Carlos Castro’s success story is the American Dream. It’s a trip that starts in the capital of El Salvador and ends in the capital of the United States.
At the age of 13, Castro abandoned his free time as a child to support his family. He started working in construction with his father at an early age.
“I learn[ed] a lot about reinforced steel and masonry and plumbing,” Castro stated, stressing that his father made certain he was taught “all the stages of construction – all the way to understanding blueprint reading.”
Castro salutes his father for teaching him to work hard and not make excuses. Working with a man he respects brought him the success he desires.
Witnessing the beauty of his hometown with its rivers, wildlife and awe-inspiring volcanoes tarnish, as a civil war began in 1979, making it nearly impossible for people to work.
A year after the war, Castro – now 25 – changed his life by making the most difficult decision: to flee to America.
“In a split second, I had to decide what was best for me and my family,” he stated.
He was one of nearly half a million Salvadorans to escape a 12-year bloody struggle.
“I had dreams of coming to the US because I fell in love with the language and the people,” he added.
Castro landed in Washington, D.C. — home to one of the largest Salvadoran populations in the country, after Los Angeles. He worked and sent money home to his partner Gladis and their child. It wasn’t easy, but he kept going.
Then, in one blink of his eye, things changed.
“I got an opportunity in construction after being a janitor and a dishwasher, a busboy and a cook,” he stated. “And I got my opportunity to show what I knew – and my boss took [an] interest in me.”
Along with the job, his employer provided him with a sponsored visa. That’s how it all started.
Castro’s hard work is not only supported by his hands. At home, he was top of his class in high school and attended his college for business. And his dreams were more focused on feeding his family.
When he felt it was time, his wife and son followed him to the United States. Gladis worked as a cleaner and the couple saved money. One day, Castro decided that his wife should stop cleaning houses.
So, they decided to launch a grocery store.
“The whole purpose was to provide for my wife a better way of earning her [living] – you know, not do housecleaning,” he said.
The store was called “Todos Supermarket.” In his native language, “todo” means “all” or “everybody.” Todos would then become a place for Hispanic people to find support.
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Castro Builds Hispanic Supermarket
Todos today proved that the growing business is more than just a place to find Hispanic goods. Here, locals can do and get other needs as well.
“It’s a group of small businesses like, you know, money-wiring. And we have an insurance agency, we have a tax and accounting company with some partners and a small café within the restaurant,” stated Castro.
The more Todos Supermarket offered the community what it needed, the faster its success became evident.
Currently, Castro possesses two enormous plazas in North Virginia that the Hispanic community feels safe going to. In addition, he has collaborated with local high school educators to work for him and mentor teens in the area.
“One of our focus[es] as a company [is] to help our youth – actually help their families, providing help with their raising their youth,” he stated.
Castro and his wife hire 180 individuals, 90% are of Hispanic roots. And a majority of their managers are women.
“He’s like a friend to us; he’s helping us. He [is] always asking us how we are; if we are comfortable here,” said a manager at one of the branches, Andrea.
Carlos and Gladis are thankful for the chance they experienced in the US, and feel it is necessary to give back in all possible ways.
“Todos Supermarket has grown out of fulfilling the needs of the community, trying to be a partner in whatever the community needs,” stated Castro.
And they are not finished with their development: Their next objective is a coffee and cacao farm in Gladis’ home village – employing people in both El Salvador and the US.
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Photo: Prince William Living Web