What is a colmado?

A colmado is a mix between a small supermarket and a bar. It covers all the little daily needs and is a great place to meet people.

In our vlog, student facilitator Merve and Spanish coordinator Sheilla take you inside a typical colmado just around the corner of our school in Santo Domingo. Even in the big cities like Santo Domingo and Santiago, you find plenty of those small neighbourhood colmados.

In rural areas in the Dominican Republic the colmado is very often so small that you cannot go inside. The vendors sell their products through the window.

Do you remember the “mom-and-pop-store”, the “Tante-Emma-Laden” in your neighbourhood your Mom sent you to to get some eggs and butter? Remember how you held the extra pennies firmly in your little fist to get your favorite candy there, too? That’s similar to a Dominican colmado.

So what makes it different to a supermarket?

Let’s say you are preparing dinner and realize all the sudden you are out of onions. No problem, if you have your little colmado near-by. You just take a quick walk and choose from possibly 3 to 4 different shops in your street. Not only that many of them are open until late and every day of the week, even Sundays. You can also just buy ONE onion. Or ask for 3 table spoons of salsa de tomate, or buy flour, sugar, salt and rice for 15 pesos by the fraction of the pound. Or you just send someone to get it for you if you are too busy stirring the sancocho soup. All is possible: “Lo que tu quieras, mi amor” – whatever you like, my dear. “Ningún problema“.

Although this business model results from the fact that electricity is quite unstable in the Dominican Republic (and therefore refrigeration uncertain) and that most budgets don’t allow for people to plan too far in advance, it makes one realize what a “convenience store” really means.

And if you can spare a minute or two, just get yourself “una fria” (an ice-cold bottle of beer) or share “un trago”, a glass of rum, with the people sitting there in front of the colmado and have a quick chat.

Read more about Dominican colmados in English and Spanish.

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