For 20 years, Los Primos Supermarket has sat at 1109 East Main Street, anchoring Alston Avenue and Main Street. Owner Miguel Collado opened Los Primos with co-owners in 2002 and took sole ownership in 2017. The store’s name translates to “cousins” in Spanish, a term of endearment that Collado used for Los Primos customers in the store’s early days.
This week, Los Primos closed its doors.
“It’s really a shame,” Collado said over the phone on Thursday, from the store, where he and his wife Ana Collado were cleaning things out ahead of a key turnover on Sunday. The INDY tried the store three times—on the third call, Collado picked up.
“This little piece of Southeast Alston doesn’t have a grocery store within a mile and a half of it,” Collado said. “There are people struggling and crying around here right now because there’s nowhere there for them to shop.”
Collado told the INDY that he had been paying $6,500 monthly for the building. When it came time for a new lease renewal, he said, his landlord raised the rent to $20,000 a month—a steep rental hike to meet by any standard.
Landlords Husam Mustafa and Ghassan Mustafa at Khawaja LLC in Cary own the property. Over the phone, Ghassan Mustafa said he did not yet know what his plans were for the property, and then hung up when asked for comment on the rental increase amount.
Collado, who was born in the Dominican Republic, describes Los Primos as a “walking store”—one of the only grocery stores available to residents in East Durham, the majority of whom, according to an NC Department of Transportation survey, live within walking distance.
And on a typical shopping day, many Los Primos customers did walk to the store, often navigating busy Alston Avenue traffic to get to their groceries. The store was known for stocking fresh produce and a wide variety of meats, including sausages in Mexican, Honduran, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan styles; outside of the store, a sign listed its amenities, which included taking WIC and food stamps, and cashing checks and money orders.
In the past, Collado—who ran Los Primos alongside Ana Collado and 14 employees—has spoken protectively of the community that shops at his store.
“The people that live over there, that work in government buildings over there that are making the money, they don’t come to spend their money in my store,” Collado told NCCU student newspaper, the Campus Echo, in 2015. “I don’t need their money, but they should come around here and see how some people are living.”
The supermarket also faced hurdles when it was caught in the crosshairs of a $25 million dollar NC DOT road-widening project for Alston Avenue in 2011, which would have routed the road through the store property. After a long series of heated community discussions—and a petition started by Collado—the state adjusted its construction plans so that the road curved and Los Primos remained standing, with only 25 of its parking spots lost to the highway.
At the time, Collado breathed a sigh of relief.
“We’ve created a lot of respect in this community. People aren’t just gonna walk away from us,” Collado told the Durham Voice in 2017. “I think we’ll be ok.”
This post has been updated with the name of the landlords of 1109 East Main Street.
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