The enterprise Patricia M. Mondragon and her daughter, Patricia Isolda Villa, founded in November 2009 is a unique convenience store, but that is only part of the story.
Named after the owners' hometown, Monterrey Mexican Store, 1214 Central Ave., was established to meet a pressing community need in north central Iowa. Before its launch, Fort Dodge lacked a local vendor that offered a comprehensive selection of products in demand by the Hispanic community.
Villa said she and her mother realized that many people with cultural ties to Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America were finding it necessary to journey as far as Des Moines to find food and beverage products and other items that they desired.
-Messenger photo by Hams Madsen
Patricia Villa, left, and her mom, Patricia Mondragon, co-owners of Monterrey Mexican Store, 1214 Central Ave., look over several of the phones available in their store. In addition to being authorized U.S. Cellular agents, they also carry a full line of Mexican foods and are opening a travel agency as well.
"A lot of people around this area really wished to have something close, here in town," she said, noting that this unmet demand constituted an obvious business opportunity.
Monterrey Mexican Store has addressed that market niche aggressively.
"We sell Mexican products," Villa said, providing an overview of the store's inventory. "We've got all the spices, cheese. We've got Mexican beer. We've got a lot of different things for any kind of recipe. ... There's the banana leaves that you're not going to find anywhere around. ... I've got candy - a lot of different candy, spicy candy. A lot of different chips, too. ... "
A customer surveying the store's offerings will find corn chips, Mexican frozen treats, rosaries, guava, candies, cookies, tortillas, candles, tostadas. There are pinatas and Mexican cleaning products - brands familiar to people who grew up in Mexico. And all of that is just a sampler.
Bakery items that differ from what typically is available elsewhere in Fort Dodge are especially popular, Villa said.
"Three times a week, there is a guy ... who brings fresh bakery here," she said. "It's a Mexican bakery, so completely different from what you can find in any other store."
The store even sells an especially popular brand of bed sheet sets.
"We have the best sheet sets," Villa said. "They are 1,500 threads. They are really, really soft. And they are at a really good price. Everybody loves them. ... You're going to sleep like a king."
Having an inventory that is both extensive and varied is at the heart of the marketing approach at Monterrey Mexican Store.
"We've got a lot of everything," Villa said. "So we can offer you one-stop shopping."
Monterrey Mexican Store also sells communication and financial products of particular appeal to people who have international family or business ties to maintain.
"I'm an agent for U.S. Cellular," Villa said, noting that connection began just a few months ago on Dec. 30, 2011. "I'm an agent for Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile."
She said the store sells a comprehensive selection of cellular phones, service plans and telephone accessories and has attractively prices options for people who make a significant number of international calls.
The ability to transfer funds to relatives or others in the United States and just about anywhere in the world is another service the store features.
"We've got the ability to wire money," Villa said. "We've got five different companies that you can wire money."
The store is popular with both Hispanic customers and a wide array of others in the community.
"We've got Americans," Villa said. "We've got African people. We get a lot of kids from the college because they need to call their country."
The store is an especially important resource for people who need help coping with language communication problems since the staff speaks both English and Spanish.
"I always try to help them out when they need to translate," Villa said.
The owners said the store is truly a family project. Villa's husband and three children frequently lend a hand.
"It's a family business," she said. "Everybody helps."
The business is open seven days a week - Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. That is convenient for customers, but can be challenging for the staff.
"You have to give your life," Villa said. "Almost 12 hours we work together."
She said, however, the work is enormously satisfying.
"I like working with people," Villa said. "The most important thing is the customers. ... It's like a family. ... When customers leave completely satisfied, I'm happy. ... You have to love every day what you do for a living. If you don't love what you do for a living, forget about it."
On the horizon
A major new service will be added soon - a travel agency.
"I used to be a travel agent in Mexico for 12 years in Monterrey." Villa said. "That's one of my challenges right now. I'm trying to add a travel agency here, too. ... Before the end of this month, I will have it all set. ... I was born to do that. It's one of my goals."
She said this component of the business will provide a full range of travel services.
Contact Terrence Dwyer at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org