New grocery store opens in Kennewick

Truck driver Juan Ortiz of Kennewick, tired of being constantly behind the wheel, opened a new grocery store-meat market today, Carniceria Tres Pueblos.

The store is in the Mid-Town Plaza off Vancouver Street in Kennewick.

"My dad got the idea of opening a grocery store from his brother, Ruben Orozco, who owns Lavarata in Pasco," said Rachel Joanna Casanova of Kennewick.

Her uncle Orozco and his family own small shops catering to Hispanic shoppers in Pasco, Sunnyside, Walla Walla and Yakima.

In March, Casanova's father leased about 7,000 square feet from Calvary Chapel Tri-Cities, which owns all the buildings in the L-shaped plaza. Then he picked up the phone and began persuading his extended family members to come work for him.

In December, Casanova quit her cashier's job at Walmart in Fresno, Calif., packed up her family and moved to the Tri-Cities along with her husband, Josue Bravo. She's managing the store while her dad continues driving.

"He's going to keep on driving truck just in case. We're going to need money to pay the bills while we get the store going," Casanova said.

Her husband, Bravo, is being trained to cut meat by another uncle, Jose Ortiz of Kennewick. Casanova's mother and two other sisters will be working at the store.

"It's a family business," Casanova said.

Getting the store ready also has been a family project as much as possible.

"We had contractors for all the big things," she said. "The shelves, checkout counters, those we did ourselves."

She also has been busy contacting food and beverage vendors and lining up suppliers for the store.

"We'll have everything you expect to find in a grocery store, breads and cookies, canned goods and produce, meats and dairy. There will be a full-service meat counter where you can have your meats and fish cut to order," Casanova said.

There will be some baked goods, but no in-store bakery. They also plan a full line-up of soft drinks, but Calvary Chapel is resisting their application for a beer and wine liquor license.

"We're hoping they'll change their minds," she said.

They plan eventually to add a deli featuring Hispanic foods such as tortas, tacos and tamales.

Instead of just one section of Hispanic foods, Carniceria Tres Pueblos will have whole aisles of them.

But Casanova said they don't want to be seen as just a Hispanic market.

"We're hoping to bring people in from everywhere, all around us," she said. "We will have a big selection of Hispanic foods -- candies, spices, chilies -- but we'll have chips, ice and sodas too.

"We'd like to be the neighborhood market," she said.

The shelves mainly are bare now, but she is expecting shipments in every day. By their grand opening Feb. 19, everything should be out on the shelves, she said.

Meanwhile, if there's something you would like to see on the store shelves, let one of the cashiers know.

"We'll try to get it in," Casanova said, adding that she's planning on contacting some Tri-City vendors and produce growers. "I like to buy local when I can, and I think others do too," she said.

Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513;