IT started doing business on September 30, 1965, and, for the next five decades, it became a name synonymous with grocery shopping not only in the City of San Fernando, but also practically in the whole Pampanga.
Essel Supermarket has, indeed, become a household name for Fernandinos and for most Capampangans for being a part of their daily lives.
But, on November 26, Essel Supermarket will hold its last day of operations before Savemore Market, a chain of neighborhood grocery stores under the SM Food Retail Group, takes over.
Essel Supermarket, a family corporation, was part of the property recently acquired by SM.
Owned by the Lazatins, Essel stands for the initials S and L, or Singian and Lazatin—the surnames of the owners.
Essel General Manager Marco Lazatin waxed nostalgic, as he narrated how the supermarket was conceptualized by his paternal aunts in partnership with his mother.
“Essel was started by my aunts—sisters Anita ‘Mang Itang’ and Carmen—as well as my mother Celia, who were among the original incorporators,” Lazatin said.
“But my mother died in a car crash four months later,” he said. “That is why my aunts continued with the business from there on,” he added.
Lazatin said he was delighted at how Essel Supermarket has become part of the people’s lives by literally naming their children after it. He added that he was surprised to find out from a quick Internet search that there are 21 people named “Essel” in Pampanga, including nine in San Fernando.
“People named their children after their supermarket. That’s how much it became part of their lives,” he mused.
Essel is the first supermarket in San Fernando, and it is also the first supermarket that has a bakery inside the store, which later became Bakeline Bakery, known for its ensaymada and hopia, among others.
Lazatin said the original concept of Essel Supermarket was where you can find all your shopping needs under one roof, which also explains its logo—that of a house with the word “Essel” under a roof.
“It reflected the taste of the people, and also of the owners,” he said. “But a lot of people go to Essel because of the things you don’t find in other supermarkets but you find in Essel,” he added.
Lazatin said this can be proven by the fact that some supermarket-owners shop at Essel. It tells you how much people love Essel. It was not just the store but what was inside the store. “That reflected on the ‘taste’ of my aunts. It was personal for them. They went every week to Divisoria, and the things they bought reflected their taste. There are things that we sell that nobody else sells,” he said.
LAZATIN said Essel has gone through challenges but the biggest was the lahar event in 1995, when floodwaters went up to chest-deep on Consunji Street in downtown San Fernando, where the original supermarket was.
“We had meat in the freezer, but we don’t know if there would be electricity for the next month. Nobody knew when electricity would be restored, so we started giving away the meat and people were lining up. We opened our doors and gave away all the meat,” Lazatin narrated.
In 2005 the original Essel Supermarket on Consunji Street closed shop. “It was always a partnership, so when Tita Itang [Anita] died in 2004, Carmen was alone, because her business partner was no longer around. It was not the same anymore for her and, as a closure, she closed the store on her own terms,” Lazatin said.
But, before that, Essel House, which sold hamburgers and pancit, was also put up long before McDonald’s and Jollibee dominated the fast-food market, Lazatin said.
In 2002 Essel Supermarket in Barangay Telabastagan, San Fernando, was opened. It was soon at the forefront of changing the taste of the Capampangans, with its unique products sold only at the store. “Other stores don’t carry some of the products we have,” Lazatin said. “We were the first supermarket with a wide parking,” he added.
Giant lantern festival
ESSEL was also instrumental in the entry of Barangay Telabastagan in the annual Ligligan Parul (giant lantern competition) of San Fernando. Lazatin said Barangay Telabastagan won three times in the five times it joined the competition.
Vice Mayor Jimmy Lazatin has already formalized a request to SM to continue with the giant lantern sponsorship, he said.
“We host the making of the giant lantern, and finance it. We also organize the exhibition after the competition,” Lazatin said.
Shaped the Capampangan lifestyle
IN a way, Essel influenced the preference of the Capampangans, Lazatin said. His aunts were able to broaden their minds by interacting with a myriad of cultures from their travels. They somehow helped shaped the lifestyle of the Capampangans, he added.
Lazatin is the youngest from a brood of four, including Clarita, the eldest; Jose “Babes,” senior vice president and general manager of San Fernando Light and Power Co.; and City of San Fernando Vice Mayor Jimmy.
On November 28 Savemore Market will be open for business. Lazatin said Essel Supermarket will then be officially closed. “It feels like losing a loved one,” he said.
Is this the last we will hear of Essel?