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2 new Waco Hispanic-themed grocery stores plugging along

2 new Waco Hispanic-themed grocery stores plugging along

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A small crew stood outside La Michoacana Meat Market under construction at 2210 W. Waco Drive, and the consensus was it would open in December.

It joins a growing number of markets and grocery stores elbowing for their spot serving the Waco area’s growing Hispanic population. Hispanic McLennan County residents accounted for about half of the county’s total growth in through the 2010s, growing to 26.3% of the 260,579 residents countywide, according to 2020 census figures.

La Michoacana was on the drawing board before the new information from the U.S. Census Bureau began to surface. Likewise, the promised Poco Loco Supermercado at North 25th Street and Bosque Boulevard has teased neighborhood shoppers so long its “coming soon” sign has faded.

But make no mistake, the pace of work there has picked up in recent weeks and months, both inside and outside. Crews have installed support for a new facade, building materials are evident, and the city of Waco on July 21 issued a permit for interior framing work.

Poco Loco Supermercado in 2018 confirmed interest in taking over the 37,000-square-foot building in North Waco previously occupied by three other Hispanic-themed grocery stores and a Winn-Dixie grocery store. It had been vacant since 2014, and remains empty pending Poco Loco’s unveiling.

The Waco store already appears on the Poco Loco website, along with multiple locations in Austin and in San Marcos, Buda, Dale, Kyle and Uhland.

Calls and email messages to Poco Loco have not been returned.

The city of Waco in 2018 approved a variance allowing Poco Loco to sell alcohol for consumption elsewhere, the variance necessary because it will operate within 300 feet of Provident Heights Elementary School.

Poco Loco will operate within a North Waco corridor brimming with Hispanic-owned businesses. The city of Waco is also building a new fire station in the corridor, where it leveled the historic 25th Street Theater that opened in 1945 but closed as a theater in 1982. It later resurfaced as a dance club, but fell into disrepair.

La Michoacana Meat Market is a full-service grocery chain based in Houston. It is going up with a store in the 2200 block of West Waco Drive, next door to Ranchito 5 Tex-Mex restaurant. La Michoacana did not return calls seeking comment, but the company website says it carries marinated meats, dairy products, Mexican candies, produce, baked goods, health and beauty items, and products from Central and South America. It also operates taquerias.

Work crews are sporadically seen at the site. Calls to determine the pace of construction were not returned. One of several people gathered at the site Saturday said the store could be ready for occupancy by December.

A filing with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation identifies the store owner as Rafael Ortega of Houston. It lists the start date as Nov. 16, 2020, and the completion date as May 21, 2021, or four months ago.

The company website says a Mexican family founded the chain in 1986 with a single store in Houston. It has grown to 140 locations, mostly in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, but also in Lufkin, Bryan and Corpus Christi.

The brand is not new to Waco. La Michoacana for nearly 18 years operated a grocery and meat market at Valley Mills Drive and Bosque Boulevard, in the Hobby Lobby center. That location now operates as La Mexicana.

A group affiliated with La Michoacana several years ago acquired acreage near Franklin Avenue and Valley Mills Drive, adjacent to AMC Galaxy 16 movie theater. The project went through fits and starts, crews even placing dirt there to accommodate the pouring of a slab. But the store never materialized, said Waco real estate agent Randy Reid, who brokered the sale of that property and now lists two parcels nearby, one under contract for sale.

Yet another store catering to Hispanic shoppers opened in 2019 on North Valley Mills Drive, next to National Tire and Battery. Supermercados Teloloapan placed there its first store outside Houston or Fort Worth.

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