My first memory of a miscelanea, a small family owned convenience store, is La Samaritana in Mexico City. Like most miscelaneas, the bodega-like store carried tortas, café de olla, sodas, vegetables, cold cuts, cheeses and veggies. I’d order a torta de salchicha or milanesa, which came slathered in refried beans and crema, and topped with a slice of cheese, tomato, avocado and sliced jalapeño. Then I’d wash it all down with “jarritos de bolsa”, a Jarritos soda poured in a plastic bag and tied in a tight knot around the straw. If I was extra starving, there was always the old faithful and fully-loaded “Cubana” (or everything torta).
So when I heard about Guillaume Guevara’s new project, my thoughts immediately went to this childhood happy place. We’d visit La Samaritana right after the last school bell rung at 3:00 pm, setting us free from the classroom. It’s the place where we’d buy snacks and secretly smoke our cigarettes before our parents arrived to pick us up.
Guillaume has a different idea of a miscelanea, one reminiscent of the type we both grew up with, but with a little taste of other nostalgic products for anyone who has ever lived or visited Mexico. On a small Lower East Side corner Guillaume has created a place where you can feel, taste, touch and smell what he describes as an “outpost” of Mexico – think of it as a Mexican bodega on steroids.
In addition to the usual Mexican products, like locally made Mexican cheeses, cold cuts, coffee, sauces, canned goods and house made tortas, Guillaume’s Miscelanea also offers unique products, like their signature #NYDF caps, avocado, olive and aloe soaps, their own locally-made candles, bottled aguas frescas, La Newyorkina flavored paletas, Mayan Clay and essential oils from Tulum, Vitacilina Antibiotic Ungüento (the cure-all cream popular with abuelitas), Hernan Mexican chocolate, and jewelry from a local Mexican designer.
Guillaume has been cooking up the idea for this store for the past year and a half with his partners from Mexico City: Alfredo, David and Gerardo. They started out with the idea of a restaurant, and then decided to focus more on their “All Things Mexico” shop.
We caught up with him to hear more about the project and what to expect.
How did you come up with the idea for Miscelanea?
I studied Hotel Management in Le Roche, Switzerland, and spent 12 years working in Food and Beverage management hotels, like the Savoy in London and The Carlyle here in New York. I later moved to distribution and marketing for a DUMBO-based company. I was there almost for 5 years, but I still had that espinita to work in food again. Plus, I’d started to miss my country, you know – after 12 years, you just do.
I thought, “How can I mix those two things I love, and do it myself?” So I partnered up with Alfredo, David and Gerardo, who are a part of Grupo Luptonic in Mexico City and own several restaurants and bars there. We started brainstorming and came up with the idea of a Mexican restaurant here, but then we thought, “There’s one on every corner, and we aren’t going to top Enrique Olvera’s Cosme.” So we switched gears and decided on a Mexican store. The way we see it, there are no specialty Mexican stores in New York that sell clothes, food, desserts, and anything Mexico, so we wanted to fill that void in the market.
Micelanea is a tiendita. We didn’t call it “La Tiendita”, because we didn’t like the name, and we think Miscelanea goes better with the concept of the store. It’s a place that makes me feel like I’m in Mexico: all my purveyors speak in Spanish, my employees speak Spanish, you speak Spanish… it’s like I’m in an outpost of Mexico.
And, well, if this one takes off, maybe we’ll expand to a bigger location and invite Mexican artists, designers and jewelers to showcase their items.
What’s your opinion of the “Reconquista” or Mexican wave in New York?
I’m happy to welcome anyone who comes, all these guys who come for work, or to study and decide to stay. Unfortunately here in New York, like back home, there can be a big gap in people’s economic backgrounds. So we are looking for the way to welcome all people, with different products that can suit their pocket. That’s why we look for a lowbrow-highbrow mix of merchandise, so anyone can be a Miscelanea customer.
I hadn’t thought of it before, but you’re right, there is a big wave of people coming especially from Mexico, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends along the way.
How will you spread the gospel for people to visit Miscelanea?
We have received a lot of support from the Tourism Board and PROMEXICO to make Miscellanea kind of like a hub for the Mexican population of New York. A small meeting point, but a place where you can mix food, culture and a Mexican vibe, all in one place.
We’ll probably be doing launches of new mezcales, DJ sets, or cultural events here, maybe twice a month, so that we can try to promote and push everything that is Mexico. Also, all of our packaged and nonperishable products will be available online at www.Miscelaneany.com.
Why did you decide on this location?
We decided on the LES because we wanted a place that wasn’t surrounded by anything Mexican – except for Mexican restaurants. Plus, this is a central location for all our customers, Mexican, Americans, Europeans, and all “Newyorkinos”. I have a special affection for the area because this was my old neighborhood for over 8 years, even though I moved to Brooklyn, I’ve always wanted to move back. That didn’t happen, but at least I’m back here for work on something I’m passionate about.
What are your plans for the opening?
We had a soft opening, but we’re going to remain low key at least the first few weeks, so we can fix any bugs that come up. Then, we’ll throw a big opening party. It’s been over a year working on this, so we want to see our strengths and weaknesses and then start off with a big launch.
This interview has been edited and condensed.