The COVID-19 pandemic has been far from easy for small businesses.
Many of them have had to get creative and reinvent themselves to stay afloat. For a Waukegan grocery store, that means serving more than fresh produce.
Adam Carson and Nydia Gonzalez-Carson are the owners of Supermercado Gonzalez.
Nydia Gonzalez-Carson’s parents opened the Mexican supermarket in the 90s. About two years ago, the married couple took over management during the pandemic.
“I loved growing up with my parents and in this store living a very entrepreneurial life at a very young age,” she said. “I remember one of my biggest purchases was piñatas.”
The grocery store is only part of their journey. When customers head to the back of the store, they find a cafe that her husband runs called Drip and Culture.
“The fact that it’s a Black and Maroon owned cafe in suburban Lake County, it’s just a different experience,” Adam Carson said. “There aren’t many of us here.”
It’s not where you’ll typically find a cafe, but the owners say it’s part of their rebranding and an effort to bring new, collaborative energy to the store.
“My dad always said a que dale sangre nueva, that is, you have to give him new blood,” said Nydia Gonzalez-Carson. “A business needs attention and love. The fact that we were coming back and making all these changes really helped add vibrancy to the store. »
In addition to the cafe, Nydia Gonzalez-Carson recently opened a second-floor boutique and art studio called GATHR where she hosted yoga along with other classes.
“For me, it’s a community center, in a way, it’s a place where people come and gather around similar interests, love for cute things, love for art, l love of handcrafting and it’s just a place to learn those things,” she says.
Nydia Gonzalez-Carson wants it to be a space where people can come and be vulnerable.
“That you can share in this space,” she said. “That you can share what it means to be Latina, what it means to be not quite so Mexican, not quite American.”
The evolution of the store is part of a larger mission for the Carsons. It is also a space where other entrepreneurs have the chance to learn and showcase their passions.
“For us, it’s really how we take our experiences in business, I spent 15 years in healthcare, and how she takes her experiences as a speech-language pathologist and brings it into our day-to-day functioning,” said said Adam Carson. “And also and how do we teach others how to run a business as well.”
One of their latest adventures is the creation of Entrepreneurs Collective, a program aimed at supporting people who want to start a business.
“We are delighted to launch this program. We have five people participating, five business owners joining this,” said Adam Carson. “There is a teacher in the community who leads the coursework. We are going to have experts to talk about pricing strategy, web design and marketing. All the things people need to form the foundation of a strong business.
As the couple continues to scale their business, their goal remains the same: to impact the community.
“We have one goal and that is to help our community,” said Nydia Gonzalez-Carson. “Share what we learned and share what we saw.”