San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

EPA: Everything and the Kitchen Sink

HIGH-QUALITY, reasonably pricedproducts from carpets to light fixtures topaint, all under one vast roof: that’s theconcept behind the new EPAHome Center,Costa Rica’s first hardware superstore,which opened four months ago in the easternSan José suburb of Curridabat.“EPA is different because, in CostaRica, we can find different supplies ofmaterials… perhaps tools, but no tires (forexample),” Ignacio Vieto, general managerof Ferretería EPA, S.A., told The TicoTimes in a recent interview. “EPA putsthese categories all together in one place.”Costa Rica’s Ferretería EPA wasfounded in 2004 as the sister enterprise ofa Venezuelan company of the same name,which has been in business for more than12 years, Vieto said. The store inCurridabat, which opened March 17, ismodeled after the Venezuelan company’sexisting 14 stores.The new store here is designed to fill avoid in the Costa Rican market, wherehardware stores are generally small andneighborhood-oriented. Vieto mentionedthe Hipermás chain as an example of storeswhere a variety of products are available,but because the supermarket chain does notfocus on hardware and home improvement,its stores usually offer only one ortwo options for a given product, he said.THE EPA store, on a 20,000-squaremeterlot next to the San José Indoor Club,required an investment of $7 million,according to a statement from EPA. Itoffers 15,000 products for construction,decoration and remodeling, all displayedon towering racks in the style of U.S.superstores Wal-Mart and Home Depot.The store takes up 6,000 square meters,plus a parking lot with space for 300 cars,and has generated 150 jobs, the statementsaid.Special services offered at the storeinclude a paint center, a kitchen design center,a locksmith, a marble center, kiosks withhome decoration and construction information,and an outdoor area with additionalconstruction materials. The store serves contractorsand construction professionals aswell as customers looking for the perfectproduct for their own home.“WE are very content,” Vieto said ofthe store’s first months in operation, addingthat plans for a second store, to be built inwestern San José, are already under way.Asked whether he thinks a growingnumber of companies will join the CostaRican “superstores” market in the future,he joked, “I hope not” – then added he doesthink there is increasing demand for storeswith a wide variety of products. However,he said he expects stores of EPA’s size willbe popular mostly in metropolitan areassuch as San José.The store makes an effort to use localproducts, according to Vieto, with themajority of its goods coming from CostaRican producers or distributors.He said an effort is also made to maintaina variety of prices so the store is accessibleto customers on different budgets.Those who shop at EPA can choose from“good, better or the best,” he said.EPA is open seven days a week,7 a.m.-9 p.m.

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