Thursday, November 16, 2000

A little touch of Mexico

Store's appeal reaches beyond Hispanic community

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Ray Garcia was raised in Mexico City, but when he came to Northern Kentucky 18 years ago he liked it so much he made it his home and started his own upholstery business.

        Now he's helping make the area more of a home for members of the growing Northern Kentucky Hispanic community with La Mexicana grocery and restaurant specializing in authentic Mexican food.

[photo] Susana and Ray Garcia own La Mexicana. The store is two doors down from Mr. Garcia's upholstery shop.
(Patrick Reddy photos)
| ZOOM |
        “This is home to me,” Mr. Garcia, 46, said Wednesday while splitting time between the upholstery shop and the grocery, located two doors apart near Seventh and Monmouth streets. “I first came to Lexington in 1979 and worked on a horse farm with a friend for about a year before coming here. I love the change of seasons and the friendly people.”

        After spending his first 16 years in Mexico City, Mr. Garcia traveled to Southern California, where he learned the upholstery trade while still a teen-ager.

        “I knew I wanted to stay in the U.S., and I wanted a trade,” he said. “I don't go back to Mexico any more.”

        He operated the J&C Upholstery Shop for several years in Bellevue, where he and his ex-wife also had a small Mexican grocery that is no longer in business. His two grown children went through the Bellevue school system.

        Three years ago, he decided to start another grocery in the building near his new upholstery shop. It was an immediate hit.

        “We have a lot of Hispanic customers, but we also have a lot of local, longtime Northern Kentucky customers who have traveled to Mexico and know what real Mexican food is,” he said. “They come here for special sauces and fresh peppers they can't get in other stores.”

[photo] La Mexicana, on Monmouth Street in Newport, appeals to those with a taste for real Mexican food.
| ZOOM |
        All the food, including the produce, is trucked in from Chicago. Most of the canned and packaged food goods in the grocery have labels in Spanish.

        The restaurant specializes in true Mexican food, offering 11 different fillings for the soft tacos and burritos including marinated pork, beef and goat meat.

        “On Saturdays and Sundays, we prepare Mexican specialties that you won't find in any other Mexican restaurant in the Cincinnati area,” Mr. Garcia said.

        “We're crowded all day on the weekends, and most of our customers are from the Hispanic community. It's a lot of work, but we really enjoy it.”

Council doesn't act on outrage
Event adds lung cancer awareness
UC studies medication to break smoking habit
Fourth grade test argued
PULFER: Changing times
Stadium project had good safety record
Krings gets pay increase, bonus
Officials laud Cox-Fox-I-75 link
SAMPLES: Ah, Florida
Warren Co. seniors plead for more help
This design's for learning
- A little touch of Mexico
Court against buying for outside customers
Finan re-elected Senate president
Green Twp. to fill empty trustee's spot
Hamilton replacing city clerk
Industrial zoning sought for 97-acre parcel on Dixie Hwy.
Kenton dispatch savings proposed
Kentucky Baptist Convention chooses moderate for president
Ky. official's wedding investigated
Lawmakers pushing bills through
Man, insane in slaying, gets 6 months in maximum security
New-hire policy questioned
NKU to reduce tuition costs for its out-of-state students
Online classes can get loans
Possible explosives found near man's body
Savings pegged at $300M per year
Symmes Township official is let go
Trend is for this president to excel
Kentucky News Briefs
Tristate A.M. Report