Sparks fly over store colors

Mi Pueblo Food Centers is painted pink, blue, yellow, red and

The bright potpourri of colors featured on the facades of Mi
Pueblo Food Centers is certainly eye catching. But some are seeing
red over the new Hispanic foods grocery store slated to open Nov. 6
in Gilroy.
The bright potpourri of colors featured on the facades of Mi Pueblo Food Centers is certainly eye catching. But some are seeing red over the new Hispanic foods grocery store slated to open Nov. 6 in Gilroy.

Chris Chung, owner of Ninja Sushi, which is across the parking lot from the upscale food center on the 700 block of First Street, acknowledged he filed a formal complaint with the city about the color scheme. Pink, blue, yellow, red and green – all bright – are represented in a portion of the store’s freshly painted storefront.

“The place is kitsch,” Chung said of his soon-to-be neighbor’s store.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines kitsch as “something that appeals to popular or lowbrow taste and is often of poor quality.”

“Two to three customers complain about it per day,” Chung said.

The Planning Commission will consider the complaint and the appeal at their regular meeting Thursday. City Planning Manager David Bischoff has recommended the Planning Commission require the owners to tone down the current color scheme.

City Zoning Ordinance Section 50.44 requires any building planned to be harmonious with the adjacent development, and staff determined the colors were discordant from the outset, wrote Bischoff in the staff report. The surrounding buildings are all painted in variants of beige.

The San Jose-based Hispanic food center chain has 17 locations throughout Northern California, and $2.8 million has been invested in the Gilroy store. Mi Pueblo public relations representative Perla Rodriguez said the business is currently hiring 150 people from the area.

The planning staff has not had any issues with Mi Pueblo other than it’s color scheme, according to a Planning Commission document detailing the background of the appeal, but Rodriguez said the store rarely faces any obstacles going through the planning process. This is the first city where the superstore has had to go beyond the staff to attain approval for their corporate color scheme, she said.

“The three new stores we built in the city San Rafael, and Newark have really brought a lot of vibrancy to old dilapidated shopping centers,” said Rodriguez, adding she has letters from the cities mayors to prove it.

The 21,000 square-foot store will be the anchor store of the mall attracting customers to it, she said.

“That’s what they think,” Chung responds. He believes the bright colors will deter his customers, and would be willing to take the stand if the matter is taken to the City Council.

But Jessie Guran, manager of Mountain Mike’s Pizza, a few stores down from the foodstore, thinks the colors won’t affect customers, and may even bring some new people to the mall.

Throughout the five years he’s been in business, Guran has seen sales decline and has gone as far as keeping tabs on how many lights are on in the store so as not to waste electricity.

“Color shouldn’t matter,” he said, “because somebody at least is opening a business here.”

On Mi Pueblo’s letter of appeal, Rodriguez mentions stores such as McDonalds or Best Buy are not hassled about their bright colors and believes the food store is being singled out.

“I would say that there are many businesses in Gilroy with bright colors and we want to know why the Mi Pueblo colors are different,” she said. “We are a Hispanic business and that makes us different, but our hope is that these public representatives understand we deserve the same fairness and equity.”

The store was allowed to paint parts of the building to show what it would look like, and now the building has a semi-painted fuchsia wall with bright blue window frames and a bright yellow face. It’s still fenced off while construction workers finish the building, but sitting in a temporary building container being used as a hiring office, human relations personnel are already interviewing candidates for jobs at the store.

“Nov. 6 is the grand opening,” said Rodriguez, “We are under an aggressive timeline, and now we are up against this. We may have to open an unfinished building and that would be quite unfortunate.”

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