Alele Mart Marshallese Kitchen & Cultural Store is a unique market in the heart of Springdale, Arkansas. Sanya Pedro, a local entrepreneur and member of the Marshallese community in Northwest Arkansas, opened the business in 2022.

Sanya has imported and sold Marshallese goods and clothing on a small scale for twenty years. She decided to open what she calls a Marshallese Kitchen and Cultural Store and named it Alele Mart, LLC. Her store is a combination of her love for her home country and the strong connection that she has with her community in Northwest Arkansas.

Sanya Pedro
Sanya Pedro, owner of Alele Mart in Northwest Arkansas has created a culturally-based gathering place for the Marshallese community she is proud to be a part of

More than 15,000 Marshallese live in Northwest Arkansas and nearby Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri communities. Springdale has the largest population, so Sanya’s focus is to bring foods and products from Hawaii, the Philippines, and the Marshall Islands and cater to the needs of her local community.

Currently, Sanya is the only employee of Alele; her mother and sister help out. Sonya wants to make her customers feel at home when shopping at her store. Alele Mart is more than a store; it is a gathering place where the community can visit each other, enjoy authentic food, and find Marshallese outfits and jewelry. Sanya has a seating area for people to relax and recreate a friendly and communal island feel.

Alele Mart dress
An example of some of the specialty Marshallese clothing that Alele Mart imports directly from the Marshall Islands and sells to it's customers

Sanya spent the first year of operation putting all her time and money into making the store a success and making her dream come true. The store has been a success, but some of her equipment is outdated, and she needs more inventory to keep up with the everyday changes in running a business.

Sanya started working with Canopy of NWA, a non-profit united on the desire to provide refugees with a good, safe home in Northwest Arkansas. Canopy worked with Sanya to create a reserve account for her business and a system of separating personal and business funds. Sanya has purchased a Square cash register and updated her Point of Sale (POS) System for better tracking of revenue reporting.

In July 2023, Sanya contacted Communities Unlimited (CU) for a loan to purchase the needed equipment to handle more customers. Her top sellers in the restaurant are her Marshallese donuts and fish soup. Her outdated fryer only allows her to do small orders of donuts at a time, and it takes her a while to cook a significant amount. Sanya worked with CU’s Senior Economic Development Officer, Debra Williams, on her small business loan to purchase updated equipment.

“Sanya has spent the last year creating a Marshallese Food and Cultural Center that has already developed strong connections within the islander community."

— Debra Williams, Senior Economic Development Officer

Sanya closed on her loan in the summer of 2023.

The CU loan will assist Sanya in growing in her market and fill a need for the islanders who call Northwest Arkansas their home. CU’s Lending Team has also encouraged Sanya to work with CU’s Wealth Building Program to help grow her business by addressing Alele’s business needs.

Alele Mart Marshallese Kitchen & Cultural Store is on its way to doing great things in the community.