The heart of Everett – the business district – has a new rhythm
When the Sanchez family came to Lincoln from Valencia, California, about 20 years ago, they were less than impressed with the city’s grocery stores.
“I remember when we came to Nebraska, we’d go to Super Saver and they didn’t even have tortillas,” AnaKaren Sanchez said.
Originally from Mexico, the family was used to tamales, pozole, carnitas and Coca Cola in glass bottles. But living in the Midwest, they couldn’t find the food that had been such an important part of their lives.
So Sanchez’s father, Favian, decided to do something about it. He opened a restaurant, El Chaparro, in Lincoln’s Everett neighborhood. Then, in 2006, he opened Guerrero’s Market to fill the city’s void in Hispanic food. The market served as a pioneer of sorts, ushering in five other Hispanic businesses to the neighborhood and helping to revitalize Klein’s Corner, 11th and G streets, the anchor of the business district.
Today, AnaKaren Sanchez has owned her father’s market for two years. She’s a mother of two and is pursuing a degree in business administration from Nebraska Wesleyan University.
About 65 to 70 percent of the store’s customers are Hispanic, Sanchez said, many of them Mexican or Guatemalan immigrants, although the market also attracts white locals and refugees.
Hispanic or Latino people, both immigrants and natives, made up about 6.3 percent of Lincoln’s population in 2010. About 7.4 percent of Lincoln’s population in the same year was made up of immigrants of all nationalities.
Klein’s Corner has become a hub for Lincoln’s Hispanic population. Sanchez’s father bought the building from the Klein family, which had operated Klein’s Grocery for more than 73 years, and filled its empty spaces with businesses owned by his friends and family members. First came Carlos Rodriguez Insurance, an additional branch of a family friend’s insurance business; then Pan Dulce Bakery, owned by Bolivian immigrants who used to deliver bread to Guerrero’s Market; followed by ice cream shop Neveria Arcoiris, owned by his sister; and then Salon Belleza and a cell phone store next door to the market, both owned by family friends.
Other Hispanic businesses in the Everett neighborhood include a Tae Kwon Do studio on 10th Street and a clothing store adjacent to El Chaparro on 13th Street.
The businesses cater to the fastest-growing portion of Nebraska’s population — Hispanic population increased 77 percent statewide between 2000 and 2010, according to a University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Office of Latino/Latin American Studies report — and they also represent a growing sector of state business owners. Hispanic-owned business increased by 56 percent between 2002 and 2007.
Sanchez said she’s proud of what the business has become.
The market sells all the regular pantry essentials — bread, milk, eggs and the like — but it also stocks fresh produce, some of which is shipped in from Mexico; queso fresco; a variety of dried spices and chiles; carnitas, pigs’ feet and other unique meats; shelves upon shelves of salsas; Mexican junk food; and more. Sanchez said she’s been able to expand the market’s offerings as its popularity — and budget — has grown.
Video: Inside Guerrero’s Market, which has filled the void left after a previous grocery closed
Video by Cristina Woodworth
The other Klein’s Corner businesses have unique offerings too.
At Pan Dulce, customers come for sweet breads, pastries and cookies baked fresh every day.
Inside, customers load piles of shining pastries and flaky-crust bread onto red ovular trays for 50 cents to 75 cents apiece. Many customers exchange words in Spanish with the cashiers.
Neveria Arcoiris, the ice cream shop, sells scoops of traditional chocolate, vanilla and mint chocolate chip as well as queso and coconut flavors. The shop also sells tostadas, Mexican sodas and flavored waters.
The only non-Hispanic-owned business in the Guerrero’s Market building is Geno’s 11th and G Liquor Store, owned by MJ Dunn and husband Gene Podolak.
Klein’s Corner provides a good representation of Lincoln’s relatively diverse population, Dunn said.
“We have refugees and immigrants and people looking for a better life, and then we have people who’ve lived there for 20 years,” she said. “It’s a unique little cove.”
Dunn and Podolak have owned the narrow store sandwiched between the market and the bakery for 19 years. Dunn said business has its ebbs and flows, with booms during the spring “wedding season” and football season, and customers represent a cross section of Lincoln — young college students, immigrants, 30- and 40-somethings buying a bottle of wine on their way home from work and blue-collar workers who do manual labor all night and drop by the liquor store as the sun rises.
Dunn and Podolak run their store relatively autonomously and don’t meet often with other area business owners. That’s not the case for the Hispanic business owners.
The city of Lincoln doesn’t offer any assistance specifically for minority business owners, so the Hispanic businesses on Klein’s Corner band together, meeting semi-regularly to collaborate and discuss any issues, Sanchez said.
One issue they have discussed is the construction on 11th Street, which for the last year has hampered foot and vehicle traffic in Klein’s Corner. In the last year, construction has widened sidewalks and created bike lanes, and recently workers razed the street corners to make way for trees and flowers.
As each new Hispanic business has opened its doors, the others have worked together to promote it, buying ad space in local Spanish-speaking radio stations and employing word-of-mouth.
The market has always attracted a steady stream of customers because of its convenient location for those who live in the Everett and Near South neighborhood. Many of the market’s customers don’t have cars or don’t know how to drive, Sanchez said.
The biggest draw for customers, though, is the comforting power of the food that reminds them of home.
“(Food) defines who we are,” Sanchez said. “Food is big with us. We eat as a family, and it’s very important to us.”
Other stories in this series:Turning the corner: A neighborhood in transition Changes in Everett neighborhood echo across Lincoln Neighbors in action: the anatomy of a comeback. The people of Everett: ‘All walks of life live down here’ Neighborhood’s unofficial watchdog helps in many ways