Groceries, and some spices of life
La Campana Tienda Latina
“Right now, it is just a grocery store with a snack bar,” said oldest brother Jose, or “DJ” as he is called. “We are thinking this summer, of opening a little restaurant.” He hopes that is something they can get accomplished by March.
The front of the store is lined with well-kept, well organized shelves filled with many products, some easily recognizable, some unfamiliar. Along one wall is an impressive selection of peppers, spices, and other seasonings that came from around the world. “We mainly have imported products,” said Mendez. “Some are from China, Mexico, Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras, Columbia and other places. Many of the products are commonly used in Latin cooking. Often people from other cultures miss their traditional dishes, so there is a need for a store like this, to be able to find the products they can’t find anywhere else, “ he said. “Basically we don’t sell the food; we have the ingredients to make the food. People come and get their spices, and everything they need to make a meal.”
Some of the items they carry are grown in very specific climates, according to Mendez, like the hot red peppers that grow in trees, and that’s why items come from different places in the word. Even the packaged cookies contain spices not found here, he said. The pastries and breads come from a supplier in Marshalltown, Lara’s Bakery. They specialize in Latin products. While the products are visually beautiful, and popular, he can’t say for sure what all the ingredients are in the baked goods because they have their own secrets, just like a secret sauce from McDonalds or Burger King. “But you know it’s good, and you like it,” he said.
Beverages are also available at La Tienda. “If you went to a different country and couldn’t get a Coca Cola or a Mountain Dew, I’m sure you’d miss it, so these drinks are made in different countries and we buy them from a distributor,” said Mendez. They carry sodas, juices, and have already been approved for a license that will allow them to sell beer.
The small family grocery store in Guatemala gave the brothers years of experience in the grocery business. Michael is the one who knows and decides what should be ordered, according to Mendez. Each of the brothers has roles they are best at, and so the partnership runs pretty smooth.
In the rear of the shop is a large open space that has some tables and chairs and small snack bar. That’s where Mendez says they would like to start serving food. They are hoping with warmer months ahead, it will be a good time to expand the business. To serve food in the snack area would require hiring perhaps two more people, Mendez said. One item they would like to serve is a traditional seafood dish that is common to his culture. Hot dogs are also being considered. Many people have asked if they are going to open a restaurant, and so there is a lot of interest. Mendez said he wants to avoid competing with eating establishments already here, by offering different things.
La Tienda is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.