From basketball-size bags of fried pork skins that hang from the ceiling of the meat counter to fresh tortillas, Supermercado Morelos offers a little taste of Mexico tucked inside a strip mall off Interstate 35 in Moore.
On a recent weekday, the in-store taqueria served up posole and tortas to groups of men in heavy work boots on their lunch break as a handful of shoppers shuffled through the aisles filed with Mexican cookies and spices.
Like many businesses targeting Oklahoma's Hispanic population, Supermercado Morelos is growing. The Moore store, which opened in late 2012, is Morelos' second metro-area location, and there are plans to open a third store at NW 50 and N Meridian later this year.
“There is a big demand in Oklahoma for supermercados because of the number of Hispanic people who have moved here from California and other places,” said Jose Ibarra Jr., manager of the Moore Supermercado Morelos. “We knew there wasn't anything like this in Moore or Norman, so that's why we wanted to open in this area.”
Supermercado Morelos owners Manuel Gomez and Pedro Jimenez have grown the company from one store at NW 23 and N Meridian to six stores across Texas and Oklahoma over the past decade.
From a thriving strip of businesses that include Mexican-style meat markets and ice cream parlors on SW 29 to the transformation of the former Crossroads Mall into a center of Latin culture called Plaza Mayor, more businesses that cater to a Hispanic clientele are opening in Oklahoma City.
Growing in numbers, buying power
Businesses are realizing the untapped potential in catering to the Hispanic community, said David Castillo, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“The Hispanic market is so strong here — that's $7.2 billion in buying power in Oklahoma, so that's powerful” Castillo said. “Not just Hispanic businesses have recognized this, but we have many non-Hispanic businesses that are becoming members of the chamber to gain access to the community.”
Between 2000 and 2010, Oklahoma's Hispanic population grew by 85 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Oklahoma City metro area has a Hispanic population of about 140,000, but some believe that the number of Hispanics in the area is actually higher because of underreporting in the Hispanic community, said Jose de Jesus Legaspi, founder of the California-based Legaspi Co.
The Legaspi Co. owns and operates Hispanic malls across the country, including Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads in south Oklahoma City. Plans for the mall include a nightclub and a rodeo arena seating 3,500 spectators.
“One of the things I saw in Oklahoma City is that there was a similar development of retail on SW 29 that was responding to the Hispanic market there,” Legaspi said. “The growth of the Hispanic community there has been explosive — it's one of top 10 Hispanic growth areas in (the) United States probably.”