OGDEN — Under the visage of an old Mexican hacienda, shoppers pick through deep green jalapeño peppers, piles of deneedled prickly pear cactus pads and waxy chayote. A few aisles down, there is an assortment of Fud brand deli meats or Cacique cheeses.
Since it opened in April, Rancho Markets, 905 E. 26th Street, has seen a steady stream of customers. It is the sixth and newest store in a regional chain based in Salt Lake City.
“It’s been good, thank the Lord,” Manager Pedro Rodriguez said. “The people here have responded very well.”
El Rancho is one of several Latino markets that have opened in Ogden in the past year. Others include ¡Viva! Market, 916 7th St., and Anaya’s Market, 150 N. Washington Blvd. That is in addition to other markets that sprang up throughout the area over the years.
Jose Perez, who manages Adrianna’s Market, 1412 Washington Blvd., said there were only a few markets when they first opened in 2005.
Latinos now make up about a third of Ogden’s population and are the largest minority in the state. Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce spokesman Ryan Reeder said their shopping power contributes about $6 billion a year to the state economy.
At the markets, shoppers can pick up specialty items that a lot of times are not found in mainstream supermarkets.
Many have bakeries on site that put out Mexican sweetbread known as pan dulce, as well as butcher shops that provide specialty cuts of meat, specific to the needs of ethnic food shoppers, such as thin-cut steaks perfect for a carne asada.
“This is a store people can feel at home in,” Rodriguez said.
Customers are not limited to immigrant shoppers, Ogden Weber Chamber of Commerce President Dave Hardman said. Non-Latinos and non-Spanish speakers visit these stores as well.
“Although they are focused on Hispanics,” Hardman said, “they function really as community markets.”
People in the surrounding neighborhoods pick up grocery items on the way home from work, sometimes on a daily basis.
Many of the markets carry items from companies such as Associated Foods, which provide items to fill the shelves of independent grocery stores.
Rancho Market, as one of the largest Hispanic markets in the area, is taking a supermarket approach to its selection.
Rodriguez said the market has items and brands that immigrants do not buy, such as pepperoni or cream cheese, along with the usual items typical of a Hispanic market.
However, although non-Latino customers are always welcome and appreciated, most stores stick with products to serve their target audience.
Adrianna’s also attempted to sell items specific to non-Latinos, Perez said, but quickly abandoned the effort, since their mostly Mexican consumers ignored them.
The products on the shelves are not limited to strictly Mexicans.
The markets also carry items from Central and South America, Perez said, sometimes even items preferred by Asians.
Another segment of the Hispanic market shoppers are former missionaries.
Reeder served his mission in Monterrey, Mexico about 20 years ago.
Visiting the Hispanic markets gives him a connection to items he learned to appreciate during his time abroad.
“The people that I know that served missions in Latin American countries feel the same way,” Reeder said.
As more stores continue to open in Ogden, Perez said the field is getting a bit crowded. As more open in close proximity to each other, their customer bases overlap.
“Right now it is full of Mexican markets,” Perez said. “I think it is over capacity.”
However, there are many areas in the Top of Utah with decent-sized immigrant populations, Perez said, and perhaps will get their own neighborhood Hispanic market.