Abington was at one time dotted with neighborhood markets. Cavicchi’s on Route 18. Gates’ Market on Washington Street. Bush’s on the corner of Spruce Street. Family Superette on the corner of Green Street and Brockton Avenue. Even First National started as a small shop on North Avenue, before opening its big showplace on Rt. 18 (it’s now Trucchi’s).
Luau, a store specializing in Brazilian groceries, is a throwback to the days of the small, specialty market. The shop, located in Abington Center, opened in December and is building a loyal customer base, said Claudileia Menezes, who runs the business along with her husband, Leci Coelho.
“Business is not bad at all,” she said, acknowledging the challenges of starting a new retail shop in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. “We have a lot of customers that come all the time.”
Coelho worked for a number of years at Terra Nossa, the long-time Brazilian market on the north end of Route 18 in Abington, but he always wanted to open his own business.
Last fall the couple gave the location, the longtime former home of Abington Dry Cleaners, a thorough overhaul. They took down a dividing wall, put down new flooring, rolled fresh coats of paint, and brought in new shelving and refrigerated display cases.
“We want people to feel comfortable, to feel like they’re home,” said Menezes.
The shop is filled with a variety of food, drinks, ingredients, and other items the local, growing Brazilian population have difficulty finding in larger traditional stores.
They offer dietary staples such as beans, rice, breads, and even a special dough mix called polvilho. The refrigerated cases carry frozen, popular dishes such as croquete de carne, and pan de queso, as well as pulpa de maragcuja, a fruit juice. The front shelves are well stocked with classic snacks, including Biscoito de Polvilho, and Fandangos chips, which are big with kids.
On the other side, shoppers can find a rack full of Havaianas, the Brazilian company that helped popularize rubber flip-flops. There’s also a shelf holding a selection panella de barros — traditional clay cooking pots used to cook fish and beans.
“The taste is amazing,” Menezes said about using the pot, which is made using black clay from one particularly region of Brazil. “It’s completely different.”
Shoppers can also find Peruvian ingredients, such as a yellow hot pepper sauce, traditional Brazilian candies and chocolates, and holiday gift baskets.
Menezes said once the pandemic ends they can add a butcher’s shop and a kitchen to serve foods prepared on site.
The hope is to make Luau a single destination for Brazilians craving a taste of home, or others interested in trying something new.
“They can find everything here,” she said.