7. A Change for the Better

CORNELIUS, Ore. What was a conventional store just two years ago has been converted into a popular Hispanic format. Grande Foods is unique for its authentic product assortment and its large number of bilingual employees, product labels and point-of-sale materials. Of some 20,000 items carried storewide, about 25% are authentic Mexican or other Latin American fare. For instance, about 50% of the soap

CORNELIUS, Ore. — What was a conventional store just two years ago has been converted into a popular Hispanic format.

Grande Foods is unique for its authentic product assortment and its large number of bilingual employees, product labels and point-of-sale materials.

Of some 20,000 items carried storewide, about 25% are authentic Mexican or other Latin American fare. For instance, about 50% of the soap aisle is imported Mexican soap, while in the 24-foot candy aisle, 20 feet are devoted to Mexican candy, while just 4 feet are devoted to Mars sweets, according to owner Tom Evans.

Prior to becoming Grande Foods, the 35,000-square-foot store, located about 30 miles west of Portland, operated as a Hank's Thriftway for about 70 years.

Evans and two other owners decided to convert to stave off competition from a Wal-Mart and a WinCo.

He opted for a Hispanic format because the area around the store is 40% Hispanic, and to have a point of difference. The retailer's other store, in nearby Hillsboro, Ore., remains a mainstream Hank's.

The store's layout was designed with Hispanic shopping preferences in mind. For instance, a Wall of Values offers deals on about 60 packaged items, such as a 108-ounce box of hominy for $1.99. Evans keeps the margins on products featured there low, at about 15% to 18%, to ensure the display truly offers a value.

Evans has made some changes to the store's layout after learning more about the likes and dislikes of Hispanics. For instance, the store initially had 180 feet of frozen food. But in response to slow sales, Evans reduced the section to 60 feet, and is considering taking out another 16 feet.