Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

On the morning of Wednesday, June 21, shoppers lined up across the parking lot for the grand opening of Independence Avenue’s third El Mercado Fresco grocery store.

The store at 5901 Independence Avenue is in the former CVS Pharmacy building.

Members of the management team were joined by representatives of the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce (NEKC Chamber) and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City for the official ribbon cutting at 9 a.m.

“I’m so excited to see everyone here today,” Bobbi Baker, president of the NEKC Chamber, said. “It’s a really great moment that we have an old CVS turned into a great Fresh Market. So thank you for all of the time and effort that went into this mad rush.”

The remodeled store features a Frutopia – a juice bar, paleteria and ice cream counter – right inside the doors, fresh produce, a fresh meat and seafood counter, a prepared food counter, a bakery and even piñatas, along with Mexican and American grocery staples.

“I am so very excited to see this investment made on the far east end of the Avenue,” Baker Hughes said. “This place is incredible.”

“There’s so many Latino Americans just all over Independence Avenue, just the Northeast in general, so if the demand is there, we’d love to try our best to supply the demand,” said Subhi “Junior” Zaben, son of El Mercado Fresco owner Eddie Musallet. “When we started in 2016 it was rough, but now, seeing so many people come in this way, Latinos in particular, it’s just a growing number, so we’re just trying to keep up, honestly.”

Zaben said there are no plans to close the first Mercado Fresco store at 5117 Independence Avenue.

“What we were trying to do here is a little bit different, I mean, don’t get me wrong, we do have everything that we carry down there and more, but since it is our first location, it’s the heart of the whole operation,” Zaben said. “I think we would love to keep it open, but down the line in the future, you never know what could happen but we would love to keep it open even though it is a smaller store. It is the first location of all the Mercados.”

Many of the staff at the new store live in the neighborhood and some worked at the other two locations on the Avenue.

“There are a lot of people that we’re familiar with,” Zaben said. “We got a little bit of the other store down here and a lot of new people as well. We actually had probably a total of 50 to 55 new employees just for this location.”

Staff worked late into the night to get the store ready to open last Wednesday.

“There’s plenty of work to do in grocery stores, it’s nonstop,” Zaben shared.

El Mercado Fresco Regional Manager Sandy Knight hopes customers enjoy the new store.

“We’re very happy to have the third store in the Northeast area,” said Knight. “We were so happy for all the support from all the customers because, as you can see, we’ve had a line before opening.

Everybody deserves a beautiful space and a nice store to shop in”, she added.

El Mercado Fresco will be open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

For more information on the history of the businesses at 5901 Independence Avenue, see this week’s Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID) spread.