La Sirena – The Wal-Mart of the Dominican Republic
I have to admit, the first time I went into a La Sirena I was impressed. As a wide-eyed 19 year old, fresh off the airplane, I didn’t expect to find so many nice things in a third world country. Plus, my only exposure to the island of Hispanola had been through family friends from Haiti, and from their stories I formed my initial vision of the Dominican Republic. However, that was a silly mistake, as The Dominican Republic and Haiti are quite different and not all places in the Third World fit our mind’s eye as to what the third world really is. After settling into DR and getting comfortable in Santiago my initial enthrallment with La Sirena has passed, and although I still enjoy the store, from time to time I do find myself wishing I had a real Wal-Mart or Target where I could go shop.
Are the La Sirena Dominican Republic stores owned by Wal-Mart?
In 2009 my spirits were lifted when rumors started circulating that Wal-Mart had purchased La Sirena. Don’t get me wrong, I love La Sirena for what it is; I was more excited about the chance of seeing new or different products that we have a hard time finding here in Santiago. Alas, it seems whether or not Wal-Mart did purchase a share of La Sirena from Grupo Ramos, the company that owns the La Sirena Dominican Republic chain of stores, the actual make-up of La Sirena will remain the same. I scoured the internet and have yet been able to find out if there is any truth to the “Wal-Mart bought La Sirena” rumor. I am going to have to do some asking around to my business savvy Dominican friends to find out.
I found this OOOOOLD La Sirena Commercial that is super cute and SOOO Dominican:
There are 3 La Sirena locations in Santiago. One is in the heart of the city, on Calle del Sol, and I avoid it like the plague. It is always busy and crowded downtown, and while convenient for people in public transportation parking can be a pain. The store is never well-stocked and it is disorganized. It has less of a selection that the other 2 locations. I only head to the Calle del Sol La Sirena in a pinch. Even if I am already in the city shopping for other things, I tend to wait and do my grocery shopping once I have gotten out of downtown Santiago. It can be such a headache.
La Sirena Super Pola, located on Bartolome Colon in Santiago is probably still the most popular place to shop in Santiago, despite the recent addition of Plaza Lama, and the new La Sirena location in El Embrujo. La Sirena Super Pola has a decent size food court with free WiFi and is insanely busy on Sundays at lunch and in the evening. Generally the store is well-stocked and organized, with food, toiletries and cleaning supplies downstairs and home-wares, automotive, appliances, clothing and the food court upstairs. If you are not sure where to find something in Santiago, it is usually a good idea to check at this La Sirena first. The parking lot is big, but can fill up on a busy day, which makes mornings an optimum time to shop. We have bought numerous items for the house from there, but no appliances or clothes. I find you can get your electronics and appliances cheaper elsewhere and clothes shopping in Santiago is going to have to be an entirely different post.
La Sirena El Embrujo
The newest La Sirena in Santiago is located in El Embrujo at the corner of Rafael Vidal and the Autopista. This La Sirena is convenient for people staying at the Hodelpa Hotel just down the road towards the Cibao Airport. It is also the La Sirena I visit most, since it is closest to my apartment. My biggest complaint about this La Sirena location is the crazy parking lot. It looks like something out of an amusement park. The rows are narrow, and if you haven’t driven here yet you should know, there are a lot of really bad drivers out there, which makes parking lots a nightmare. The main walkway into the store cuts right through the center of the rows, so cars are constantly stopping for people toting kids in and pushing carts full of groceries out. Not exactly designed for a speedy in-and-out trip to the grocery store, but then again nothing in the Dominican Republic is designed to be quick.
Inside La Sirena there is a wide selection of home items, appliances, books, paper products, clothes and food. Prices are decent here, much better than Nacional, although I find the deli meat and cheese selection to be lacking in compared to the smaller supermarket on Duarte, El Tesoro. La Sirena stocks a fair amount of international foods, complete with a little Mexican section, but La Sirena, of course, cannot compete with Nacional when it comes to rare or special items. The produce is fresh, there is a decent variety of products at La Sirena, which means you can usually find what you are looking for. Just recently they had jalapenos, which led to 36 jalapeno poppers being consumed at my house.
Other shops in La Sirena
The La Sirena Super Pola and La Sirena El Embrujo locations both have “Popular” banks, Bon ice cream shops, and all three Santiago La Sirena stores have a Western Union. Other shops in the La Sirena El Embrujo include a Viva shop, and Orange shop (both phone companies), and a YogurtLand, which to me is a poor man’s YogenFruz. (More about that delectable Dominican treat to come!)
Overall, La Sirena is good. Not too much to complain about, and not too much to rave about, just a store in Santiago where you can get your grocery shopping done and hunt for sales on housewares.
So which is better? La Sirena, Plaza Lama or Nacional? Or do you have another favorite other than La Sirena? I would love to hear it!