When you visit the newly renovated 32,970-square-foot Northgate-Gonzalez supermarket in Hawthorne, you not only walk into a grocery store but a hotbed of local Latino culture. In other words, there are rows of every fruit and vegetable needed to successfully make any Mexican dish you can dream of.
Tomatillos for salsa verde are piled high. On the wall, in clear plastic, hang a library of dried chiles. Familiar songs in Spanish fall from the loudspeakers overhead upon the ears of shoppers like audible seasoning as they make their way through the colorful aisles of food and products that are the staples of many Latino homes.
“Our renovation of the store in Hawthorne is an example of our dedication to the communities that shop at our stores,” Teresa Blanco, head of Community Wellness for Northgate said. “It shows that we care about our old stores and communities as much as our new ones.”
The Family Story
Many Southern Californian Latinos are familiar with the sights, sounds and flavors of the Northgate Gonzalez Supermarkets, depending on them for a sense of culture. The shelves are stocked with cultural items like hominy for pozole, molcajetes and tortilla presses. The grocery chain finds its roots alongside many who came to America from Mexico in search of a better life.
“Our story is one of immigrants,” said Joshua Gonzalez, the company’s director of operations and a third generation member of the family. “There was a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice.”
Northgate supermarket comes from a proud Latino family. The Northgate story began when Don Miguel Gonzalez’s shoe shop in Jalostotitlan, Jalisco, Mexico, burned down. After years of working in the United States away from his family, Don Miguel decided to move his wife and thirteen children to the U.S. with him.
Together, they worked hard to make a home for themselves and earn a living. Eventually, they purchased the Northgate Liquor store in Anaheim and opened their first store.
Today, there are 43 stores in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties. Through the family business, the Gonzalez’s have been able to stay close as a family, with everyone pitching in to keep the entire operation running.
Gonzalez remembers the family coming together to celebrate milestones for both the business and the family alike. “Our grandparents’ 50th anniversary of marriage and the 25th anniversary of Northgate, we were all together,” he said.
Gonzalez said his grandparents contributed strength to the family with a strong passion and faith. They instilled in him and his family the meaning of love that is in everything they do today as a business.
Dedication to the Community
According to the Familia Gonzalez Reynoso Foundation page, Don Miguel would provide donations to local sports teams, community events and neighborhood schools long before the official beginning of the foundation.
They invite local elementary schools to their stores to show students how to shop for healthy foods, and they provide free health screenings on site at their markets. Northgate is able to provide these resources through grant programs and partnerships with health clinics, universities and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Coming from a Latino perspective is what makes Northgate stand out when it comes to providing for the community. Blanco said that, by being part of the Latino community, they understand the health and accessibility issues that affect Latinos, and the problems that often prevent them from getting the treatment they need, which include language barriers.
Blanco is in charge of looking for grants and other resources to bring to the markets. “I want to ensure that my community gets quality access at a cost, which is free,” Blanco said. According to the Pew Research Center, about half (48%) of Latino people in the U.S. say they have less access to quality medical care where they live, which is a major reason for worse health outcomes.
To improve access to health resources, Northgate offers scheduled events and clinics to their customers through their storefronts every month. “We have a theme each month of chronic disease and health education,” Blanco said. “We focus on that the entire month throughout our stores to get that education or different kinds of free screenings.”
September was Suicide Awareness Month, with the Public Health Department setting up resource tables for mental health at select stores. Through the community tab on Northgate’s website, visitors may view a calendar that shows what resources are available that month. For instance, they can see where and when they can go to Northgate to receive a vaccine when they are providing health screenings such as blood pressure or even physical screenings for their children.
“Our goal is not only to provide healthy products and nutritious food, but we’re also a health portal for the community, and we give access to healthcare,” Blanco said. “Women trust us to come and get their mammograms; we have survivors helping them fill out paperwork; we have people speaking their language.”
Northgate also has partnerships at the national level to combat food insecurities amongst their customers. Their grant partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture and the UC San Diego School of Medicine is the “¡Más Fresco! More Fresh Program” available for those who qualify for CalFresh. This program gives participants up to an extra $100 per month for produce through rebate dollars whenever they buy fresh fruits and vegetables from Northgate-Gonzalez markets.
“We also have two different produce prescription grants working with diabetic children and adults,” Blanco said. “When doctors realize that these people lack access to healthier options, they give them Northgate prescription grant vouchers so that they can come and buy healthy produce.”
The Northgate-Gonzalez supermarkets serve an ever-changing Latino customer with a taste for culture and a need for health on all fronts. Through years of hard work and dedication to the wellbeing of the people that buy from their stores, they have staked a claim for themselves in California, holding open the gates to the North and standing true to their name and dedication to their culture and heritage.
“We’re a part of the community, and we aren’t going anywhere,” Blanco said.