How to start a sari-sari store

Written by melinda gaines
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How to start a sari-sari store
Sari-sari stores began in the Philippines. (phillipine river view - loboc river image by Paul O'Hearn from

The sari-sari is a type of convenience store or "mom and pop" shop in the Philippines. As Filipinos have moved to other parts of the world, they have brought the concept of the sari-sari store with them. These stores don't just offer retail products, but serve as a social gathering spot for local Filipinos as well. If there is a demand for a sari-sari store in your community, starting one can prove to be profitable and rewarding.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Select the building type of sari-sari store to open. You can have one that is very traditional, with only a wide window to service customers and an outside sitting area, a more modern store that customers can actually enter, or even a sari-sari store with a small Filipino cafe inside.

  2. 2

    Apply for all the permits needed in your area to open a retail store, as well as food enterprise licenses, if you will also host a restaurant in your store. You may need a fictitious name certificate (DBA), resale permit, employer identification number, food manager certification and food handler permits. Contact your local small business development centre or Small Business Administration office to see what documentation is required in your city and state.

  3. 3

    Negotiate a contract to lease a storefront. It should also be able to accommodate an outside sitting area, preferably in the front of the store. Such sitting areas are a traditional part of sari-sari stores, and support socialising within the community. If you prefer, place your sitting area inside the store--this is beneficial to customers if you are located in an area that typically has issues with the weather.

  4. 4

    Cultivate a relationship with wholesale Filipino food distributors such as the San Miguel Corporation and Martin Purefoods. Candy, cigarettes, snack foods, canned goods, seasonings, sugar and salt are goods typically sold in sari-sari stores.

    Some sari-sari stores also offer alcohol commonly found in the Philippines, such as agkud, a wine made from corn, cassava, sorghum or rice. If you plan to sell alcohol, you will need a liquor license from your state's alcoholic beverage commission--such a license usually costs several thousand dollars.

  5. 5

    Recreate the subtle cultural differences that will serve to help your store stand out from convenience stores in the USA. For example, offer your products in small units, as is done in a traditional sari-sari store. Instead of offering one-pound bags of sugar, sell the sugar by the cup. Sell beverages by the bottle instead of by the package. Offering small quantities of items, and therefore providing affordability, is what differentiates a sari-sari from a regular convenience store.

  6. 6

    Market your sari-sari store, ensuring you target not only the local Filipino community, but also aficionados of international cuisine. Place ads in a Filipino community newsletter, and coupons in Filipino beauty salons and other gathering places in your area. Distribute flyers to the international student groups at your local colleges and universities.

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