SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — When Julio Espino first moved to Sioux Falls 25 years ago, there were very few Hispanic restaurants and shops in town.
“It’s just amazing when we came to town, and we had a such a major problem to even get our condiments or spices or stuff to cook. We had to basically… me and some other guys, we would get together and order a big truck out of Chicago to get our stuff to cook,” Espino said.
But over the last 25 years the Inca Restaurant and Salsa owner has watched the city grow more diverse with more restaurants, stores, and bilingual employees able to help clientele.
Espino moved from Seattle to open Inca Restaurant because he felt the West Coast was becoming oversaturated with Mexican restaurants and he wanted to bring one to an area that had a need for more diverse cuisine. His plan paid off with the small Mexican restaurant located in central Sioux Falls.
“Basically, since we opened, every year it’s grown,” Espino said. “Despite all the bad stuff we’ve gone through, such as you know, the tornado, and COVID… I mean, if you can compare it, if you see a line, you see the line always went up and [is] going up every year.”
After years of successful business at Inca, Espino said that a customer approached him one day with a question that led to his “eureka” moment.
“And she goes, ‘Hey, why don’t you why don’t you put or sell your salsa in the grocery stores?’” Espino recalled.
Espino had thought of the idea, but until that moment he hadn’t really considered selling the salsa. The customer said that it would make her errands easier if she could just stop at the grocery store to get all of her food and Inca Salsa, rather than having to make a second stop at the restaurant.
But the transition into local grocery stores wasn’t easy.
“I try and try and knock on doors and finally one really, really awesome manager gave me the opportunity to sample it up in one of the stores in Sioux Falls, the one by the mall, a Hy-Vee,” Espino said. “And they requested for me to sell at least 100 to 120 salsas a month. I sold those in two hours.”
Now, Inca Salsa is available in over 100 Hy-Vee stores across eight states.
“And it wasn’t an easy road, but it wasn’t impossible. It was just hard work,” Espino said.
Finding success one step at a time
Across town on the corner of 57th Street and Cliff Avenue, 21-year-old Victor Hernandez-Diaz is beginning to see success with his first business.
PB&Thrift opened this summer as a vintage sneaker and clothing shop catering to sneakerheads in the Sioux Falls and Harrisburg area.
“It’s been going really well, definitely the best decision I’ve ever made was to start this thing. It’s been doing really, really well, we’re expanding already. And we will probably run out of room by the end of the year,” Hernandez-Diaz said.
Hernandez-Diaz isn’t the first sneaker resale shop in Sioux Falls and joins three other shops on the vintage sneaker scene.
“Yeah, so ironically, I’m the fourth sneaker store in Sioux Falls, and all of the owners that own sneaker stores in town come from Hispanic heritage,” Hernandez-Diaz said. “I know there’s Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, you know, stuff like that, I personally come from Mexican descent, my parents are from a spot called Durango, Mexico.”
Hernandez-Diaz’s parents immigrated to Santa Barbara, California before moving to Sioux Falls where he and his siblings grew up. The entrepreneurial spirit is inherited from Hernandez-Diaz’s parents as they always encouraged him to pursue his dreams of opening up his own business. In fact, Hernandez-Diaz’s father and uncle opened Tortilleria Hernandez in downtown Sioux Falls.
While Hernandez-Diaz didn’t follow his family’s footsteps into food, he is finding his own success with his vintage shop that caters to a diverse group of clients.
“I’m getting people from literally everywhere. I’m getting people, you know, from all races, all sexualities, even just any type of person, you know, comes into the store, you know, they’re comfortable here, they like it here, I have stuff for them,” Hernandez-Diaz said. “I know, back, you know, in the early like, 2000s, sneakers was more of a, you know, Black [and] Hispanic thing and just seeing it expand to just everyone and you know, not just, you know, being a discriminatory item anymore. It’s great to see.”
Having grown up in Sioux Falls, Hernandez-Diaz says he’s excited to see Sioux Falls’ growing diversity for people of all backgrounds.
“I’m definitely proud of, you know, my roots, you know,” Hernandez-Diaz said. “It’s nice seeing a lot of new businesses, you know, come with people that may have the same skin tone as me, for example, and it’s a lot of young people, too. So, seeing a lot of young Hispanics, you know, young Blacks creating businesses, barber shops, restaurants, you know, sneaker stores, it’s great. And I think it’s going to pay dividends as time rolls on.”
As the Sioux Falls Hispanic community grows, resources such as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are hoping to help Hispanic-owned businesses connect with the community. The chamber is launching a Spanish radio station and was part of the effort to add Spanish-language movies into the lineup at Cinemark.
Espino said that the reason the Hispanic community continues to grow in South Dakota is due to the amount of opportunity available, especially education. Espino’s son recently graduated from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and his daughter just began her track career at North Dakota State University.
“It’s such a great area for a lot of the Hispanics [that] will come here and set up a business and have a good living,” Espino said.
Both Espino and Hernandez-Diaz spoke about the pride they felt seeing other Hispanic-Americans finding success in different fields, especially in the Sioux Falls area.
“You see Hispanics everywhere, you see restaurants everywhere, you see, you know, Spanish music everywhere,” Hernandez-Diaz said. “You see athletes, you know, for example, Canelo Álvarez, he’s one of the biggest boxers in the world. And he really represents, you know, Mexican culture. And then seeing restaurants and spots locally and stuff. So, people are getting, you know, exposed to it. They’re getting comfortable with it, which is really, really great for us, and is great to see the growth.”
Hispanic-owned businesses in Sioux Falls:
- Azteca Mexican Restaurant
- Comida De Casa
- Flying Santo
- Guatelinda Bakery
- INCA Restaurant
- Jacky’s Burrito Express
- La Guanaquita Panadería (Bakery)
- La Tapatía Mexican Store
- Los Hispanos
- Los Paisanos
- Mama’s Ladas
- Manna Bakery
- Mi casa Latina Mexican Store
- Mi Pueblo
- Nikki’s La Mexicana
- Salas Salsas
- Salon Mia
- Sonja Gloria Pottery
- Tarquin Argentinian Restaurant
- Taquería Juanita
- Tienda America
- Tienda el quetzal
- T-Juanita Street Food and Cheladas
- Tortilleria Hernandez
- PB & Thrift
- Puerto Vallarta Mexican Restaurant
To add businesses to this list, just email email@example.com.