Carmela Cruz behind the check-out line at Grocery Outlet in the Mission where she is the store manager. Photo by Clara-Sophia Daly.

Carmela Cruz, 42,  has been the manager at Grocery Outlet on South Van Ness near 24th Street for four years. Before that, she worked for three years at the Grocery Outlet near her house in Visitacion Valley. 

Professionally, the pandemic has been hard, but as we talk, it becomes clear that the personal has been devastating. Her eldest son, 20-year-old Alejandro Fuentes, died in his sleep suddenly on January 7. He would have been 21 on January 29. He had complained of feeling tired, fell asleep on the couch of a friend’s house and did not wake up.

Cruz says the doctors confirmed he tested positive for Covid-19, but she is waiting a a final autopsy report from the Medical Examiner, a process that will take four or five months, she was told. 

Her son had been working security at California Pacific Medical Center Hospital on Castro Street, checking people’s temperature as they came to the location for medical care.

Cruz took about a month off work to stay home after his death, and then went back to work at Grocery Outlet. 

“I didn’t want to go into his room when I was home, and all I could do at home was think.” 

“People told me I had to go on for my other two children,” so Cruz pushed forward and went back to work at Grocery Outlet. At work, when memories of her son come up, she steps into the office to cry. 

Read more essential memories here.

Cruz with her late son Alex Fuentes.
Cruz with her late son Alex Fuentes. At his memorial, Cruz says people “kept coming up to me and telling me how incredible my son was, how he was so kind to the elderly women at the places he worked, and how he was a great person.” Photo courtesy of Carmela Cruz.

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Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys working at the intersection of art and politics, and focusing on the stories of individuals to reveal larger themes.

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  1. My family and I have been customers of Grocery Outlet in the Mission since it open and all the staff are indeed great. It was heartbreaking when we heard the news a few months ago and it is still as we read Carmela’s story. Many blessings to her, family and friends.

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  2. The team at Grocery Outlet is great. So sad to learn of her loss.

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  3. This is so tragic, thank you for sharing Carmela and Alejandro’s story. Please post a link if folks can offer financial or other help. I hope that people who live nearby will stop at the Grocery Outlet to give her an elbow bump or kind word. I offer a virtual one!

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