Small business spotlight: All in a day's work at National Supermarket

“They come in all the time. People in and out, in and out.” That’s how Henry Eduardo, owner of National Supermarket, describes his location on S. Division Ave. A hub of activity for anyone seeking authentic, Latin American food, Eduardo offers his customers a dizzying array of products, in addition to freshly baked pastries and meals from the supermarket’s taco stand. On a wet day in November, Eduardo was just opening his store, and the alluring smells of that day’s products had already inundated the market. Himself working the cash register, Eduardo invited me in to learn more about his businesses.

The Dominican Republic native first opened National Supermarket 18 years ago at his location in Clyde Park but even at its start, the business was multi-faceted. Eduardo purchased and renovated the building, crafting the business as a supermarket with a bakery and a taco stand designed to be a grocery destination, as well as a quick stop for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Just two years later, Eduardo opened his second National Supermarket at 1000 Fulton W., and five years ago, he added a third location, El Especial Supermarket and Bakery at 1628 Division Ave. S.

At the S. Division location, just 15 staff members keep business humming, which includes operating a full-service bakery with freshly baked pastries from a variety of Latinx traditions — like pan de muerto, a Mexican enriched sweet bread typically associated with Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. To provide a wide variety of baked goods, Eduardo educates himself on other Latin American countries, their traditions, and their recipes.

This same effort goes into curating the array of meats offered at the butcher’s stand, sourced from Amigos Meat in Chicago, and the dishes at the supermarket’s taco stand. At the stand, customers can order everything from tacos and empanadas to yucca Pattys and mangu, mashed plantain with caramelized red onion.

“It’s not easy,” says Eduardo, who can be found at any one of his three supermarkets — or even at his restaurant, Los Comales Mexican Grill at 2907 Division Ave S. — on any given day. Though Eduardo notes that his business is busiest during the summer when West Michigan’s population increases with migrant farm workers seeking authentic Latin American grocery products, baked goods, and dishes, he remains steady busy during the 365 days per year that his grocery stores are open.

And despite expertly juggling three supermarkets — one of which also houses a laundromat and a barbershop — he continues to add prolific businesses to his roster. “It’s growing,” says Eduardo, who will in 2020 partner in a cabinet, windows, and doors showroom business above his Fulton St. location.

Supported by his wife and daughter who assist in many aspects of the business, as well as a community clamoring for authentic food, Eduardo and National Supermarket continue to thrive in Grand Rapids.
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