In the back of her Rogers Park shop Dulceria la Fiesta, Reyna Gonzalez spends hours carefully putting together the party essentials that are born to be broken.
“We break them just so we can see what we’re creating. And if they’re breakable and if they’re too loose or too hard, because you need to get that perfect,” Gonzalez explained. “Because it’s for kids. If they can’t break it, the candy doesn’t fall out.”
Traditional piñatas aren’t hard to find in Chicago. But if you’re looking for a design that’s a little off the beaten path, Gonzalez says she can craft just about anything in cardboard and crepe – from unicorns and superheroes to art icons and 8-foot-tall micheladas.
Like her creations, Gonzalez and her shop have taken a few hits. The former accountant left a 20-year career to strike out on her own in 2018.
“I just got tired of the cubicle, the long hours in the desk, you know, the emails, phone calls. So I told my husband, well there’s always parties, there’s always celebrations. I think this will be a good business to go into,” she said.
But just as the party was getting started, disaster struck the fledgling party store.
“In 2018, Christmas, it burned. We were like 20, 21 days in the store and it was just completely gone. We just had to kind of pick up where we left off.”
Rebuilding took nearly two years, but Gonzalez hung on. She used the time to teach herself the skill that wound up creating a niche for her store, a process she says taught herself using internet tutorials and a lot of trial and error.
Though Gonzalez admits the timing of Dulceria La Fiesta’s comeback could have been better – the July 2020 launch landed right in the middle of the pandemic — she says social media has helped customers searching for just the right piñata to find her.
We’ve got actually a lot of people from Wisconsin, Harvey, Indiana, Waukegan, you know, just for the piñatas because we can custom make, you know, because it’s “oh, we can’t find this anywhere, you know, my daughter really wants this.”
And after a tough couple of years for gatherings, Gonzalez says she’s hopeful that people are ready to party again in 2022.
“The best feeling is when the kids get so excited when they see it, because you’re like, oh, I created that. It’s not a party if you don’t have a piñata!”