The noontime crowd that descended upon La Gloria Market in Oxnard only made matters worse for Placida Ramirez, who was already having trouble getting the attention of the man behind the deli counter to order a barbecued chicken.
“Un pollo, por favor,” she said as she tried to control her 5-year-old son with one hand and hold a bag of freshly made tortillas with the other.
Three men, who were also calling out their orders to the man in the white apron, had crowded Ramirez to the end of the counter. But she was undaunted.
“Un pollo,” she called out.
Despite the throngs of people, Ramirez, a native of Guerrero, Mexico, said La Gloria continues to be just about the only place she shops. “This is the only place I can get everything,” she said in Spanish.
Like the teeming mercados of Ramirez’s homeland, La Gloria Market on Oxnard Boulevard capitalizes on filling almost every need for shoppers. Customers can make travel arrangements, browse for jewelry and mail letters at the same place they buy pinto beans, lettuce, potatoes and cooking oil. Here, sugar cane is sold in three-foot chunks and the smell of fresh tortilla dough fills the air.
Shoppers such as Ramirez also come to La Gloria for a reminder of the old country. The red brick market is decorated with dozens of multicolored pinatas hanging from the ceiling, and on the wall is a photograph of Mexican revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa and an image of Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Spanish-language music, including mariachi music--is continuously piped throughout the building.
“We are trying to give a character completely Mexican to La Gloria Market,” said Fernando Osuna Coronado, patriarch of the family that owns the market.
Coronado, an engineer from Mexico, said the business he started with five associates in 1986 is doing so well that in six months, he will open a third wing of the market that will include a bakery and a large tortilla-making facility.
The success of La Gloria is also a matter of pride for Oxnard officials, who consider the market one of the most successful participants in a city program that provides low-interest loans for redevelopment projects in the aging downtown area.
“Six years ago, that area was terrible. Now it’s one of the nicest spots in town,” said Dennis Matthews, the city’s redevelopment administrator.
He said La Gloria was one of 16 businesses to take advantage of the program, which lends a maximum of $75,000 at 8% interest.
Since the program began in 1983, Matthews said word of mouth around Oxnard has brought in an increasing number of inquiries. “It’s becoming quite a popular program,” Matthews said.
The only stipulation the city places on loan recipients is that new buildings match an architectural design the city sets for the area, he said.
In the case of La Gloria Market, city officials decided the building’s design should mesh with the neighboring Oxnard Transportation Center, which the city built in 1985 with a red brick exterior.
Coronado said he and his associates decided in the early 1980s to buy an aging carpet store and melodrama theater to provide what they recognized as an unmet need in the area--a market catering to Latinos.
Even the cuts of beef and fish are made with the Latino shopper in mind. “They try to get the fish that the Mexicans want, not the fish that the American wants,” Coronado said.
He said the city’s loan provided an added incentive.
The average customer at La Gloria is Latino--either from Mexico or Central America--and enters the market looking not only to fill a grocery list but for a taste of the old country, Coronado said.
Coronado said he does not remember how he and his business partners came up with the name La Gloria--the Spanish for glory . But he said the name seems to fit well with the market’s logo: an outline of the Cathedral of Guadalajara.
In 1988, the market was expanded to include a travel agency, a pharmacy, a post office and public notary, all of which provide services in Spanish.
Shopper Primo Ramirez of Oxnard said the sights and sounds in the market definitely bring to mind the experience of shopping in Mexico.
But he said he shops at La Gloria because the service is amiable and the location convenient.
According to Coronado, the shelves hold about 16,000 products imported from Mexico, including such exotic spices as Boldo leaves and valerian roots, which are used to concoct homemade herbal remedies for various ailments.
The market also carries common household articles made in Mexico, such as chocolate milk, toothpaste, candies and soft drinks, as well as chili peppers of almost every shape, color and size.
Shoppers say they feel comfortable buying groceries with familiar brand names and labels printed in Spanish. They say they also like being waited on by people who speak Spanish.
By far the most popular section of the market is the counter near the front entrance, where men in white aprons pour tubs of cornmeal into a huge machine that churns out warm, golden-brown tortillas.
The cornmeal is also prepared with lard and sold by the pound for use in tamales. Because the lines for tortillas sometimes stretch out the front door, Coronado said his expansion will include a larger tortilla machine to keep up with the demand.
While about 90% of the market’s customers are Latino, Coronado said: “We have a good stream of Anglos too--the ones who like Mexican food.”