By Amy Falkofske
Carlos Castro opened Todos Supermarket on Route 1 in Woodbridge in 1990. He recounts that it was a small store, only 2,500 square feet, behind a Popeye’s, that customers had trouble finding. Now his Woodbridge store is in a 75,000-square-foot space in Marumsco Plaza, and he also has a store in Dumfries. Both stores have become staples in the community, especially the Hispanic community.
Castro has held many jobs including tax preparer and real estate agent. He even owned a construction business at one point, but he wanted a business his wife, Gladis, could run — something she could do instead of cleaning houses. That was his motivation to open Todos Supermarket, and he said it was all uphill at first.
“The first thing we had to do was to figure out what we had gotten ourselves into. We had to learn everything from zero,” said Castro. He says they didn’t know anything about grocery store financing,
and the whole first two years was a learning process. One of the biggest things the Castros had to figure out was what their product line was going to be. That involved speaking directly to their customers and asking them what they’d like to see in the store.
“The most difficult part was to figure out the Hispanic community because we’re so diverse,” said Castro.
Castro pointed out that the Hispanic community is made up of people from many different places such as Mexico, San Salvador, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
Castro said growing up in a poor family in San Salvador instilled in him the importance of working hard and being on the lookout for opportunities, and he certainly used this work ethic while getting Todos off the ground.
“I learned through my years of growing up that there are a lot of opportunities in life, but we have to be ready and willing to jump on them, work hard and succeed,” said Castro.
In 1996, Castro moved Todos three doors down into a 5,000-square-foot facility. At first, all of the money he had coming in was going back into the business. He considered selling the business, but after a close analysis, decided against it.
During this time, he got active in the community, something that his dad instilled in him as a child. Because of this, he knew that the owners of Marumsco Plaza were actually looking to put a Wegman’s in the plaza, but Castro got them to agree to bring in Todos instead. That’s how Todos came to occupy its current 75,000-square-foot space in the plaza.
Success at Last
In addition to the Woodbridge location, Todos was also in Alexandria at one point. Castro sold the Alexandria store to open a store in Dumfries in 2008. Both the Woodbridge and Dumfries locations have a loyal following.
“I think a big part of our success has been my community activism. We have a lot of loyalty from the community,” said Castro.
Castro shared that one of his customers overheard a conversation he had with his general manager one day before the move. He was worried that the customers wouldn’t be able to find the store in its new location. The customer came to him and said, “Wherever you go, we’ll find you and we’ll follow you.”
Taking Care of His Customers and His Team
One reason for Castro’s success is his attention to his customers’ needs.
“Our main goal is to please the customers with products or services or help, whatever they need. If we have a difficulty, we need to try to approach it with a win-win result,” he said.
Todos is not just a grocery store, but a place where customers can go to get help with things like translation if they don’t speak English or emailing a government entity. The store also has a post office, a tax and accounting service, and money-wire services inside.
Castro puts a lot of effort into ensuring his products are what his customers want. If Todos doesn’t have what you’re looking for, they will go out of their way to find it for you. They also buy in bulk in hopes of passing the savings on to the customer, but quality is key. Castro said he is more concerned with the quality of his products than making a profit.
“We need to make a profit for sure, but I want to sell you the best quality,” he said.
Castro considers his employees family and aims to give them good benefits and a living wage. “To me, we are all a big family, and we try to treat everybody with that philosophy,” he said. Castro also looks to promote his employees and help them succeed. He noted that this is another thing that adds to the company’s success.
“That’s I think a big portion, to know that you have a team that you can trust and that they care about you and you care about them. It’s not only a great feeling, but it gets results,” said Castro.
Todos is a family business not only in the figurative sense, but also literally. In addition to his wife, his three grown children and other relatives also work at the store.
Castro is a member of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce. He’s also on a committee working on reopening the economy in Prince William amid the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, he serves on the Executive Board of the Community Advisory Board for the Prince William County Police, and he helps run
the nonprofit Hispanic Organization for Leadership & Action, or HOLA, which works to engage and empower the Latino community.
Todos Supermarket is located at 13905 Jefferson Davis Highway in Woodbridge and 17987 Dumfries Shopping Plaza in Dumfries.
Amy Falkofske is a freelance writer and photographer. She has a Master’s degree in Film-TV with a concentration in screenwriting. She lives in Bristow with her husband, two boys and two Beagle dogs.