by Cara Oxendine
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
A grocery store in Northeast Central Durham (NECD) offers unique customer services and a community focus.
Los Primos supermarket is the only grocery store in Northeast Central Durham (NECD); a 302-block area a few blocks from North Carolina Central University that is home to Durham’s most troubled and impoverished neighborhoods.
It has six aisles, two registers, and about 50 parking spaces. It is the one source of nutritional food in the area, but sits at a busy intersection, which discourages pedestrians. And riding the bus is not always an option for low-income residents.
“If they call me to pick them up, I will do that,” said Miguel Collado, owner of Los Primos. “For the most part, people will come to the store, do their shopping, and they know that we provide free transportation to take them back home.”
“Riding the bus can be difficult, depending on what you’re getting and how many bags you have,” said Nellie Royster, a local resident.
Collado, originally from the Dominican Republic, moved to the United States in 1975. He lived in New York and Las Vegas before settling in Durham in 2002 to start the store with his brother.
“I’ve worked grocery stores before in NY, not as big as this, more like Bodegas,” said Collado. Los Primos just celebrated its seventh anniversary and offers many ethnic foods for the Hispanic community, as well as traditional groceries.
“You’ve got to offer something in order to get something. You give some and you get some. You cannot always think of yourself, you have to also think of other people,” said Collado.
They give customers who spend over $75 a free soda, and they also cash checks free of charge for customers spending 10 percent of it in the store.
The supermarket was almost demolished last year because of a widening project proposed by the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on Alston Avenue. Collado put forth a petition of 3,000 signatures to stop it, proving the stores economic and health importance to the community.
“We feed this whole neighborhood,” said Collado, “[and] the existence of this building and the widening of the road will not coexist.” He said the worst case scenario would be losing the building.
If the store is demolished, the NCDOT is required by law to grant them some form of relief, such as replacing or relocating the store. Collado said there are no empty spaces to move to that would still serve the NECD community.
He said the NCDOT has submitted a new plan that primarily uses the other side of the road, towards the Durham Rescue Mission, but it would still cut into his lot.
In response to the widening issue, he compares his business to a full-grown tree, and its growth stages. “The only things that don’t move when they’re grown are trees. When a tree is little you can pull it out, take the stump, and replace it. When it grows up, you have to kill it because you cannot move it.”
While residents benefit from this local, healthy food option, some with cars appreciate having other choices. Local resident Harold Smith lives three blocks from Los Primos but prefers the atmosphere and cleanliness of the Lowe’s Food at Wellon’s Village.
“Their [Los Primos] meat department doesn’t quite measure up to what I think it should,” said Smith. Although they have a lot to choose from, he questions the freshness.
Collado explained the building was in bad condition when he bought it and that they started with absolutely nothing. “If I had to shop at this place the way it was, I wouldn’t have gone.”
He said the previous owner never cared for the place and that he only cared about making money. Unlike this, Collado says he helps the community by providing refreshments for activities held by local churches, Centro Hispano and other organizations.
“We make a living out of working very hard here, and yes there are negatives but there are more positives,” said Collado.
He said the crime, drug, and unemployment problems are being overshadowed by the “reconstruction projects and beautiful homes” being built in NECD.
“There’s a lot of positive things going on, and one of the positive things is right here,” said Collado, at Los Primos.