The family who recently opened El Mercadito, (“the little market”) in Four Corners has discovered the new enterprise fills more niches than originally anticipated.
Andrew Garcia, son of the store’s owner Nora Jauregui, says his mother saw a need for a market where members of the Gallatin Valley’s growing Hispanic community could find the foodstuffs they needed to prepare their native cuisine. However, in the past eight months, the Latin market has attracted customers of all ethnicities who are looking for a place to buy products they enjoyed during their travels to Central American countries; cooks seeking ingredients for or advice about preparing Mexican dishes; or Four Corners-area residents needing to pick up some groceries without driving all the way to Belgrade or Bozeman.
But perhaps the most notable service the store provides is the least tangible, Garcia says. Above all, Garcia says, genuine relationships and a sense of community is growing among store employees, customers, and the community at large – a feeling that reminds him of home.
“Our family comes from a town (in Mexico) that is very connected and community oriented – everybody knows everybody,” he says. Now, at El Mercadito, he says he is experiences the same sense of community developing.
“We love talking to our customers and they love talking to us,” he says.
El Mercadito, located on Shedhorn Drive a few doors down from Taco del Sol, isn’t a large store, carries a vast array of products from Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, Honduras, and other Central American countries.
Offerings include staples, such as maseca and grains for grinding; produce, including cactus and aloe leaves, hibiscus, and tamarind; dried chiles of all types – that is, those used just for flavor and others to heat things up; and dairy items, including pure cheeses. The store carries handmade tortillas of multiple varieties, pre-made salsas, mole and other sauces. Seafood offerings include tilapia and octopus;
the meat case houses all grades of skirt steak commonly used in Mexican cuisine and arrachera for barbecuing, in addition to pre-marinated meats and fajita packages ready to go. Tamales are available individually or by the dozen, a bakery case includes freshly baked breads and pastries, and prepackaged lunch items are available.
A vast array of pre-packaged goods with labels in Spanish, as well as sodas from Mexico and other countries. Garcia says some customers come in just for cases of Mexican Coke, because they prefer the taste to the American version.
Garcia’s sister Liz, who handles much of the market’s administrative work, says the store has roughly doubled its inventory since it opened, thanks in part to customer inquiries.
“We are consistently asking clients if there are things they saw in other countries that they would like, or things they miss from home,” she says. Thanks to a relationship with a distributor with access to those products, El Mercadito has been able to fulfill many of those requests.
Occasionally the store offers give-aways and sales, as well as special events around occasions. Though nothing has specifically planned for Cinco de Mayo this weekend, Garcia invites customers should watch El Mercadito (BZN) on Facebook and Instagram for notifications of the latest plans.
El Mercadito is open Mondays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 10 to 6.