Built on the well-refrigerated tomb of the old El Mariachi Supermercado, 3020 NW 16th, this positively post-apocalyptic center of commerce, now renamed Public Wholesale Supermercado, has opened its doors once again to the somewhat impoverished neighborhood, offering deals and steals that very few, if any, grocery stores can or will compete with in Oklahoma City.
Many of the shelves are still vacant as boxes—some full, some empty—are scattered throughout the aisles, trying to meet the burgeoning demand for cheap eats. The brands themselves are a strange mix of items from other area stores, with a particular emphasis on whatever Walmart is happening to carry as of late. Very few things are actually priced, which often leads to the cashiers guessing and then asking “Does that sound good?”
Works for me!
Public Wholesale, while definitely not the prettiest store in town, is definitely one of the most noble; from the industrial cakes and pies in plain boxes simply labeled “Open Here” to complete meal kits of pot roast that’ll feed you for five individually-wrapped days of repeated bliss, this is a grocery store that seems more concerned with not only saving in-need Oklahomans a few random dollars, but curbing out most wasteful of our throwaway food tendencies.
The meat freezers are about half-stocked, layered with tags that read “Meat 50% Off” hanging among the large tubes of phallic 80/20 ground beef and vacuum-sealed packages of ribs, while the freezers along the back wall are practically overflowing with boxed meals, from Stouffer’s Family-Sized Lasagna to helpings of Morningstar Farms vegan patties, if you’re so inclined.
They even had, direct from San Antone, Andy Garcia Foods Barbacoa. Now I’m not sure just how good it actually is or even that famed Cuban-American actor Andy Garcia had a meat company deep in the heart of Texas, but for four bucks, Hell, I’ll give it a try.
The produce section was surprisingly filled with plump delicacies like pineapple and oranges, as well as a plethora of other somewhat ragged fruits and vegetables. Looking around, there’s Grape-Nuts Granola and Pumpkin Spice Frosted Flakes cereal for a buck, a well-stocked vision of Latino family-faves from Goya products and various dairy items that are seemingly just hanging on to their illustrious final days, looking for that one desperate enough buyer to down a few quick glasses.
Remarkably, Public Wholesale, down by the dairy cases, actually has plenty of carts of food-products they are giving away for absolutely free; featuring everything from plastic cartons of salad to scads of guacamole, due to a groundbreaking deal the Needs Foundation has made with Oklahoma City, the store is able to give away slightly expired items to those in need, a true act of Oklahomans giving back to Oklahomans without fanfare, nary a selfie-taking mayor in sight.
As the currently-barren shelves continue to fill slightly over the next couple of weeks, the store will hopefully become even more of a visible beacon of savings to those who truly need it, from starving college students to hungry extended families, staying open for maybe more than a year in a area that could use a bit more options on the dinner table tonight.