The mercado share continues to diversify |

The mercado share continues to diversify

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Norma Santoyo stocks shelves at the new South Carson City store, Mercado San Juan, on Wednesday morning. Santoyo and her husband, Juan, are part of a new wave of Hispanic business owners.

The number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew at a rate triple that of all other businesses nationwide, and that trend is occurring on local street corners and strip malls.

And those businesses are succeeding.

Norma and Juan Santoyo, of Carson City, are part of a growing entrepreneurial class that is young and energetically pursuing a business plan that will make them debt free in three years.

To do that, they have full-time jobs in addition to operating their new Hispanic market in South Carson City. They are embracing a wide marketing strategy for Mercado San Juan, aimed at anyone who likes Latin American products.

According to business strategist J.R. Gonzales, who will be speaking at the upcoming Salsas Y Salsas event, professionals should sell to every ethnic community.

“Any person who is only going to see to one community isn’t going to be in business long,” he said at a recent business luncheon.

The number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew 31 percent between 1997 and 2002, according to the Survey of Business Owners: Hispanic-Owned Firms 2002, which was released this year by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The estimated U.S. Hispanic population exceeds 42 million, making those of Latin American origin the nation’s largest minority ethnic or race group. From July 2004 to 2005, the Hispanic population grew 3.3 percent, making it the fastest-growing minority group, according to the Census Bureau.

On Wednesday, Norma Santoyo, 31, anxiously prepared for the Friday opening of her first business. She stocked shelves along with her husband and dived into a sea of paperwork.

Around her is a $200,000 business investment: piñatas hang from the ceiling and the meat cases await product. Work has progressed on the store only on nights and weekends because Santoyo works days at the Sheriff’s Department and her husband is a maintenance worker for the Nevada Department of Transportation. Both are taking vacation time to open the store.

“It’s stressful like any new business venture,” she said while choosing products out of a catalogue for her 3,600-square-foot shop. “But I think we’re pulling it together. We have a lot of family members helping.”

One of her four sisters arrived to continue with the set up. The Santoyo family is local, which she considers good for business.

“The advantage we have is that both my husband and I have been in the community for more than 20 years,” said Santoyo, who is the mother of two boys.

The 137 Clearview Drive store will feature fresh seasoned meats, which are popular in Mexico. The mercado carries a selection of Latin beers and the ever-popular traditional Mexican candies and spices.

“I know what the Hispanic community wants because I live it,” she said. “I’m Hispanic, we’re Hispanic, we cook our traditional meals.”

Mercado San Juan hours of operation: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.