Opening the market is an emotional experience for the immigrant owner



KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) – There’s a reason Veronica Piñon’s face looks familiar.

That’s because she’s been in the Kearney neighborhood since 1993. These days, she’s the smiling person behind the cashier at Kearney’s brand new ethnic food and variety store, Piñon Market at 527 E. 25th. St. This is part of the mall just east of the Kearney Post Office which once housed Eileen’s Cookies and a Subway sandwich shop.

The Piñon Market opened on June 19 and is still in a soft opening mode, its owner said.

“There have been so many nice people in my life, and I have to pay it back,” Piñon said, describing the emotional experience of owning a business in his adopted home.

Piñon Market is the American dream come true for its owner, whose poor family in San Luis de la Paz, south-central Mexico, was centered around his grandfather’s store and the kitchen inside that his grandmother was operating. The couple sold food to buyers arriving for the market on the weekends, Piñon said, and his grandfather ventured into the countryside on weekdays to sell his wares.

It was a hard life.

“How to learn when you are hungry? Piñon told the Kearney Hub. She dreamed of going to college, but instead was educated in school hard knocks. She said working with her grandfather planted a seed and made her more outgoing, able to hold a conversation with almost anyone.

After moving from rural Mexico to the United States, Piñon spent a few years in Texas before arriving in Kearney at 23.

One of the first things she did after arriving in Kearney was find a place to wash the clothes and bedding. The laundromat she found was in the mall next to The Cellar restaurant in North Kearney.

“I saw a lot of people come in,” Piñon said, so she walked over to the door and asked to speak to the owner. She waited outside until Dick Poston came out and told him he could meet her the next day. It was the start of Piñon’s 16-year stay at The Cellar.

Piñon has held various jobs since, on assembly lines, in housekeeping and occasionally in retail. From time to time, she held craft fairs and cosmetics sales events, most notably in Shelton, where she raised her daughter Nadia.

Piñon said it was a pleasure to watch her daughter receive so many opportunities growing up. Nadia attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney and became a cheerleader, her mother said.

“I tell Nadia to be thankful for what you have because nothing is easy,” Piñon said.

She began to seriously think about starting a business after meeting Sandra Barrera, an employee of the University of Nebraska Extension on Grand Island who helps immigrants start businesses. Barrera introduced Piñon to the Small Business Loans Specialist of the Rural Business Assistance Program at the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyon, and she secured seed funding.

It was the easy part. The hard part was continuing to work at the Parker Hannifin filter plant while preparing the store space. Many cleanings were necessary and Piñon had to remove the carpet from the floor to pass the sanitary inspection. Piñon’s hands are puffed up, but the floor now has a nice polished concrete look.

The Piñon Market offers many fresh produce and products popular in Mexican cuisine. There’s also a salsa and candy section, tortillas, spicy nachos, and other items that customers expect in a Mexican store: piñatas, fireplaces, pottery, and cookware.

“It’s been good business, but I need to do more promotion and marketing,” Piñon said. “Stores like mine all sell the same thing, but how do you treat your customers? I want to be a “stink”, or a bridge, and build relationships for life. “



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