Tabetha DeGroot- Staff Writer
Right in the heart of downtown Sioux Center, across from the north side of the mall, stands a small unassuming brick building. On one side is the Farm Bureau Financial Services office, on the other a bright orange and blue sign for “El Chamoyito To-Go.”
The door is plastered with pictures of various snacks and desserts with numbers listed next to them. The menu is a feast for the eyes with bright pictures of delicious looking Mexican treats.
One picture shows fresas con crema, a cup of strawberries and cream with a dollop of whipped cream and a wafer on top. Another features bionico, a giant fruit bowl drizzled with crema, a combination of yogurt and sweetened condensed milk. There is also chamoyada, a sweet and spicy shaved ice drink, pepino loco, cucumbers dipped in chili powder and filled with strawberries, and esquites, a cup of corn mixed with mayo, cheese, chili powder, and lime juice. The menu also includes walking tacos and banana splits for the less adventurous of eaters. It is enough to make your mouth water before you even order.
Luis and Veronica Alfaro-Avila are the owners of El Chamoyito To-Go. They step through the door with arms full of groceries and began preparing the shop to open for the evening. The shop is tiny, about the size of a spacious dorm room.
“We once had fourteen people in here at once” Veronica said chuckling, “but we can’t do that anymore because of COVID.”
They opened El Chamoyito To-Go last August “because we needed more money” Veronica put it plainly.
The place is open Thursday through Sunday from 4-8pm. The hours are a little odd because both the Alfaro-Avilas work second jobs on top of running their own business. Luis works for the Kooima Manufacturing Company as a welder “and chica, she works at McDonalds” he said, nodding to his wife. They spent some time working for a Mexican restaurant, but found the hours to be too demanding.
“It is small but it’s okay,” Veronica said, “We like to prepare everything, it’s not difficult.”
However, owning a small business is not without its hardships, especially right now. When the pandemic started they had to close for three months while they tried to figure out how to move forward. “The business…it’s down” said Veronica referring to the decrease in sales they have seen this year.
Towards the end of September, they had a major maintenance issue when the fan in their cooler broke.
“I order new one, but I am not great for speaking English and reading English so they send wrong one, so I send it back” said Luis.
On top of the business issues, their eldest son tested positive for COVID-19 and their youngest began showing symptoms. This resulted in the whole family being quarantined. Despite these setbacks, they re-opened on October 8th with a working cooler and improved health.
The Alfaro-Avila family moved to Sioux Center twenty years ago from Mesa, Arizona. They lived in a dangerous area, right near the border, and came to Iowa seeking a safer and smaller town to raise their children.
Luis and Veronica’s faces light up when they talk about their kids. They have three: a 28-year-old son, 20-year-old daughter, and a 9-year-old son. Their daughter is one year away from completing her nursing degree, and it is a point of pride for their family.
“In the big cities you have a lotta problems. Here in the small towns you know the neighbors…more friends…more safe,” explained Luis. They have seen the Latino community in Sioux Center grow over the years, and they can now cater to that community with their knack for making desserts and snacks.
“When we first come [to Sioux Center there were] maybe ten or twenty Hispanic families and now there is a lot more…[this] kind of dessert is a focus on the Latino community” Luis said, gesturing towards the menu.
If you are looking for a sweet treat you may not have experienced before, El Chamoyito To-Go is the place to visit. They have added crepes and atole—a hot beverage made of sugar, cinnamon, corn flour, and milk—to the menu for the fall season. The mangonada and fresas con crema are highly recommended.