La Michoacana employee Liz Gonzalez enjoys the unique atmosphere that the store provides for the community. The store is something out of the ordinary for Gonzalez. (Una Cleary)
La Michoacana employee Liz Gonzalez enjoys the unique atmosphere that the store provides for the community. The store is something out of the ordinary for Gonzalez.

Una Cleary

Sweet Connections: La Michoacana Plus offers Little Village a community commonground

February 26, 2023

For husband and wife Angelo Villagomez and Edith Galvan, opening up La Michoacana Plus in Little Village brings them a sense of joy because it became a place where youth can laugh with friends, do homework or enjoy some ice cream. 

“Some kids come in here for half an hour, eat one thing and then just hang out…It’s turned into a way of giving back to the community,” Villagomez said. 

La Michoacana Plus franchise opened this month and offers a variety of treats such as paletas (ice cream bars), michelaguas (fruit flavored drinks), esquites (a corn dish), and more. 

The history of the franchise stems from California and is separate from other La Michoacana ice cream shops across Chicago, Villagomez said. 

For customer Jose Antonio Reynaga, he said visiting La Michoacana Plus with his family is a tradition and a way to reconnect with his cultural roots.

The California-based franchise opened its first Midwestern branch this month in Little Village on 26 st. Hours are 10 a.m.- 10 p.m., seven days a week. (Una Cleary)

“It’s a way to return to Mexico,” Reynaga said. 

Little Village residents are 81% Latino and 75% Mexican and Mexican American according to Enlace Chicago and around 18% of businesses are restaurants according to a 2012 market analysis done by the Little Village Special Service Area.

As the first Michoacana Plus on 26th street, Villagomez said he wanted to create a restaurant that is different from the rest of businesses in Little Village by giving it a “twist” with its bright colors, food and vivid ambiance. 

“It’s important because most of us like to try new things, having something that’s out of the ordinary is definitely something that is really good for us,” said Liz Gonzalez, La Michoacana Plus employee.

La Michoacana Plus offers a variety of sweet and savory snacks and treats including michelaguas a fruity drink, nieves de agua, a sorbet ice cream and dorilocos chips topped with pork rinds and hot sauce. (Jacqueline Cardenas)

With a mix of younger and older employees, Gonzales said she enjoys the environment and the people she works with.  

“Most of us are pretty young and we get along pretty well,” Gonzalez said. “The elder people treat us like their own kids.”

The Little Village Academy, a local elementary school on 26th street, brings to the restaurant people from all ages, from students showing them their report cards to 30-year-old parents who want to get something to drink, Villagomez said. 

Una Cleary

Villagomez and his wife started planning their grand opening around two years ago, though it hasn’t been easy. He said he balances general contracting, construction, the franchise and being a father to his 18 month old daughter.  

Since opening up the franchise, Villagomez said younger clientele have asked him for business advice through social media. 

He said he is always happy to help because growing up, he didn’t have anyone to guide him on how to run a business and believes it’s easier said than done. 

“I wish I had someone when I was younger,” he said. 

Hispanic-owned businesses grew about 8.2%, from 346,836 in 2019 to 375,256 in 202, and made up about 6.5% of all businesses, according to 2020 U.S. Census data

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions and show up…put yourself out there,” Villagomez said to advise young Latino entrepreneurs. 

Beyond a business opportunity Villagomez gets excited and finds joy in seeing kids come into the restaurant. 

“My heart was like damn this makes me happy,” Villagomez said. 

The couple plans to open up three more locations in the Chicago area in the future. 

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