QCOSTARICA – Taking their inspiration from the traditional fruit carts that still make their way through many neighborhoods in Costa Rica and their affection the elderly, a couple from Escazú turned an out-of-operation bus into a mobile mini supermarket.
The idea of “Movil Market 1070” is to bring the supermarket closer to all the elderly who cannot leave their homes or residence centers, due to the danger they face in these times of the coronavirus pandemic.
Perla Cheves, 57, and her husband Álvaro Jiménez, 66, rolled out (pun intended) their business this week and by visiting residences for the elderly.
The residents of the Verdeza Senior Citizen Residential, in Trejos Montealegre, Escazú, were among the first to experience shopping at the Perla y Álvaro mini supermarket on wheels this Thursday.
Many, in addition, are friends of the couple, so they took the opportunity to distract themselves for a while, always complying with the sanitary measures.
Juan José Coronado, Sara Carnevali and Hilda Castro, residents of this center, were amazed at doing something that they had not experienced for more than 10 months, due to the onset of the pandemic.
“It (the pandemic) is killing us. We can’t even go out, instead, at least now we can go the door and get on the bus,” said one of the residents.
In addition to shopping for groceries, customers can pay their utility bills, pay their purchases with plastic or cash, same as they would at a supermarket.
The mobile mini-super began offering services to homes for the elderly, but it also runs routes in Escazú and Santa Ana to serve, in addition to the elderly, people with disabilities and the general public.
Perla acknowledges that her business faces competition from electronic commerce; However, she emphasizes, many older adults have problems with technology, so their mobile mini-super makes their shopping experience easier and better.
The idea comes from Perla’s own experience. “One night I needed a Baygón (pest spray) and couldn’t go out, so I asked my son to send me for it. When the muchaco came he brought me a Glade (air freshener). That’s when I said that there had to be an option for it (the store) to come to us.
“This for us grown-ups, you guys (the youngsters) do well on your cell phones, but this project is for us. Even if we have a telephone, sometimes we even get tangled up with that,” said Perla.
After knocking on many doors in the private and public sectors to boost their businesses and bring more facilities to the elderly in western San José, Perla got support from brands such as Pricesmart, Coca Cola and Dos Pinos.
“We have the faith that large companies see the potential of our proposal so that many of us do not shut down due to loneliness and seclusion,” said the entrepreneur.
‘It has not been easy’
Undertaking this project has not been an easy task for Perla and her husband Álvaro, although they were always determined to make it work.
First, they were able to obtain an out-of-operation bus, but that was only their first step out of many others to come.
“This has been humungous for us. We swore it was just like grab a bus, remove the seats and that’s it, but that was not it. We had to buy a generator, restructure the bus to handle up to 10 coolers. There’s a supermarket in there, even if it’s small. So that has been some very rough logistics,” said Perla.
At the same time, they were battling for business operating permits. According to Perla, that was a great challenge in itself, although, she says, they received a lot of support from the Municipality of Escazú.
Now, the woman says, they have to face opposition from neighbors who are uncomfortable with the fact that the bus is parked on a public street.
They have struggled with all of that during their early days of entrepreneurship, but they are confident that the benefits for seniors will outweigh the inconvenience for some people.
Translated and adapted from La Nacion “Pareja creó minisúper rodante para devolver a adultos mayores la experiencia de comprar”. Click here for the original article in Spanish.