A little more than two years after the former Kmart store on Freedom Boulevard closed its doors, the space will soon have a new tenant.
Vallarta Supermarket, which has more than 50 locations throughout California—the most recent one in Salinas—will occupy half of the 100,000-square-foot building. A co-tenant, which is yet to be determined, will take the other half.
Watsonville City Councilman Jimmy Dutra, whose district includes the location at 1702 Freedom Blvd., says he took a tour recently of one of the company’s locations in Southern California.
He describes it as “a shopping experience” that will offer everything a typical grocery store has, in addition to a flower shop, a juice bar, a restaurant, a bakery, a meat and fish market and a variety of ethnic foods including Mexican, Filipino and Portuguese.
“They’re really big and they have a huge variety,” he said. “It’s going to have everything.”
Dutra said he is pushing the city to also make improvements to the adjacent buildings and businesses.
While the city council is tasked with overseeing zoning and ordinance changes that affect the city, Dutra said, they cannot legally deny—or approve—any business that wants to open in Watsonville and meets the requirements.
“I know some people will be upset about another grocery store, but if companies meet the application process—the city cannot deny them a permit,” he said.
Dutra said that the new business will hire 200 people.
“The bright side is this shopping center has been filled with blight and run down and it is about to get a new look and become vibrant again,” he said.
Vallarta Supermarkets Chief Operations Officer Cesar Gonzalez said the store is slated to open in May.
The family-operated chain began in Van Nuys in 1985, Gonzalez said.
He stressed that the company’s stores go beyond the “cookie cutter” stores that focus solely on Hispanic and Mexican foods.
In addition to all conventional groceries, he says, they also have specialty items including vegan and organic and fresh made sushi.
This is in addition to Mexican and Hispanic food, the store will offer Middle Eastern, Indian, Creole, Southern Soul Food, Korean and Filipino foods.
The store will also offer a station with made-to-order guacamole made daily from avocados cut in front of the customers.