Annia Piedra has done her share of traveling.
“I was born and raised in Cuba, and moved to the U.S. in 1998. I lived in several places; first I moved to Minnesota, then I moved to New York,” Piedra said.
It was in New York where Piedra met Marco Corniel—who arrived in the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2015—whom she married, and with whom she embarked on more journeys.
“We moved back to Minnesota, moved to Kansas and then his family was in Philadelphia, so we ended up moving to Philly five years ago. Two-and-a-half years ago, he purchased our first store in West Philadelphia. It was a small corner store, and we were there until a year ago when we bought the store here in Hammonton,” Piedra said.
That store is Latino Food Market—located at 490 N. Egg Harbor Rd.—which was purchased on August 10, 2020 and which opened its doors officially on September 16, 2020.
Piedra said that she and Corniel first investigated the location at the suggestion of a friend.
“I loved the town. It was a small town—quiet—coming from Philly, which is very wild. I thought this would be a good place to have a business and raise the kids—because my husband has six kids who are eventually coming over from the Dominican Republic ... I love the town. It’s quiet. It’s green. It’s cold during the winter, but it’s a family-oriented town and I love that. I can see the kids playing around, riding bikes, and me not having to worry about the craziness of the city. For me, that was one of the main reasons,” Piedra said.
Piedra said that, in many ways, Hammonton reminds her of her hometown in Cuba.
“I’m from a very small town on the south side of the island that’s in the countryside. In the nighttime, I love it because it’s quiet and you can see the stars. You don’t see that in the city. You don’t encounter those things,” Piedra said.
Latino Food Market, Piedra said, sells fresh meat, fresh produce, frozen food and a variety of dry goods and beverages. They are also a location for MoneyGram.
“You can send money or receive money or pay your bills; anything like that you can do in the store,” Piedra said.
Additionally, Piedra said that they “were able to reopen the kitchen back in February.”
“We now have a Spanish kitchen in the back of the store ... We have Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican food. I see a lot of Mexican businesses and tons of pizza places, and I think that’s something that sets us apart ... it’s a different type of food, and people like the variety,” Piedra said.
Piedra detailed some of the kitchen’s culinary offerings.
“I make pernil—roasted pork shoulder—that’s a very unique Spanish dish. You can get pernil here. I make it every day. Our empanadas are homemade; we make them here. We make sancochon, which is a Dominican soup that is very thick. It can be made with chicken, pork and beef all together. In the wintertime, a lot of people eat sancochon because it keeps you full the whole day and it’s really rich; we put plantains, corn, potatoes, sometimes cabbage—everything. It’s very thick soup, and we usually eat it with rice and avocado,” Piedra said.
Piedra said that Latino Food Market can also handle catering orders.
“I do arroz con gandules, bean soup—black bean soup, red bean soup—chicken stew, and all of this is in the Dominican and Cuban style, which is a little bit different than Mexican but it still has the flavor in it,” Piedra said.
Piedra said that many of their dishes are made to order.
“Anything that people want to order that’s fried—fried plantains, empanadas, chicharrones, anything like that—we ask everyone to call 15 or 20 minutes in advance, and I’ll make it fresh. I know that people sometimes have stuff on a display all day long, but I don’t do that. I don’t fry stuff and put it there, and then you come over at 4 p.m. and it’s been sitting there all day long. I don’t do that. I ask people, if they want anything specific, just call, order it, I’ll make it and you come and pick it up,” Piedra said.
Piedra said that she and Corniel have high hopes for a successful future.
“My hopes are for the community to know we’re here. We’re a hard-working family. We’re here to serve the town,” Piedra said.
For more information, call (609) 561-5050 or visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/latino.foodmarket.3.