Garcia's Latin Market
117 Pleasant Street
Morgantown, West Virginia

A Taste of Culture

Garcia's Latin Market brings ethnic wares to Pleasant Street.

Garcia's Latin Market loacted at 117 Pleasant Street is open Monday Through Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM and Saturdays, 9 AM to 5 PM. For more information call 304-241-1871.

Amy, Jennifer and Ralph Garcia manage the store.

by Joel Cuthbert for The Dominion Post
Looking to spice up your day, or menu, with some authentic South and Central American fare?

You won't have to travel far, just go to 117 Pleasant Street, in Morgantown, where the owner's of Garcia's Latin Market offer a taste of Latin culture with a growing array of imported products.

Since opening their store in February, Amy and Ralph Garcia, along with their daughter Jennifer, have toured the vendor lists of more than a dozen countries to stock their shelves with a selection of food and other wares spanning much of the Latin world : Mexico, Spain, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Argentina, Brazil, Ururguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, and even Texico N.M.

"It's growing day by day and the word has spread," said Jennifer, who handles the day-to-day operations of the shop.

Moving to Morgantown from Texas when Jennifer Garcia was accepted into WVU 12 years ago, the garcias -- of Mexican and Spanish descent -- found little in the way of groceries to cater to the Latin community. Amy Garcia said she was forced to drive to the strip district in Pittsburgh in order to find ingredients to prepare traditional Mexican dishes at home.

"We saw that a lot of the products were not here and you had to drive somewhere else: Pittsburgh, Ohio, Maryland," she said.

The family also encountered many locals who had similar trouble finding the products they needed nearby. And, since opening the store, they're reminded time and again by customers of the convenience of finding authentic foods and ingredeients down the street rather than out of state.

Helping these people find new products or, more often, old favorites has become an unexpected benefit of owning the market, Ralph Garcia added, telling of an elderly Colombian woman who found the products she hadn't had since her childhood.

"It's pretty much impossible to find these products, even if you go to large Latin communities like in Miami," said Yusmeris Fuentis, a Venezualan student at WVU who has become a regular at the market. "It's difficult to find and they have been doing a very good job of trying to get what people want."

While you might find some products in the ethnic section at grocery stores, Fuentis said it's unlikely you can find specific brands. And she loves the variety available at Garcia's Latin Market.

Lining racks along the shop walls and organized into sections by country, products include a diverse assortment of foods and ingredients, as well as other specialty products like plantain chips, candies and other sweets, Spanish chocolates, chorizo (Sausage), coffee, sodas, chilled soups and cookbooks. The market also features a growing selection of Italian products, including tiramisu, pastas, spice packets for sauce, and espresso.

"It's more the gourmet side of foods," Ralph garcia said.

And the market's selection of products continues to grow as customers stop in and request particular items. In addition to verbal requests, the Garcias encourage people to make requests via their they can't find what they need.

Jennifer Garcia, who researches and orders all the products, is constantly contacting vendors to increase the foods and other products available.

"We always ask if there's something that we don't have and they want it to let us know," she said.

In a short time, Garcia's Latin Market has come to serve a healthy mix of regulars who grab a basket when they come in to shop, as well as curious passersby, who stop in "to try something new."

"It's been a steady flow (since opening). We've been having students from the university and even adults that live here in town," Amy garcia said. "It's been really positive."

Susanne Rasmussen, a local resident, stopped in on her way home from the bank. She said although she drives by it all the time, this was her first visit, adding she had always wanted to make tamales so she decided to finally check it out.

"I love cooking, so it's kind of fun to find stuff you just can't find anyplace else in Morgantown," Rasmussen said. But the market offers more than food.

The shop is filled with an eclectic and colorful collection of merchandise: Puzzle boxes form Costa Rica, purses from Honduras and Guatamala, hand-crafted ceramics and Spanish dinnerware, Talavera from Mexico, silver and turquoise jewelry, pewter products from Guadalahara and Mexico, and Brazil nut candies.

"It's a beautiful shop," Rasmussen said. "I love their dishes and the color and all these exotic, interesting things."

According to Ralph Garcia, who loves the Morgantown community and it's diversity, a large part of the business is exposing non-Latin locals to new things.

"It's a part of sharing the culture," he said.

Jennifer Garcia stocks shelves full of Latin foods and ingredients at Garcia's Latin market on Pleasant Street.

Jennifer shows some of the stores nonfood items.

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