Carmen and Jose Talavera: Starting a Family Grocery Business

Jose Talavera is someone who knows the virtues of hard work. Immigrating to the US from Mexico in 1977, he toiled for years doing difficult painting, plaster, and renovation jobs in California. In the last few years, however, he and his wife Carmen took on another challenge: In 2008, while still working full-time day jobs, the couple opened Carniceria Sonora #3, a food store near their current home in Fruita, Colorado. Its mix of Mexican grocery staples—including queso fresco, homemade pico de gallo, and ranchera meats—have already earned them a loyal following, including customers who drive over the border from Utah just to get their Mexican-food fix. “Business isn’t always easy,” says Danny Talavera, the couple’s 26-year-old, American-born son who works at the store full time, “but when I see people driving an hour to get just a little of our meat, it really feels worth it.”

Like many immigrant entrepreneurs, the family’s unflagging work ethic has contributed to the success of their store. Although Carmen works full time at a sewing factory that makes high-end sleeping bags, she still spends evenings or weekends cooking the store’s homemade tamales, salsas, and guacamoles herself. Jose works in construction during the day before coming into the store to relieve his sons in the evenings. The job has been an especially critical one for Danny: After being laid off from the healthcare company Caremark at the start of the 2008 recession, he credits his dad with giving him “a real opportunity.”

Their store is having an impact on the broader community. “When others Mexicans here see that we’ve started something successful, they want to start their own businesses too,” Jose says. Although there were few places to get tortillas when Jose moved to the area in 1993, now several Mexican stores have popped up in the broader area. And those ventures are changing local attitudes. Danny estimates that 75 percent of the store’s regular shoppers are non-Hispanic. “We try to create a friendly environment,” Danny says, “and show people there’s more to immigrants than the negative stuff they hear in the news.”

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