((L-R) Yamely Chávez Kennedy, Guillermo Chávez, Yennifer Chávez and Hansel Chávez)
The Chávez Family brings Latin American Goods to Central Oregon
The Chávez family came to the United States over two and a half decades ago with plans to escape poverty and start a new life for themselves. After spending eight years living in California, the family made a visit to Oregon and fell in love with the state so quickly that they moved up soon after. After years of hard work, the family was able to open up a small Mexican market in Madras. Just about ten years ago, the previous owners of Bend’s Colima Market, a family from Colima, Mexico, were retiring and sold the business to the Chávez family. This gave the Chávez family a way to expand their business into Bend, and they have been the proud owners of the Colima Market ever since.
The Colima Market was previously managed by the oldest daughter in the family, Yamely Chávez Kennedy, but with recent expansions and new hirings, she has moved into a position where she oversees both the Bend and Madras locations.
To assist with the expansions and take some pressure off of Kennedy’s shoulders, her younger sister recently moved down from Portland to become the manager of the Bend location, allowing Kennedy to focus on big picture ideas.
In the last two years, the Colima Market has seen a boom in business that has allowed them to expand their selection of fresh and sometimes pre-marinated meats, as well as their bakery, which now produces custom cakes for parties, weddings and more. The business has expanded so much that Kennedy has plans to open a third location in Redmond, and depending on how running three locations goes, the family has plans for further expansion.
“After we open up the Redmond location and see how that goes, we either want to expand into Prineville or focus our attention on opening up a much larger location in Bend,” Kennedy said. “The end goal is to have a market in Bend as big as Safeway or Fred Meyer, but Mexican style.”
Expansions for Mexican markets in Central Oregon typically take a lot of time, or they simply don’t happen due to a lack of a large Hispanic population in the region. However, Kennedy and the entire Chávez family have their sights on big expansions like the ones listed above, because of how popular their business has become in the last few years, especially with clientele who, in the past, didn’t frequent their business all that often.
“We were able to get much more into the American community and reach that market,” Kennedy said. “We’ve seen a bigger change in our clientele and that has really helped out. We’ve also expanded so much that we’ve been able to get a billboard on Third street. We were so happy to be able to afford that.”
In their expansion plans, Kennedy hopes to have a market big enough to feature products from all across Latin America, which would make the Colima Market one of if not the only location in Central Oregon where people can find imported goods from Mexico, Central America and South America.
As a family owned and operated business, Kennedy puts a big emphasis on her family, saying that “family is everything, and it defines who I am. If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t have anything. My father started it all by bringing the family to Mexico, and now even my younger sister has come down from Portland to join the business.”
To Kennedy, family is synonymous with trust and teamwork, “Finding employees can be tough, because they don’t see the business the way we do. Having my sister there to manage everything, who I know cares deeply for the business, is huge for me.” Kennedy said. “That’s why my family is so important. We care about each other, and care about keeping up everything we’ve built.”
Guests shopping at the Colima Market will see something that is unheard of at any major supermarket or retailer: the owners, managers and even the CEO of the business are the very same people who stock the shelves, run the cash register and interact with customers. “That’s what you support when you support local,” Kennedy said. “You support a family’s hard work and our dreams.”