Sedano's is a major Hispanic market that comes to Orlando by way of Miami, where they have been in operation since 1962. Sedano's celebrated its grand opening recently, although it's been open for about a month.
That's a long time in Hispanic supermarket years. Most Latino supermarkets in Central Florida have cropped up since the late 1990s. One exception would be Medina's Grocery off East Washington Street and Bumby Avenue, which has been around for more than 20 years and is still a mom-and-pop operation with a very popular restaurant.
Sedano's pretty much kept to South Florida with 30-odd stores, until now. Last year, Sedano's bought three Albertson supermarkets in heavily Hispanic areas: two in Orlando and one in Kissimmee. I visited the store on Curry Ford Road and Semoran Boulevard on a recent Sunday and found lots of customers, Latino and non Latino, as well a well-stocked, well-attended supermarket.
First things first: I liked the cart by the entrance selling churros and piraguas (Puerto Rican shaved ice), a nice start to your shopping experience. Employees were everywhere, either stocking merchandise or cleaning up. A good sign. A large selection of Hispanic food brands is what Latinos want to see, and Sedano's didn't disappoint. Not just one brand of rice, but seven, eight or more. Not just one brand of beans, but as many as you can carry. Not just Goya but Iberia, Conchita, Norteño, etc. We want choice.
The meat department, which is very important to Hispanics who like to order their cuts of meat, had four butchers—very impressive for a Sunday or any day of the week. The deli department had two attendants.
But Sedano's seems to want to cater to all Latinos, and that's a plus: I saw a selection of cheeses from Mexico, Colombia, and other places. Other things that made Sedano's authentic: an apparel aisle that sold batas or women's house dusters. When I was growing up, that's what moms and abuelas wore in the house but that is changing.
These three stores are big, between 58,000 square feet and 66,000 square feet—nearly twice as large as their Miami-area stores, according to Sedano's. Many Latino markets are small. While I like the spacious feeling, I also miss the cozy sensation of being arinconao' or closed in that you get from the smaller supermarkets. But that's progress. You gain something, you lose something.
I worry about Bravo, another supermarket chain that has a store catty-corner to Sedano's on Curry Ford. Sedano's sales volume and traffic can potentially do damage to Bravo at that location. Bravo's has several Orlando-area stores.
A grand opening is not a good time to determine whose prices are better because of all the promotions. Even so, Sedano's prices didn't appear to be lower than Bravo's. In six to eight months' time we'll check back to see what has been the supermarket shakeout.
Photo: Our dinner that evening included frozen, meatless Cuban tamales (about $2.20 for a pack of four) with black bean sauce, salad and Puerto Rican bread.