GOSHEN — An Hispanic-oriented grocery store is expanding to add new items and create more store and storage space.
San Jose Fresh Farm, 270 Lincolnway East, needs the extra space to serve its growing customer base, said manager Mayra Garcia, daughter of owner Jose Garcia.
"My dad just had it in his mind that he wants it to be bigger and nicer,” Garcia said, noting she was speaking for her father because he does not speak English well. “Business has increased and he wants it to go up more.”
A contractor has demolished warehouse space in the building’s rear and now is building new space there to house the shopping floor. Part of what is now the shopping area will become warehouse. As a result, the store space will grow from 7,000 to 9,000 square feet, and the warehouse will double in size from 1,000 to 2,000 square feet.
The entrance will be moved to the rear of the building.
The extra space will allow for the addition of some new products. Garcia said the store hopes to obtain a license to begin selling beer and will increase its fresh fruit and vegetable offerings, which are popular with area Hispanic restaurants.
The number of cash registers will increase from two to three, and they’ll be moved to a more spacious spot in the store.
"On the weekend when we get really busy, it’s a mess,” she said of the current registers.
Jose Garcia immigrated from Mexico to Chicago at age 18 and moved to Middlebury in 1994. In 2002 he was working part-time at a Hispanic grocery store in Mishawaka when the owner asked him to move to full-time, his daughter said. He declined, saying instead that he wanted to open his own store.
That owner lent him some products to get started, and Garcia hasn’t looked back since. In 2002 he opened Carniceria San Jose, 214 N. Main St. in Goshen. After noticing a lot of customers coming from Warsaw, he opened a store there in 2003, and then a second Warsaw store in 2005. In 2006 he opened a second Goshen Carniceria San Jose store at 2124 Elkhart Road, and in 2008 he converted a former gas station across from Goshen High School into Taqueria San Jose, a restaurant.
In 2010 he opened the Lincolnway store that is now being expanded.
San Jose is the village in the state of Michoacan from which Garcia immigrated. He started using the name “Fresh Farm” because it’s easier for non-Hispanics to pronounce than “Carniceria,” which is Spanish for “butcher shop,” Mayra said. Her father worked for years as a butcher in Chicago.
While he has steadily grown his business, Garcia has had to learn about health code regulations in Elkhart County. In January a county health department inspection found 14 critical violations, including keeping cooked pork at too low of a temperature, improperly date-marking pre-cooked processed ham, unclean cooking utensils and food-contact areas, storing raw meat without packaging or wrapping, and storing raw pork in cardboard boxes next to raw ready-to-eat cilantro, according to county health department records.
A follow-up visit in February found that all of the violations had been corrected, and an inspector noted “good work” on her report.