Lula's Mexican Tienda brings a slice of the south to Perham
To the untrained eye, most of what lines the shelves in Lula's Tienda is totally novel, but to Lourdes Escareño's loyal customers, it's just what they needed, a taste of home.
Lula's popped up with little fanfare last Tuesday in the ITOW Museum on Main Street. The store stocks a modest amount of groceries, medicine and cleaning supplies from Mexico and Central America. There's also candy, piñatas, toys and fresh produce.
Since opening, products have been flying off the shelves, as Escareño scrambles to keep up with local delicacies from around Latin America.
"There's stuff that I don't even know what it is," Escareño said. "I'm from Mexico, and a lot of people who live here, they're from Guatemala, and I don't know. They have different ways, they eat different foods and stuff, they're like 'why don't you order this? Why don't you order that?'"
After 4 p.m the store is packed with workers after they finish their shifts, Escareño said.
"Some of my shelves are empty already," she said. "I don't have another truck coming for two more weeks."
Escareño grew up in Guanajuato, Mexico, which she says is "the heart of Mexico." Before moving to Perham a year and a half ago, she lived in Pelican Rapids, where her dad owns a Mexican restaurant. That experience is what helps her source such a wide variety of authentic products.
"There is a lot of people from the south, from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, it's like a multicultural town," Escareño said.
Escareño was prompted to open her store after finding a shortage of Latin American products when she moved to Perham.
"When I was looking for tortillas or stuff from the south, there was a very small amount of stuff here in the stores in town," she said.
Instead of grabbing a jar of picante salsa off the shelf of the grocery store, Escareño decided to make her own store. Now Lula's has "all the brands of jalapenos," so her customers can choose whichever they prefer.
So far tortillas and fresh baked mexican sweets have been the biggest sellers, with candy not far behind.
Escareño has already driven to Pan De Vida Bakery in Long Prairie three times to restock, only to sell out right away.
For the salt and pepper on hotdish crowd, Escareño recommends trying a mexican pop or juice.
"I know you guys are more like 'What is this, I don't want to try it,' but if it's a pop you guys don't mind," she said.
Now that her store is up and running, Escareño is looking forward to getting to know more people around the area.
"I want to be a part of this community," she said.