In 2001, Angelina Mendez opened her grocery store and taqueria, La Chaparrita, bringing a slice of Mexico City to Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.
Originally from Mexico City, Angelina learned how to make the iconic D.F. (Mexico City) style tacos when she was 14 years old and ran her family’s taco stand. In 1991, Angelina moved to Chicago to live with her mother, who already owned the building that now houses La Chaparrita.
La Chaparrita began as a grocery store, but because sales were low, Angelina and her husband began selling tacos outside on the weekends. About two years later, and with her mother’s help, Angelina decided to renovate part of the grocery store to add in a permanent taqueria.
“We started with seven seats,” Angelina said. “Little by little, as the business demanded more, it required more until it became 98% La Taqueria and 2% a store.”
Today, eating at La Chaparrita is a way for the Little Village community to travel to Mexico City through their taste buds.
“I think it has a good impact because people find the unique flavor in the food,” Angelina said. “When people come here and try the tacos, they say, ‘Oh yes, they do taste like Mexico.’”
Angelina’s authentic cuisine has caught the attention of many, including Netflix, which recently featured her and La Chaparrita in an episode of Taco Chronicles. Since then, her business has boomed, with people coming from as far as Utah and Arkansas to try La Chaparrita tacos.
Despite Angelina’s enormous success, language continues to be a barrier. “I think that has always been my obstacle, but even so, I have adapted,” Angelina said. “I don’t speak English, and I don’t understand much English, but I can serve the clients here.”
Angelina first connected with Allies for Community Business through the Economic Strategies Development Corporation, a nonprofit Small Business Development Center that serves Chicago’s Lower West Side. Angelina then worked with A4CB’s Spanish-speaking Community Lenders to receive a small business loan, which she used to build additional counterspace in the taqueria.
“I highly recommend [A4CB] to anyone who needs a loan,” Angelina said. “[A4CB has] a very affordable interest rate, and it was very easy to get us the loan.”
Looking forward, Angelina hopes to continue serving the same great taste and bringing a little piece of Mexico to Chicago.