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Caliwala Market in Santa Margarita pushes their limits during the pandemic, paying it forward and ensuring community safety

Posted at 7:53 AM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 10:53:22-04

Caliwala Market and Deli in Santa Margarita remains open during the pandemic while facing many challenges.

The market first opened their doors in December and is not only managing the struggles of remaining open during the pandemic, but is also overcoming the challenge of competing with corporate grocery chains.

The owner and curator of Caliwala Market, Erin Inglish, said they are primarily a food market, with over 2,000 food items with an emphasis on local products.

When asked the changes being made at the market due to state guidelines put into place, Inglish said, "I don't want to paint a rosier picture than it is. None of us are enjoying this. This isn't our first choice of how to have to be at work. But we are already as a food service business not that much has changed. It is our job as food curators to do an excellent job as far as hygiene goes. So honestly when the pandemic started we just had to implement a few extra measures and it's not far from what is already expected of us."

The hardships faced since opening seven months ago have allowed the market to show their appreciation for the community, and they want to ensure guests feel comfortable while shopping.

"I think it is really important that our community customers feel welcome, safe," said Inglish. "And not just feel it but actually be welcome and safe. So the physical experience of not being exposed and hopefully be able to procure food in a safe way is important but also the perceived experience of being safe is important."

The market is operating with 15 staff members and has a large focus on vegan and gluten free foods, as well as savory and sweet foods. Inglish said empanadas and tamales are a specialty at Caliwala.

Inglish and the Caliwala staff are also working to pay it forward in the community. When the pandemic started the market began preparing meals for the homeless. Inglish said they are committed to making 300 meals a month for the homeless. Twice a week the staff will make sandwiches for the Hopes Village in San Luis Obispo, and once a month they make a three course meal for 80 people at the ECHO Homeless shelter in Atascadero.

The market also offers for anyone who would like to make a donation to help a family in need for groceries they would match that donation and put it onto a grocery account. As of right now the market has about 10 families they have been sponsoring for the past three months. Inglish said this offer will be continued indefinitely.

Caliwala Market and Deli is located at 22202 El Camino Real in Santa Margarita. They are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.