Rosie Chavez left her war-ridden country of El Salvador in 1986 after gunfire broke out in front of her during a shift at a retail store. Under a different circumstance, Javier Chavez arrived in the United States in 1988 with the simple intention of working hard and buying his father a truck.
Their search for a better future landed the couple the opportunity to start a business, La Flor de Michoacan, which has since grown into a franchise and four shops.
“We had the confidence that our business would work out because my husband knew the trade of making ice cream,” Rosie said. “Plus, he was ready to be his own boss.”
It all started in 2007, when Javier and his brother, Antonio, could not find a place to work. The need for financial stability caused Javier to explore his own talents and that was when he remembered what his grandmother, Ramona Gonzalez, taught him how to make — ice cream.
“When I was younger, my grandmother would line up all of her grandkids in a row and have us all take turns churning her homemade ice cream,” Javier said. “With that experience I had the confidence that opening an ice cream shop would work.”
In 2007, the couple and Antonio opened their first shop at 3021 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite B.
“On the first day of our grand opening, we made $7 in sales,” Rosie said. “But pretty quickly people started telling their friends and family about our store and business grew. It was all through word of mouth.”
Despite the many risks involved, the couple decided to open a second shop at 6055 E. Lake Mead Blvd., Suite D, during the economic crisis in 2009.
“I felt more secure in opening a second shop because I did some research on the Internet and found out the ice cream shops weren’t at all affected during the recession,” Javier said.
Their business venture has since seen them build two other shops, one at 2670 Las Vegas Blvd. North, Suite 107, and at The Boulevard mall, 3528 S. Maryland Parkway, with one franchise at 4161 S. Eastern Ave.
The shop focuses on making handmade ice cream with unique Mexican flavors, such as Gansito, chongos, Cajeta, mamey, rose petal, guava and chamoyada.
Many of the flavors come from Javier’s hometown of Michoacan, Mexico, and from popular recommendations from customers who contributed their own cultural recipes for the couple to make.
In addition, the family also makes its own aguas frescas, meaning fresh juice, including flavors of strawberry, alfalfa, coconut, pineapple and Horchata, a Mexican drink made with rice and cinnamon.
“We have gotten to the point where we can hire around 20 workers year-round, but 70 percent of the workers still continue to be family,” Javier said. “In the summer, we hire more workers, mostly high school students to help us during the busy season.”
The shop also sells what Javier calls “antojitos,” literally translating to little cravings or snacks, such as fried ice cream, clamatuko marinero, tostilocos, churros locos and duro loco.
“Pretty much everything that we sell is loco,” Javier said with a laugh.
The food can best be described as deep-fried carnival food with a spicy twist. For customers who are looking for a more traditional meal, pizza, chicken tenders, hamburgers, Salvadoran pupusas and meat plates are also sold.
Rosie and Javier met at a dance in California in 1990 and have been together ever since. They have one daughter and three sons.
During their 23 years together, they have faced a lot of bumps in the road. One of their biggest challenges happened on Sept. 21, 2012, when their 14-year-old daughter Angelica was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor that primarily affects children and adolescents.
The tumor was found in her chest, and Angelica had to begin chemotherapy.
“The news was really hard on us,” Rosie said. “We cried and became depressed. My husband did not want to work anymore. He just wanted to hold his daughter. It was so hard seeing her without hair or eyelashes. She was so pale.”
Javier continued working at the shop while his wife stayed with their daughter. They knew that the medical bills would pile up and realized how important their business was now more than ever.
“The bills are so expensive,” Rosie said. “We haven’t finished paying off everything, but we’re working on it day by day.”
In May, Angelica had the tumor removed and is finishing her last months of chemotherapy.
“My parents have come a long way,” she said. “It’s been an amazing journey.”
Their oldest son, Jonathan Gonzalez, 30, started working a month ago in the family business. He plans to continue their legacy and has dreams of one day becoming a nationwide business.
“Next year, we’d like to expand to either Centennial Hills, Summerlin or Henderson,” Gonzalez said. “Maybe one day my (5-month-old) daughter will continue the business, too.”
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter Sandy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686.