Grocery with Latin touch opens in Beechview

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The IGA grocery store in Beechview has changed management. The owners of Las Palmas -- who have grocery stores in Brookline, Oakland and Washington, Pa. -- have assumed operations of the store as of this week.

The IGA opened two years ago with Ron Levick as the leasee. It is owned by the Pittsburgh Economic and Industrial Development Corp., an arm of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. A Foodland on the same site had closed in the summer of 2010. Mr. Levick still holds the lease, but Las Palmas has bought the business.

Robert Rubinstein, acting executive director of the URA, said he is hopeful about the transition.

Gabriel Berumen and his four brothers opened their first enterprise, Las Palmas, a market with Latin American products, in Brookline four years ago. In their largest venture of the four locations, the Beechview supermarket will remain a member of IGA and will continue to carry the same groceries, with an infusion of Latin American products sold in Las Palmas stores, he said.

The meat section has doubled, with sliced American cheese and sliced bologna along with prepared fajita meat, Mexican chorizo and carne asada. Mr. Berumen said the brothers plan to reconfigure an area in the back of the store for seating and to use the kitchen to serve tacos, burritos and American fare.

An outdoor taco stand, similar to the one outside the Las Palmas on Brookline Boulevard, is operating now at the IGA.

"It had been struggling," said state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, explaining the transition at the IGA. "I can only guess a lot of folks who had gotten used to going other places [while the Foodland store was closed] continued to do so."

Mr. Berumen said he is keeping staff members who want to stay and the products IGA shoppers had come to expect.

In June, Las Palmas opened a small store in Beechview one block from the IGA, and it was immediately successful, Mr. Fontana said.

"That's what Broadway Avenue needs, positive activity," he said.

Mr. Berumen said the small store in Beechview will move its stock to the IGA and that building will take on a new tenant.

The Brookline store was barely a year old when a property owner in Oakland recruited Las Palmas to open a store there. A year later, a property owner in Washington asked them to open a store there.

Mr. Berumen said he and his brothers started their first business with a pickup truck to stock their shelves in Brookline and now get deliveries in a 24-foot rig every week for all of their stores.

Within a year of its opening, the Brookline store had people waiting in line for tacos from the vendor cart outside.

"At first, it was slow, and some people said things like, 'Go back to your country,' " Mr. Berumen said. "You have to deal with that. They don't know me and my brothers. They don't know our lives or how hard we work.

"We're trying to have a better life. After they know us in Brookline, they love us and we love them. We want to keep the store in Brookline."

neigh_city - businessnews

Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk


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