Carlos Castro: A Study in Perseverance and Community Vision

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By Tracy Shevlin | Photos by Robert Jinks

In 1979, Carlos Castro fled the violence of civil war-torn El Salvador. That journey led him on a path from Texas to Los Angeles, and then to the Washington, D.C. area, where he settled to be near friends he had grown up with.

Seeking to succeed in his new country, Castro, who had been three years into his engineering studies when he left El Salvador, enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) to master English. He said that his college counselor advised him to pursue a career in construction management because of his engineering background. He spent the next 10 years working his way up in the industry.

Carlos and Gladis Castro opened the first Todos Supermarket in 1990, in Prince William Plaza, to service the then-growing Latino population. Their stores continue to evolve to serve the ever-changing needs of the community.

Carlos and Gladis Castro opened the first Todos Supermarket in 1990, in Prince William Plaza, to service the then-growing Latino population. Their
stores continue to evolve to serve the ever-changing needs of the community.

In 1990, Castro made a career switch, opening his first Todos Supermarket, in Woodbridge. He later added a second store in Dumfries. In 2011, he seized the opportunity to expand operations, moving his Woodbridge store from Prince William Plaza to a 50,000 square foot space in Marumsco Plaza, formerly occupied by Giant Food.

Together, the two stores now gross more than $17 million annually. Castro, and his stores, have become an integral part of the community. He is a founding member of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce Hispanic Business Council, and takes on leadership roles such as serving on the Hylton Performing Arts Center Executive Board and the NVCC Education Foundation.

Prince William Living caught up with Castro to learn more about his journey to living the American dream, and plans for the future of his business.

PWL: When you opened your first Todos store, your mission was to cater to the growing Hispanic community. Is that still the primary vision for the stores?

Castro: Before my wife Gladis and I opened Todos Supermarkets, there was only one tiny store in the greater Prince
William area that catered to the Latino community. There was a need for a specialty grocery store to serve the many different cultures among our Hispanic neighbors and to provide the products they need. We also recognized the need for other services in which language might be a barrier for Hispanic customers. For example, we have had financial services like tax preparation and mortgage banking on site. We have tried to become more of a one-stop shop for our neighbors. That remains one of our primary motivations, but as the demographics have shifted over the years, we have come to have a mix of common groceries, Hispanic groceries and other global foods. We want to become the neighborhood grocery store for all of our neighbors, not just the Latinos.

PWL: Over the past 25 years, you have seen tremendous growth in your sales volume. What, if any, growing pains did you have?PWLiving April 2015 150226RJ30

Castro: The first few years that we were open, we were tremendously busy and like many business owners, I reinvested my salary back into the business. However, because of the rapid growth and all the capital expenditures, it felt as if we had a cash flow problem. In fact, I almost sold the business for $85,000 in 1993. Luckily, I was able to audit the books and get a better understanding of the finances before it was too late.

PWL: You mentioned a location that you acquired and sold in Alexandria?

Castro: In 2003, we opened a store in Alexandria and kept it until 2008. We didn’t sell it because it was not profitable. In fact, it is still open and doing well. We sold it because it was labor intensive and the location itself limited its potential. There was no room for expansion and no room for storage. It was just after we sold the Alexandria store that we opened the Dumfries location.

PWL: Did the Prince William County immigration enforcement policy of 2007 impact your business?

Castro: It did, because many Latinos left Prince William County around that time. However, it forced us to adapt to our community as the demographics changed. For example, we now sell more common groceries and produce items that everyone needs. Our offerings are now about 50 percent Americanized groceries and 50 percent ethnic foods. We also have skilled butchers who know how to prepare the different cuts of meat that vary by culture. Interestingly, many Latinos have returned, but we continue to serve a diverse population.

PWL: Growth and additional services have been a dynamic theme in your business philosophy. What’s next for Todos?PWLiving April 2015 150226RJ5

Castro:We are now in the midst of a major expansion and overhaul at our Marumsco location in Woodbridge. We will almost double in size as we add a 25,000-foot extension. This location will house our headquarters and will include a two-level renovation.

One thing that will be unique at this location is that there will be an independent postal location for the [United States Postal Service] inside the store. Our target is to open that by April 2015. Additionally, the store will feature a conference room and a larger event space that will be available for community events.

The lower level will be remodeled to house storage and professional services. Similar to when we began to offer financial services to the community, we are now hoping to bring more medical services to the community. We want to help the Latino community be healthy in 2015.

PWL: That’s very ambitious for 2015. Are there any other dreams or projects that you are working on?

Castro: All of the growth in services and locations is driven by the desire of Gladis and I to serve the community. I have been given great opportunities and I want my legacy to be one of giving back and improving my community. There is a pressing need to develop leadership among the Hispanic population, and I am actively working with the Hispanic Business Council of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce and HOLA to find opportunities to grow and train leaders.

Learn more about Todos, including hours and directions for both stores, at

Tracy Shevlin is a native Virginian and long-time Manassas area resident. She is a full-time administrative assistant and part-time student at George Mason University completing her degree in Business Communication. She can be reached at


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