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

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.

 

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