Get a smile with your sandwich at market

Along with the other employees, Coreena Martinez responds to each customer’s request at The Little Market and Deli.

Along with the other employees, Coreena Martinez responds to each customer’s request at The Little Market and Deli.

The Little Market and Deli at Willamette and Prospect streets in Colorado Springs is like coming home.

It’s comfortable, warm and welcoming.

As the front door jingles open, a voice shouts out the visitor’s name along with a greeting.

Terry Buterbaugh wants a homemade Polish sausage sandwich, and he gets one at $5.29.

“This place is great. It’s always fresh and it’s always great,” said Buterbaugh, who frequents the neighborhood market two to three times a week.

Travis Cheney has “been coming here since I was 15 years old. I love to support the mom and pop stores around town,” he said. He’s now in his 30s, but still a neighbor to the store.

“They know who you are and talk to you. You’re not just a number to them,” Cheney said.

Another customer jingles the door open. He wants a simple runza, also called bierock.

“You can’t get them anywhere else in this area,” said Kim Garcia, the owner’s daughter who works full-time at the shop. Garcia serves the runza, a cabbage and sausage roll, to the customer.

We’re very lucky to have specialty items. We try to have a little bit of everything in a small square-footage.”

– Kim Garcia,

Little Market and Deli

The deli also offers homemade chicken salad, homemade coleslaw, hard-boiled eggs, pickles, homemade salsa, along with regular grocery items such as Campbell’s soup, Hormel chili, two types of detergent (Fab powder and Purex liquid), two different flavors of cake mixes, two kinds of peanut butter and two brands of jelly, and more.

The Little Market and Deli is just that — little. However, if a neighbor needs a staple item, the store has it: milk, bread, butter, ice cream. It may offer a tiny selection of a particular item, but it has the item.

They also have specialty items from Andy’s Meat Market, Baja Salsa, Sara’s Sausage, all products that are homemade in El Paso County.

On Saturdays, from scratch, they make their own cinnamon rolls, “fresh from the ovens,” Garcia said. “We do everything like Grandma would.

“We’re very lucky to have specialty items. We try to have a little bit of everything in a small square-footage.”

The small business has been on the same corner since 1902, and it has always been a grocery store, Garcia said. She added that the business has been owned by 13 families over the years.

The owners get to know their customers.

One customer — Clarence — used to walk with Garcia’s daughter to school, “and now he’s playing football in college and he’s a man,” Garcia said.

“We know a lot of people by first names. We know their kids. We know where they work. We know a lot of things about them.

“It’s kind of like being the neighborhood bartender.”

Garcia’s mother, Christine Bettendorf, has owned the business for 13 years. She lives in the neighborhood and had shopped there for years. One day, she went in to get a gallon of milk, and the owner offered to sell her the business.

“I said, ‘Give me a price.’ Two days later, he did, and two weeks later, I owned the business,” Bettendorf said, jokingly adding, “I think it was a midlife crisis.”

Bettendorf had worked as a nurse for 30 years, and “I had always thought about having a little deli,” so her retirement gift to herself became the grocery store and deli.

“I like this business because it has a lot of variety. It changes all the time. We’re always steady and busy, which is nice,” Bettendorf said. “I like it because we get to deal with a lot of different people on a consistent basis.”

What can frustrate Bettendorf is the mindset of some of her grocers.

“People always assume people who are self-employed make thousands and thousands of dollars,” and that’s simply not true, she added.

The company runs a profit margin of between 1 percent to 3 percent, she said.

“That’s my take-home,” she said. “I don’t try to compete with the big guys.

“When people say, ‘Wal-Mart charges this,’ I say, ‘I’m not Wal-Mart,’” said Bettendorf, who added she’s grateful that Wal-Mart offers low-cost items for its customers.

“The grocery business is not an easy market. That, I didn’t realize. If I had, I probably would have run screaming,” she said.

But compared with her past profession, “I never had someone die because they didn’t get their 2 percent milk,” she said laughing.

Little Market and Deli

Address: 749 E. Willamette St.

Phone: 635-0769

Years in business: 111

Number of employees: 4