Cottage Grove couple opens Hispanic grocery store
When Victor and Claudia Velasco first moved to Cottage Grove nine years ago, they noticed there weren't many others in this growing suburb that looked like them.
"It was probably us and one other Hispanic family," Victor, 31, said.
These days, the Velascos say, it's different. Nearly a decade after they made the move from Plymouth, the married natives of northern Mexico have noticed a change: more and more people of Hispanic descent are making south Washington County their home -- and they've noticed the changes that have come with the influx.
"You go to Cub Foods and they've got aisles of Hispanic stuff," Victor said.
So the couple has decided to take a leap and do something Claudia, 26, said they have dreamed of for years: open a Hispanic market in Cottage Grove. The store is located at 7155 80th Street, in the 80th Street Green shopping center behind Dairy Queen.
The Velascos said they want the business, El Sol Supermercado, to be a place that caters to the area's growing Hispanic population and, Victor hopes, introduces others to the Mexican culture he and his wife are so proud of.
"We walk both sides of the street," said Victor. "We live a pretty Americanized lifestyle, but we love our culture."
It is that love of their heritage, the Velasco's said, that is behind the desire to share it with their community. Their family-owned market opened its doors last weekend, and will carry traditional Hispanic groceries, candies and a meat counter with fresh cuts of meat. It will also stock some non-Hispanic food items.
"We're not just looking to get Hispanic customers," Claudia said recently, as she, Victor and other family members took a break from stocking the store's shelves in advance of its opening. "We want to have cooking seminars -- how to make salsas, how to make homemade guacamole."
It's all part of an effort, they said, to become a fixture in Cottage Grove -- the place the southeast metro's Hispanic residents can get authentic ingredients from a neighborhood store without driving to St. Paul or beyond, and a place for others to come in, ask questions and leave knowing more about Mexican cooking and culture.
"We want people walking out of here feeling good," Victor said.