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‘A piece of Mexico’: El Barrio Mexican Market opens for business (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY)

Brianna Quintana, a new employee at El Barrio Mexican Market, helps bags goods at the counter last week in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez

A lot of good ideas begin with a Post-It note.

At least this seems to be true for Christian Garcia, Monserrat Quintana, Matthew Gross, and Haven Caravelli-Gross, the owners of the newly opened El Barrio Mexican Market in downtown Grass Valley. El Barrio marks the first authentic Mexican market in the Grass Valley-Nevada City area.


Just six months ago, the quartet set the goal of opening a market of this type, writing their idea on a sticky note and tacking it to the wall. They opened their market last week.

“It was pretty quick, but it seemed like forever,” said Gross. “We had a great experience with the city and the county and everybody involved. Everybody was a pleasure to work with.”

Authentic Mexican foods can be found at El Barrio Mexican Market in Grass Valley, including nopales, or cactus leaves.
Photo: Elias Funez

The market offers a wide variety of groceries, including a carniceria for all your meat needs. Fresh vegetables and fruit are at the ready, and a gift store is attached featuring a colorful assortment of pinatas, art, home wares, and accessories.

Beer and Mexican beverages are in the cooler, and there are even toiletries and hygiene products. Caroline’s Coffee Roasters’ special El Barrio blend can be purchased by the bag or enjoyed within the store.

And then there’s the made-to-order food, offering tacos, burritos, tamales, and more.

People line up for the burritos, tacos, and other authentic Mexican foods offered at El Barrio Mexican Market.
Photo: Elias Funez

“The kitchen is to stay specifically true to the family traditions; the food from Mexico City and all the parts of Mexico,” said Gross.

Co-owner Quintana, who hails from Mexico City, said that her cooking has been most heavily influenced by her father, and she intends on keeping her family recipes to share with the community.

“In Mexico City, that’s the most important part about any place: the food and any preparations to have food daily for the people and their families,” she explained. “My goal is when people come in here, they feel like they are in Mexico and they have a piece of Mexico here in the city, and they can have Mexico closer to them.”

El Barrio Mexican Market co-owner Matthew Gross works on restocking some of the popular items at the store at 309 Neal St. in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez


Garcia — also from Mexico City — has overseen the development of the carniceria, a Mexican term for “butcher.” Through tears of happiness he said: “My favorite part is seeing the people excited and happy to be here.”

As for the name El Barrio, Caravelli-Gross explained that people sometimes misconstrue the true meaning of “el barrio.”

“It means a neighborhood,” she said. “So when we were talking to Christian and Monsy about a name, there was this whole banter that went on around it and (Christian) was like, ‘No, like a neighborhood. Like a place where people gather.’ We wanted to change everybody’s perspective on what ‘the barrio’ means.”

Neon lights serve as a photo backdrop in front of El Barrio Mexican Market in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez

Caravelli-Gross is a candidate for Grass Valley City Council. She’s running for one of two seats, along with Matthew Coulter and Hilary Hodge.

Added Gross: “That name works perfect because we are the neighborhood Mexican market in Grass Valley. We are here to serve the people who are walking around, who are driving here to see us. We’re here just to have that extra authenticity in this market.”

“We wanted everyone to feel like they are in Mexico,” said Quintana. “We have gotten so many comments that once they step in here, they all of a sudden get like a good vibe because of all the colors and the friendly environment we have here.”

A grand opening celebration complete with a mariachi band and dancers will be held Sept. 16.

El Barrio Mexican Market is open 7 a.m. to 7: p.m., seven days a week, and is at 309 Neal St. in Grass Valley.

Pinatas and many other goods typically found in a Mexican market can be had at El Barrio in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez
A taco and Coke in a glass bottle are ready for a customer at El Barrio Mexican Market last week in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez
A gift shop filled with authentic Mexican wares and goods is attached to El Barrio Mexican Market in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez
People check out their goods from the counter at El Barrio Mexican Market last week in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez
The carniceria has all types of fresh meat available.
Photo: Elias Funez
Employees at El Barrio Mexican Market in Grass Valley help check out customers last week after the store’s opening.
Photo: Elias Funez

Jennifer Nobles is a writer with The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com

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