsbury Avenue, the main thoroughfare on Red Banks West Side, the striking flavors of fresh and authentic Latin food create a south-of-the-border atmosphere.
In recent decades, this commercial stretch has adopted a strong Latino accent, just like its surrounding neighborhoods. If youve never stepped outside your car and visited this street, home to about half a dozen bodegas and small grocers, well, grab a shopping cart…
Juanito’s International Marqueta is the latest in a line of food-related businesses owner Juan Torres has created in town. Below, the store’s placeta-style checkout station. (Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Leading a visitor through the aisles of his new supermarket on Red Bank’s West Side, Juan Torres wended his way past employees busily stocking shelves and freezers just hours before he unceremoniously opened the store to shoppers Tuesday.
Reminiscent of midsized neighborhood markets long ago displaced by supermarkets, Juanito’s International Marqueta features four short aisles and two longer aisles stocked with dry goods, many of them grouped together by nation of origin: Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and elsewhere, Torres said.
Likewise, along a wall of freezers, food is also grouped by nation of origin, including Salvadoran corn tamales known as pupusas.
The groupings, Torres said, were done to make shopping easier for Latino immigrants as well as non-Hispanic shoppers looking for beans, sardines and other products they used in their home countries, he said.
“People here take taxis to Long Branch to get ingredients,” he said. “Now, they can walk here.”
Juan Torres, owner of Juanito’s restaurant, testifies about his proposal for a large grocery on Red Bank’s West Side Thursday night. (Click to enlarge)
A plan for a supersized bodega on Shrewsbury Avenue didn’t make it to the checkout register Thursday night.
A hearing by Red Bank’s zoning board ended with more testimony, and objections, expected when the matter resumes on August 4.
Juan Torres, who owns Juanitos restaurant, Juanitos Bakery and El Guero grocery all on the borough’s West Side is seeking board approval for what would be the borough’s largest ethnic food store.
But first he’s got to clear hurdles related to the store’s size, parking issues and pedestrian safety, as well as the resistance of at least one other bodega owner.