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Mi Mercado Hispanic grocery in underserved northeast KC is closing after just six months

Updated: 2014-02-17T04:15:14Z

By JOYCE SMITH

The Kansas City Star

A new grocery designed to meet the needs of an underserved urban core is closing six months after it opened.

Mi Mercado, a full-line Hispanic grocery store at 3719 Independence Ave. in northeast Kansas City, is scheduled to close Tuesday.

Cosentinos Food Stores had long operated a store in the building, but sales were declining under the Apple Market banner. Market research by Cosentinos showed that about 20,000 Hispanics lived within a three-mile radius of the store. So the company shut the Apple Market store down for a month last summer, remodeled it and reopened as Mi Mercado in August.

It offered all the traditional grocery departments, as well as items such as freshly made salsa and tortillas and crema Salvadorena. Brightly colored pinatas were strung over the checkout lanes. It also had new flooring, new signs and a prepared-food area with picnic table seating.

Still, Cosentinos said sales over the last six months did not increase enough to keep the store open.

“It was a very difficult decision for our family and one of the hardest since I started in the business in the early 1990s,” said John Cosentino, vice president of Cosentinos Food Stores. “We tried something, and we put all the effort we could in it. But there just were not enough sales.”

The Cosentino’s Price Chopper at 5800 Wilson Road, about a mile east, will carry many of the items now at Mi Mercado in what the company calls a merger. Mi Mercado’s 85 employees will be offered positions at the company’s other 27 area stores.

Traffic at Mi Mercado was steady Sunday morning with customers filling carts for their weekly shopping trip. Concha Llamas was making a quick run for breakfast items — eggs, French toast and juice — for her visiting grandchildren.

“I liked everything about it. I’m not happy to see it close,” said Llamas, who lives nearby.

New area resident Josh Funk said he liked shopping at the market because of its diversity.

“It’s a place that’s very different, and I think it really plays to the neighborhood,” Funk said.

While the suburbs are saturated with supermarkets, the urban core’s choices are limited.

“I’ve been getting a lot of calls, and I want people to know we are dedicated to our northeast customers,” Cosentino said. “It will be just be one store now instead of two.”

Kansas City’s urban core waited a decade for another urban oasis.

Aldi, a low-price grocery chain, opened a store early this month at 39th Street and Prospect Avenue. The 16,850-square-foot store was first proposed 10 years ago but was delayed several times. Aldi promises it will have the same prices and selections as its suburban stores.

To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to jsmith@kcstar.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at @JoyceKC.

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