ANNOTATED: Owners of Local Mexican Grocery ‘La Jalisco’ Discuss Struggles, Rewards of Small Business

ANNOTATION INSTRUCTIONS: When you see a light red highlight, click on the small comment box to the right to read the reporter’s annotation.


Transcript and Audio: Carolina Medrano and Fatima Mendoza on Family Business ‘La Jalisco’

MARA NELMS:  It’s a grocery store like any other — you can find apples and potatoes, cuts of beef and pork, fresh bread and pastries. You can also find horchata, popular Mexican candies, and authentic tacos. It’s your local grocery store — that is, your local Hispanic grocery store. When Carolina Medrano moved to Athens 20 years ago, there was one thing she missed immediately.

CAROLINA MEDRANO: Todos los productos para hacer una comida mexicana. Bueno, todos en general, pero para hispanos es común este producto lo que nos gusta, lo que consumimos y era difícil traerlo. Entonces por eso decidimos también tener algo más cerca y vender a la comunidad.

TRANSLATION: All the products you need to make Mexican food. In general, for the Hispanic community it’s common that a product that we like, that we use, is difficult to get here. So for that reason we decided to have something closer and to sell to the community.

NELMS: The result is La Jalisco on 3750 Jefferson Road, a proudly family-owned and operated local grocery store. Like most groceries stores that aren’t chains, La Jalisco struggles with offering competitive prices. Chain groceries like Kroger and Walmart enjoy economies of scale, which are advantages that result from the costs of production being spread out over a large amount of goods. Economies of scale let larger chains sell goods for lower prices without losing money.

MEDRANO: A nosotros nos dan un precios muy elevado porque compramos poquitas cosas y ellos compran muchísimas cosas. Y a veces los clientes nos dicen, “Porque está caro esto?” pero ellos no saben que hay un precio muy elevado para nosotros en algunas cosas.

TRANSLATION: [Suppliers] give us really elevated prices because we buy only a little and big chain stores buy a lot. And sometimes the clients say “Why is this so expensive?” but they don’t know that there are elevated prices for us for some things. 

NELMS: That’s not the only thing to make customer service a challenge, but Medrano loves her job regardless. 

MEDRANO: Algunos clientes que son muy ofensivos también. Algunos clientes llegan irritado. Pero es más lo bueno que lo malo. Pues ayudara mucha gente, te das cuenta de las necesidades de otra gente, lo que busca la gente… Sí, y conoces muchas gentes diferentes, muchas personas yo casi nada más conviviera con mexicanas, entonces aquí salvadoreños, guatemalans, de todo tipo de razas vienen acá y es hace que tu conozcas prácticamente el mundo.

TRANSLATION: Some customers are really rude. Some people just arrive irritated. But there’s more of the good than the bad. You realize what people need, what people look for… and you get to know a lot of different people, a lot of people that almost never live alongside Mexicans. So like, El Salvadorians, Guatemalans… people of every race come here and make it so that you know practically the whole world.

NELMS: Medrano’s family worked hard to see that come to fruition. The process was not without its difficulties. 

MEDRANO: Si, fue difícil porque no teníamos como una experiencia en esto. Y al principio nos costó mucho trabajo porque fue perdidas y lo como que esforzarnos más de lo que teníamos que hacerlo porque no sabemos de tener un negocio acá. Y fue difícil hasta ahorita, ya como que estamos familiarizando con eso.

TRANSLATION: It was hard because we had hardly any experience with this. And at first it took us a lot of work because we were lost, we had to work a lot harder because we didn’t know how to have a business here. And it was hard up until right now. Now we are getting familiar with it. 

NELMS: The competition is right down the road: there is a Walmart Neighborhood Market on Atlanta Highway, 10 minutes away from La Jalisco. Walmart’s Neighborhood Markets also offer produce, a deli, a bakery. They don’t have fresh tacos, but they do have made-to-order pizzas. And their international treats may be limited to a single shelf, but their low prices are undeniably sweet, especially for the residents suffering from the 37.8% poverty rate listed on the Athens-Clarke County website. Medrano’s daughter-in-law Fatima Mendoza says it’s hard for La Jalisco to compete. 

FATIMA MENDOZA: We don’t even get a profit, we get cents profit per, like, can, it’s not even like, oh you make a dollar out of something. There’s a lot of products that you make cents out of it. It’s just family. Family makes up the whole entire store. Because if it wasn’t for family, I think nobody could do it.

NELMS: For Medrano, family is what makes running a business worth the trouble. 

MEDRANO: Amo… este, que podemos estar con la familia. Podemos estar juntos, trabajar todos juntos allí en el mismo lugar…

TRANSLATION: I love… this. That we can be with family. We can be together, work together, all together there in the same place. 

NELMS: Thanks to Maite Ormachaea for voicing translations. This is Mara Nelms with Grady Newsource. 

Mara Nelms is a senior majoring in journalism at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.



  • Show Comments (5)

  • Jonathan Crandall

    FATIMA MENDOZA:Mara Nelms on Fatima’s assistance with the language barrier: “I am mostly quite proficient at listening through conversation. The real trouble starts when I hear words that I don’t know. And so for that, Fatima was extremely helpful. I really appreciated her being willing to be kind of conscripted into the role of translator. If I didn’t know something, she would speak up and translate basically what her mother-in-law had just said.”

  • Jonathan Crandall

    Fatima Mendoza says it’s hard for La Jalisco to compete.Mara Nelms on Why It’s Newsworthy: “The reason why it’s important to me is … Hispanic and Latino people are a growing portion of the population and that means the media should be reaching out to them as audiences, as readers, as critics, as journalists, especially as journalists. I think there is a lot of perspective there that can be missed when you’re not familiar with the situation culturally. So that’s why I think it’s really important. I think if you don’t deliberately reach out, by virtue of you having not been the one to reach out, the culture that you created internally with your media is unwelcoming.”

  • Jonathan Crandall

    Todos los productos para hacer una comida mexicana.Mara Nelms on why she chose audio as a platform and her experience with it: “With the way that I did it, Carolina’s speaking is still audible. If you know Spanish, and you want to make sure I’m not full of it, you can listen to what she’s saying instead of what the translation is saying. I think that was the most important thing to me …
    I used Audition, Adobe Premier. I took an Intro to Video class and took to Premier really quickly and using audition is very similar to using Premier. It wasn’t very hard, it just kind of takes time to do by its nature.”

  • Jonathan Crandall

    TRANSLATION: All the products you need to make Mexican food.Mara Nelms on recording a different (translation) voice for the audio segment: “She (Maite Ormachaea) is a coworker of mine and we practice a little bit of Spanish conversation. She’s from Uruguay. I asked her to read the translations of the Spanish that I had written so that it wasn’t just my voice doing it because I thought that would be a little bit too much of me speaking and she was thankfully willing to do it. I was very grateful.”

  • Jonathan Crandall

    that is, your local Hispanic grocery store.Mara Nelms on what motivated her to focus on business owners who speak Spanish as their main language: “I was in two Spanish courses at the time. There comes a point when you’re learning a language where the classroom setting really isn’t the best place for you to be learning anymore, not that those things aren’t still useful, valuable and important. But, there just comes a point in time when it’s better for you to be speaking to people. So that was kind of my little challenge to myself towards the end of the semester.” Nelms graduated in December, 2019.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *