One of the first investigative series I wrote was on Gigante Supermarkets, a multibillion-dollar Mexican chain that wanted to open a store in Anaheim in order to conquer local Latino households. Its efforts made national headlines because this multinational cried the race card after Anaheim planning officials approved their plans but denied a liquor license because the area where Gigante wanted to open a store already had too many over the legal limit. Gigante enlisted the help of mega-hitters--PR firm Waters & Faubel, race warrior Larry "Nativo" Lopez (who memorably, stupidly said Gigante's rejection amounted to "market ethnic cleansing"), and then-Anaheim mayoral candidate Curt Pringle--in order to browbeat the Anaheim City Council into approving the liquor license, going so far as to make the ridiculous claim Latinos in Anaheim were underserved in their supermarket needs. Gigante won, opened a store in 2003, and quickly spoke of becoming the dominant Latino supermarket in Southern California.
So what was the sign we saw yesterday while driving up Euclid Avenue on the way to visit Mami y Papi? A new sign proclaiming "EL SUPER." This is what I get for not reading the Orange County Business Journal--seems Gigante sold off its American holdings to another business over the summer, and the Gigante Reconquista is over. The culprit wasn't the faltering economy, but rather homegrown--the Northgate Gonzalez supermarket empire.
Northgate Gonzalez is one of the largest Latino supermarkets in the country, a household name in Latino OC, and an only-in-America tale you can read more about here. It started in Anaheim and has kept expanding and expanding. When Gigante opened, they were specifically going after Northgate dollars, going so far as to proclaim in private they would crush them.
But Latinos in Orange County are loyal, and while Gigante drew crowds, it could never beat the specials or brand name of Northgate. Northgate slaughtered Gigante so bad that they never opened another store in Orange County. To see El Super now take over is wonderful, is hilarious, and is a victory for the small guy, even if the small guy is a multi-million-dollar company. Congrats, Northgate, and to those who supported Gigante, we leave you with Nelson Muntz:
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