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SoCo Market helps shine light on Latino-owned businesses

Latino Heritage

Read more stories celebrating the local Latino community here.

As a cloudy haze hovered over Old Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa, a festive spirit was maintained by Latino artists, creatives, and makers of all kinds showcasing at the Friday night SoCo market.

A white sheet covered tables displaying racks of butterfly wing earrings and bracelets as eager millennials in bucket hats sifted through vintage shirts from the 1980s and 90s. Hungry attendees who needed a break from browsing waited expectantly in line at drink and food stands as succulent plants nestled in macrame hung at a nearby booth, twirling in the summer breeze.

It was an atmosphere typical of the monthly SoCo Market that began its start nearly a year ago. The market will take a break in September, but markets will resume in October and December. No dates have been finalized. Keep an eye out on the market’s Instagram: @thesocomarket.

Mercedes Hernández, 26, is founder of the market that focuses on highlights and celebrates small millennial-owned businesses.

“It brings the whole community together, we’re supporting small businesses. We’re supporting people who have big dreams,” she said.

During the bright and bustling event, we caught up with a few local Latino-owned businesses:

Jennifer Flores and Rosa Luviano founders of Monarca Valley Floral

Flowers are important to the Rohnert Park mother-daughter duo who launched a floral-arrangement business in March.

“In times where we’ve felt lost, scared or depressed or sick, something that always grounds us is always having flowers. They bring so much color and liveliness into a home,” said Jennifer Flores, 22. “Flowers have always been such a big part of our lives.”

Six years ago, Rosa Luviano started creating floral arrangements to celebrate her daughter’s important milestones like her birthdays, quinceañera and first communion. Luviano did it out of passion and found joy in creating arrangements for people she loved.

That passion for flowers turned into a business that Luviano and her daughter now operate. Their mission: To create floral arrangements that brighten any room or someone’s day.

“Whenever I’d make arrangements for people, it made me so happy seeing their reactions,” said Luviano, 41, with tears in her eyes. “I just want to make people feel happy. That’s the whole point of this business.”

Their logo, a monarch butterfly, reflects stories they shared as a family about butterflies migrating to Luviano’s native home of Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. They believe the butterflies are souls of deceased relatives returning home.

“I’m a first-generation student navigating college, my parents moved here from a different country, it reminded me of our journey as a family as we navigate life together,“ Flores said. ”We want to show who we are.“

Instagram: @monarcavalleyfloral

Blanca Molina founder of Pokidi Lab

Blanca Molina, a Santa Rosa-based graphic designer and illustrator from Jalisco, Mexico, creates posters, pins, stickers and jewelry that drip with colorful symbols inspired by her Latino heritage.

Her art is meant to promote positivity, fierceness, humor and wittiness during hard times.

“Romanticize your life,” said Molina, 32. ”Hey, maybe today kinda sucks, but it doesn’t have to be like this every day. My intention is to lighten up people’s moods.”

In August 2020, the Sacramento University graphics design graduate posted a piece on Instagram called “Unwavering Resilience.” The piece was inspired by farm workers who continued working as California wildfires raged nearby, and it received tons of positive feedback that encouraged Molina to start selling her art on Shopify, she said.

“I want people to see themselves and their culture in the things I create,” Molina said. “You have your job that pays the bills and the job that feeds your soul. This work doesn’t just pay the bills— it feeds my soul.”

Instagram: @blanca.creative

Lissete Martin founder of Herrera de Corazón

Lissete Martin opened Herrera de Corazón in February 2020 after dreaming of opening her own gift shop since she was 8 years old.

“When I was a kid, I’d make these giant retail stores and would lay out Bratz dolls accessories and all that,” Martin, 23, said.

The Santa Rosa native handcrafts and curates items that are 100% de corazón — Spanish for “from the heart.” Her shop features custom items and jewelry. Things like embroidered clutches, hand painted sombreros and tassels can also be found on her Instagram.

Martin created the shop to honor her grandfather, a blacksmith in Jalisco, Mexico, who passed away in 2018. She said it’s vital to incorporate pieces from their Latino culture and she specifically sells items created by artisans from Chiapas and Jalisco.

Latino Heritage

Read more stories celebrating the local Latino community here.

“Through starting this business, I’ve found myself,” Martin said. “The messages that I get from people who tell me how the jewelry makes them feel ... well, that doesn’t amount to anything that I could ever do.”

Instagram: @herreradecorazon

Maricruz Sanchez founder of The Real Chamoy

Maricruz Sanchez is known as the “Chamoy Queen” to her customers.

The nickname is derived from a Mexican sweet-and-sour jam Sanchez used to eat as a child in Mexico City. She recalled adding chamoy to fruits and chips and chowing down with her little sister.

“It was a big part of my childhood,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like,” Sanchez said. “We have people from all cultures trying our chamoy. It’s for everyone.”

Two years ago, she had it again as an adult after ordering it from a Los Angeles-based company for her husband’s birthday. Then, something clicked in Sanchez — she’d bring chamoy to Sonoma County.

The 28-year-old spent a week hunting for the best chamoy recipe and finally found one last May and started selling it out of her Santa Rosa home.

Sanchez takes pride in her chamoy that usually comes as dried fruit, a jam and candy.

“Everything is made from scratch,” Sanchez said. “We’ve broken so many blenders while trying to blend the fruit.”

Instagram: @therealchamoy

Janexis Lopez founder of Pica Limón

Lopez was first inspired by seeing Oakland’s buzzing food vendors selling micheladas locas out of their homes. She thought, “Something like this would be great in Santa Rosa.”

In April 2020, with a fiery drive, Lopez started selling the spicy tomato cocktail juice concoction from her pick-up on Sebastopol Road. Suddenly, Lopez was forced to stop when the coronavirus pandemic shutdown intensified. Then, in July 2020, she got laid off from her job.

Several brainstorming sessions later, she finally landed on creating a build-your-own tostiloco rental cart. In April 2021, her husband and father-in-law began building the sleek white cart now known as Pica Limón.

“A client once called it a 7-Eleven on wheels,” Lopez, 29, said. “Honestly, it’s whatever you want it to be. It just adds a bit of spice and flavor to special events.”

At the time, she was devastated from losing her job, but it turns out it was a blessing that pushed her to pursue her beloved business.

“I’m proud of it,” Lopez said. “I’m proud to have something that is mine. I’m proud people think it’s cool and that it works.”

Instagram: @pica_limón

You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at mya.constantino@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5220. On Twitter @searchingformya.

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