Ruben Flores stopped by La Ranchera in Boise for lunch last Sunday. It was his third time at the Latin American restaurant and food market, and he was looking forward to trying the molcajete Azteca — a hearty stew made with several types of meat, jalapenos and cactus.
What keeps him coming back to the store on the corner of Fairview Avenue and Milwaukee Street?
“That menu right there,” he said, pointing to a small dining area at the back of the store.
That is how owner Fernando Leonhardt, 44, hopes most people who step into La Ranchera will feel: welcome and eager to return.
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Leonhardt opened La Ranchera in June in the busy strip mall anchored by Shopko. It is the second La Ranchera in the Treasure Valley. The other is at 122 Holly St. in Nampa. The stores have nine employees between them.
In addition to traditional food, drinks and confections from Mexico, the store carries products from other Latin American countries, such as the yerba mate popular in Leonhardt’s home country, Argentina.
“The store in Nampa ... was working really good, and we thought it’s a good idea to extend to Boise,” Leonhardt said. “We are thinking that there are Mexican people living here” who want another local option for Mexican fare.
The store, financed by Leonhardt and a bank loan, was turning a profit by the fall, he said.
Leonhardt lives in Meridian with his wife, who practiced law in Argentina, and their three children.
Leonhardt moved to Utah from Argentina in 2001. He had finished his university education, studying business, “and the economy in Argentina was really bad,” he said. “I had a friend here who said you can come here ... start the process to get a visa.”
About a year after moving to Utah, a friend offered to sell him a Mexican store in Logan.
Leonhardt sold his Utah store late last year and moved to the Treasure Valley in June. He already had opened a La Ranchera in Nampa in 2012 and saw an opportunity to cater to the growing Latin-American community in the Valley.
“The store in Nampa was working better than the store in Utah,” he said.
At the end of each year, Leonhardt gives away a good-condition used car to a customer. This year, each store will give away a car to a customer in a raffle.
“I think the people have their idea, that the Mexican market, Latin market, is dirty,” he said. “We’re trying to reverse that idea. We’re trying to keep everything clean, everything in good condition, and everything is new.”
The meat counter sells beef, pork, chicken and fish.
“We have different cuts for American people, and we have carne asada,” he said. “Everything is seasoned, and I think that is the heart of the store.”
Customers at La Ranchera last Sunday said they heard about it on one of the Treasure Valley’s Spanish radio stations, happened to notice it while they were in the area, or got a word-of-mouth recommendation.
Flores lived in Mexico City before coming to the U.S. about 12 years ago. He heard about La Ranchera from a fellow Mexican-American co-worker at Keller Williams Realty Boise.
“The soups are great,” he said. “The people that work here are just traditional to Mexico, and it always makes a difference when someone from there is (cooking the food).”
More Latin markets & shops
La Ranchera Market
8017 W. Fairview Ave., Boise
La Ranchera Nampa
122 Holly St., Nampa
413 N. Orchard St., Boise
3302 Caldwell Blvd., Nampa
Campos On Lonestar
135 Lone Star Road, Nampa
5234 W. Fairview Ave., Boise
Carniceria Mi Tierra
517 Main St., Caldwell
Nueva Vida Bakery
1424 2nd St. S., Nampa
Ontario Mini Market
401 S. Oregon St., Ontario
2502 E. Linden St., Caldwell
La Rosita Mexican Store
711 E. Lincoln Ave., Nampa
7166 W. Fairview Ave., Boise