Raúl Arcos Hawkins and Anthony Gurrola contributed to this story.
From the streets of Mexico to a storefront in Kearney, Nebraska, Veronica Piñon has been selling traditional Latino goods her whole life.
She spent her childhood helping with her parents’ business as food vendors. Now, she runs Piñon Market in Kearney. Veronica opened her store in June 2021, carrying on her family’s legacy with help from the Center for Rural Affairs.
In April 2021, Veronica received one of the Center’s Express Loans, which she combined with personal funds for startup costs for the new business. Express Loans are designed to be quick and easy to meet small business needs, can be prequalified in 24 hours, and approved in as little as three business days. Anthony Gurrola, Latino loan specialist with the Center, has assisted Veronica throughout the process.
“American expectations [in business] are different,” Veronica said. “There’s no directory for what you need to start a business. It’s overwhelming. The Center helped me. They told me what I needed to do and what I needed to know to start my business.”
Veronica worked diligently with Center staff to hone her business skills, and her hard work paid off.
“She made all the right connections in her community, but she needed some guidance to help organize her approach and reach her goals,” Anthony said.
Veronica received startup assistance with her business, including training in bookkeeping and accounting, QuickBooks, business management, pricing, marketing, cash flow, and food service management. In addition, Center staff coached Veronica on inventory controls, setting up Square payments, health inspections and regulations, and more
She participated in several of the Center’s classes, including Restaurant Academy and Marketing Academy. And, she’s grateful for the knowledge she gained with the Center’s help.
“When I attended her ribbon cutting ceremony in July 2021, it was evident Veronica had done a remarkable job with building relationships with various community members and leaders,” Anthony said. “Several individuals already knew her by name, and her ribbon cutting was a resounding success.”
Veronica is proud to offer a variety of products to the Kearney community, and she hopes to hire a few part-time employees to help her and her husband, who run the store by themselves with help from their daughter when she’s home from college.
“I want to hire bilingual high school and college students, so this generation can learn customer service and hospitality,” said Veronica. “This is not just a Latino store, not just a Mexican store—it’s a store for everyone.”
Shoppers can find a little bit of everything—piñatas, spices, flower pots, meats, produce, religious items, dry goods, Mexican sweet breads, coolers full of fresh-made items like salsa, and more.
Freshly made burritos, prepared in the store by the owner herself, are available to go.
“Before I opened the store, I was always looking for something good to eat, but couldn’t find anything other than chips or candy at work,” said Veronica. “I wanted something that tasted like home. I offer an authentic side of burritos to the community, and everything is homemade.”
Now that Veronica has a firm grasp on what it takes to run her own business, she urges others looking to follow their entrepreneurial dreams to make sure they ask questions, and she hopes she can be a resource for them.
She said, new business owners should ask questions, be persistent, and stand up for themselves.
“When I started, I was not getting straightforward answers,” she said. “There’s no menu for going into business, especially coming from a different country. You need someone to give you a list of the distributors to work with. The Center helped me figure these things out. Thank God for them.”
Veronica proudly runs her business the way she lives her life—with a generous heart.
“My family is full of givers—my mother, father, grandfather—it’s all I know,” she said. “I would much rather give someone a free burrito so they can have a meal than make a few extra dollars. No one wants to help from the heart anymore—money is all that matters. But, I’ve always said, ‘If you can spare a cup of rice, why not?’” Veronica hopes to continue expanding the variety of items she can offer her customers, and she always works with a smile on her face. Her mindset, dedication, and hard work have proven to be the key to her success.
At a glance
Piñon Market, LLC
527 E. 25th St.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.