Often when people think of buying in bulk it means something from a big box store with a ton of plastic wrapping. Just the opposite is true when shopping at A Granel in Todos Santos.
A granel is Spanish for in bulk. The goal is to eliminate all the packaging and keep as much waste from the local dump as possible. In the first 10 weeks of being open owner Kimberley Gutierrez refilled more than 1,000 containers. That’s 1,000 plastic or glass jars that didn’t become garbage. That number is just for liquid goods; it doesn’t count the number of containers she has filled with dry goods from A Granel. She keeps track daily with a chalkboard that customers can see. This reinforces how they are contributing to keeping waste out of the landfill.
Instead of buying a product in a container, customers bring in their own vessel like a used a used yogurt container to have it filled with something from A Granel. People can also buy a reusable container at the shop. Gutierrez is quick to say that not everything needs a pretty label like one finds at a traditional grocery store. A homemade label with tape and ink to identify the contents works just fine. And no reason the same jar can’t be used for years.
A Granel takes things a step further with bins and dispensers being repurposed, whether it’s recycled wood and pallets or the 5 gallon buckets for product.
“A Granel is providing an amazing service for those of us looking to de-plastify, stay healthy, source hard-to-find ingredients like tahini, or all three,” Todos Santos homeowner Anne Patterson said. “Her inventory keeps growing; which now ranges from household to body care and even to the gourmet like olive oil from the Valle de Guadalupe.”
A slew of bins and jugs fill the small store. Some are for dry goods like flour, some contain cleaning products, others are full of hard to find items. Ninety percent of the products are from Mexico. Olive oil from the Valle de Guadalupe is the best seller, along with peanut butter and tahini. After that, cleaning products and vinegar are popular.
“The most challenging task was and continues to be sourcing products I can get in Mexico. I get most everything from the mainland,” Gutierrez said.
The goal is for customers to be gringos and local Mexicans. The prices are so most everyone can afford them.
“When I saw the first Todos Santonian filling up dish soap and laundry soap it was my best day. Those are the people I was really trying to target,” Gutierrez said.
She and her husband have lived full time in Todos Santos since 2017. She is from Canada, while he is from Mexico. They had a place in Cabo since 2012, but knew three years ago it was time to move to Baja full time with their then 2-year-old.
Gutierrez opened the doors to A Granel on Feb. 28 before anyone in Baja knew what COVID-19 was. That has not been a problem. Clientele has steadily been increasing; even to the point to where she has needed to hire someone to help in the store. Inventory changes weekly, with new products being added based on customer demand. If she gets a handful of requests for the same thing, Gutierrez will add it.
“It’s been an adventure. Who knew I would be opening the store smack dab in the middle of a pandemic?” Gutierrez said. Despite the timing, she had remained open by making a few adjustments. “I don’t allow entrance to the shop. I now have the cash desk at the door. It fits perfectly, like it was the place it should go. We do all the refills ourselves. They hand us containers or drop it off. No one is touching anything. It works out better for cleanliness and safety for us and the consumer.”
In between each customer any bin she or her co-worker touched is sanitized. They are constantly washing their hands as well.
Gutierrez hopes demand will continue so she could have two more stores in the area by this time next year.
I LOVE this place! Always helpful, clean, full of great products that I use constantly and the product quality is excellent. It has cut my Costco list by 1/2 at least. Kimberly and Jaqueline (her assitant) have done an excellent job of creating the perfect bulk store.
I hope more stores and eventually all stores reject plastic packaging and sell only in bulk.
Remember hardware stores when they sold screws, nails and other small items loose which you would take home in a small paper bag (NOT IN YOUR PANTS POCKET, GUYS!)