Here's what's on display in the large store's main aisle: cans of tamales and jalapeños, packages of masa mix, cases of Corona beer.
That's just the appetizer. On other aisles: arco iris and surtido rico cookies; Jarritos soft drinks; cans of menudo (beef tripe and hominy) and pozole (pork and hominy), and just plain hominy (to make your own menudo or pozole); 25-pound bags of beans and rice; Oaxaca-brand cheeses; Mexican papayas and mangoes; tomatillos, pasilla chilies, chayote (pear squash) and "pico Diana" (sugar mixed with chili powder).
A mercado in Mazatlán? A carniceria in Cuernavaca? Nope. A Food Maxx at Florin and Franklin.
"I thought we could pull Latinos out of other areas if we played up our Hispanic brands," says store director Bart Brackin as he strolls past a display stand of Bimbo-brand pan blanco (white bread). "We are trying to get them in here, and once they get in here, we keep them. They will build our business."
At least that's the hope of Brackin and thousands of other business people vying for a slice of the state's expanding Latino economic pie.
The rush has been pushed by a convergence of elements, including a Latino population in California that is expected to double in the next 25 years, a growing number of Spanish-language media outlets that offer advertising avenues to reach Spanish-speaking markets, and Latino buying power that has accelerated as the population has increased.
A recent study by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia found Latinos' buying power -- the amount they have to spend on goods and services -- is growing nationally at an 8.7 percent annual rate, almost double the rate of non-Latinos.
In California, Latino buying power grew to $171 billion last year and will reach an estimated $260 billion in four years, which would amount to a formidable annual growth rate of 13 percent.
But the rapid growth in buying power highlights only one-half of an economic paradox: While business increasingly covets the Latino market because of its rapid growth and other factors, Latinos in the Valley continue to lag behind the general population in virtually every statistical measure of wealth.
"There is still a significant gap between Hispanic income and the rest of California," said Adela de la Torre, director of the Chicano Studies program at UC Davis and an economist by training. The buying-power numbers grow, she added, "because you are dealing with a much larger base."
Census data show that in 1980, the median income of Valley Hispanic households was 84.4 percent of the general population's. In 2000, it had slipped to 82.8 percent.
De la Torre said even that figure is a bit optimistic because it doesn't take into account the larger size of Latino households. In the 18-county Central Valley, census data for 2000 showed nearly 54 percent of Hispanic households had four or more people, compared with 31 percent for the general population.
Valley Hispanics' per capita income -- the amount of money taken in per household member -- was less than two-thirds that of the general population's in 2000, virtually the same gap that existed in 1980.
More than a third of Hispanic families in the Valley had incomes below federal poverty levels -- a figure actually higher than in 1980.
One reason Latinos continue to lag in terms of personal and family income data is the constant addition of impoverished new arrivals to Latino ranks -- immigrants, legal and not.
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