The COVID-19 pandemic has been far from easy for small businesses.
Many of them have had to get creative and reinvent themselves to stay afloat. For one grocery store in Waukegan, that means serving more than fresh produce.
Adam Carson and Nydia Gonzalez-Carson are the owners of Supermercado Gonzalez.
Nydia Gonzalez-Carson’s parents opened the Mexican supermarket in the ‘90s. About two years ago, the married couple took over management during the pandemic.
“I loved growing up with my parents and in this store, just living a very entrepreneurial life at a very young age,” she said. “I remember one of my biggest purchases was piñatas.”
The grocery store is only one part of their journey. When customers make their way toward the back of the store, they’ll find a coffee shop that her husband runs called Drip and Culture.
“The fact that this is a Black and Brown-owned coffee shop in the suburbs in Lake County it’s just a different experience,” Adam Carson said. “There’s not a lot of us out here.”
It’s not where you’ll typically find a coffee shop, but the owners say it’s part of their rebranding and an effort to bring a new collaborative energy to the store.
“My dad always said a que dale sangre nueva, which is you got to give it new blood,” Nydia Gonzalez-Carson said. “A business needs attention and love. Us coming back and doing all these changes really helped to add some vibrancy to the store.”
Along with coffee, Nydia Gonzalez-Carson recently opened a boutique and art studio on the second floor called GATHR where she’s hosted yoga along other classes.
“For me it’s a community center, kind of, it’s a place for people to come in and gather around similar interests the love for cute stuff, the love of art, the love hand-making and it’s just a place to learn those things,” she said.
Nydia Gonzalez-Carson wants it to be a space where people can come and be vulverable.
“That you can share in this space,” she said. “That you can share what it means to be Latina, what it means to be not quite so Mexican not quite so American.”
The evolution of the store is part of a bigger mission for the Carsons. It’s also a space where other entrepreneurs have a chance to learn and showcase their passions.
“For us it’s very much how do we take our experiences in corporate, I spent 15 years in health care, and how she takes her experiences as a speech pathologist and bring that to our day-to-day operation,” Adam Carson said. “And also and how do we teach others how to run a business as well.”
One of their latest ventures is the creation of Entrepreneurs Collective, a program aimed at supporting people who want to open a business.
“We’re excited to launch that program. We have five people who are participating, five business owners are joining that,” Adam Carson said. “There’s a professor from the community who is leading the course work. We are going to have experts to talk about pricing strategy, web design, and marketing. All the things that people need to form the foundation for a solid business.”
As the couple continues to evolve their business, their goal remains the same: to make an impact on the community.
“We have a purpose and it is to help our community,” Nydia Gonzalez-Carson said. “Share what we learned and share what we have seen.”