Don Jose Tienda Mexicana: An authentic taste of Mexico

By Christina Austin
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

When Gloria Gonzalez came to the United States 23 years ago, she never would have imagined that a mere 16 years later she would be a successful business owner.

Don Jose Tienda Mexicana at 708 W. Rosemary Street provides the Hispanic community of Carrboro with little hints of home. Pablo Gonzalez, brother of owner Gloria Gonzalez, prepares meat to put in beef tacos. (Staff photo by Christina Austin)

Seven years ago, Gonzalez and her husband, originally from Mexico City, became the owners of Don Jose Tienda Mexicana at 708 W. Rosemary Street.

With its Mexican music, Hispanic workers and customers and signs in Spanish, Don Jose gives its customers a little taste of home.

“It was an opportunity,” Gonzalez said. “It seemed like it was meant for us. You know, sometimes it’s like that, the perfect time and we had the money.”

Don Jose, open Monday through Sunday,  offers a variety of Mexican food, a money transfer service, a bill paying service, cell phones and a beauty shop. Don Jose has become a one stop shop for many Latinos in the area.

Gonzalez said that her business has always been successful, but less so in the past two years, which she said have been difficult.

“We are struggling,” she said. “The economy is killing us.”

Gonzalez’s brother, Pablo, also works at the store. He has been working for his sister for the past two years. Prior to working at Don Jose, he helped construct roads in Pittsboro.

“Oh, are you talking about the economy?” he joked. “Is Obama leaving yet?”

Gonzalez described her customers as being mainly Hispanic, most of whom have some grasp of the English language.

“It’s unbelievable, the people around here,” Gonzalez said. “People around here want to go places and learn English. I’ve been in other towns, but here people pay attention to that. They want to be educated.”

Education is one point that Gonzalez said she stresses to her three children. She said she does not want her children, two daughters and a son, to inherit the business.

“I don’t want them to have this,” she said. “It takes all of your time. I want them to go to school and get an education and be somebody.”

Her children do not work at the store with her and her husband.

“I brought them here all the time when they were little, so now they never want to come,” Gonzalez said. “That’s fine if they know they don’t like this kind of work. I tell them go, be successful.”

Gonzalez  said she and her husband pride themselves on always trying to please their customers.

“We try to do our best,” she said. “We try to please the people, and if we don’t do it, we lose business. Even a little comment, we take it.”

One customer from Guatemala, who gave his name only as Juan, said he comes to Don Jose all the time.

“They speak Spanish and they have products that I like.” Juan said. “I can also send money to Guatemala.”

Juan currently works at Town Hall Grill, owned by a friend of his, and has lived in Carrboro for the past four years. He said he moved to Carrboro to find a better life. He wanted a better home and more money. Most of his family still lives in Guatemala.

“I want to help my family. They need it a lot,” he said.

Whether it be the smell of tacos being made or the religious images hanging on the wall, Don Jose Tienda Mexicana tries to stay true to its Mexican roots and bring its customers things they were used to getting back at home.

For additional information on Hispanic owned businesses in the area visit:

http://latijam.jomc.unc.edu/latijam/?p=361

http://latijam.jomc.unc.edu/latijam/?p=507

 

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