New ethnic food grocery store brings Hispanic culture to Mitchell
Ethnic food lovers residing in the Mitchell community no longer have to travel for their groceries.
While living in Mitchell over the past decade, Ruth Clemente-Escalera recognized there was a void in the community, particularly for the Hispanic population. With no grocery stores in Mitchell offering a wide variety of Hispanic style foods, spices, produce and other ingredients needed to make traditional cuisines that are enjoyed in countries such as Puerto Rico, Mexico and Guatemala, Clemente-Escalera felt it was time to fill that void and open an ethnic food grocery store.
“A lot of people in the Hispanic community living in Mitchell have been asking me where they can get vegetables, ingredients and Hispanic food products. And the only places close by, that had some of that type of food, were in Sioux Falls and Huron, so you have to make quite a long trip just to get that food,” Clemente-Escalera said.
The Casa Del Coqui grocery store has been open for about a month, but COVID-19 forced irregular hours of operation. As of now, Clemente-Escalera said she is taking orders from customers through her business page on Facebook and will deliver products as well. Her goal is to have the grand opening by the upcoming summer in 2021, which will operate on standard business hours from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Weekend hours will vary.
The Casa Del Coqui grocery store, which means "house of the frog" in Spanish, became the newest addition inside the North Star Plaza Mall, located at 1401 N. Main St., across the street from the Mitchell Recreation Center.
According to Shawna Goldammer, owner of the North Star Plaza Mall, the entire building was recently renovated, paving the way for more businesses to rent space inside the mall in northern Mitchell. Prior to the renovations, there were several suites, which range in size from 1,200 to 2,000 square feet, that were yet to be furbished. But each suite, including Casa Del Coqui's, is now fully renovated.
As a Puerto Rican who transplanted to America roughly 13 years ago, Clemente-Escalera knows what it’s like to adapt to a new country. While she said adapting to a new culture can be challenging at times, Clemente-Escalera found that making food traditionally enjoyed in one’s native country that they left can cure the feeling of being homesick.
“When you leave your home country and move to another country and you don’t have your friends, and some of your family, food brings you closer to them while being far away from home,” Clemente-Escalera said.
The grocery store will primarily offer Hispanic foods and cooking ingredients, but Clemente-Escalera said she is bringing other ethnic foods in as well such as Asian food products. In addition, Clemente-Escalera said she will be selling beauty products and perfumes commonly used in Hispanic countries.
By bringing the ethnic grocery store to Mitchell, Clemente-Escalera hopes it will create a more inclusive environment for Hispanic minorities and other groups of ethnicities, which would in turn make them feel welcomed to the community.
Clemente-Escalera also serves as a Spanish translator for Spanish speaking people who are new to the community. With her knowledge of the American culture and familiarity with Mitchell, she’s planning to offer more services to the Hispanic population.
“One of my goals with this business is to let everyone know we are here to help, and give them more resources to connect with the Mitchell community,” she said. “Since I’ve been living here for a while now, a lot of people in the Hispanic community know me and use me for translating and things like that if they need help. I just really want to help them out through this business, whether that be showing them the right hospitals or banks.”