Serving sweet treats and savory snacks, the goal at Mis Antojos deli is to make sure every customer leaves satisfied.
Located at the former site of Napa Valley Creamery in Pueblo Plaza, Mis Antojos, which translates to “My Cravings” in English, specializes in providing traditional Mexican-style street foods and sandwiches.
For owner Francisco Velazquez, the decision to open his own business involved little forethought. But he said hard work and creativity have more than made up for his lack of planning.
“I wasn’t really looking to start a business,” said Velazquez. “One of my friends let me know that this location was available, and I decided to ask about the cost, mostly out of curiosity.”
Velazquez, his wife, Araceli, and their children arrived in Napa in 2004. He had been working as a farmworker before taking on the challenge of running his own business.
“I was happy working outside. I would tell my co-workers, ‘Don’t you like being able to exercise while you’re at work? Other people have to pay to go to the gym,’” he said jokingly.
Ultimately, it was the location that really sold Velazquez on the prospect of opening his own business. Mis Antojos originally hoped to benefit from the largely Hispanic clientele of neighbor business Latino Market, but a fire burned down the Mexican market in June 2012 — the same year Velazquez had opened his shop.
“When the fire burned down Latino Market in 2012, things got difficult,” said Velazquez. “The entire shopping center really suffered. That first year and a half was a struggle.”
At one point, Velazquez contemplated returning to his previous job, but his wife was able to convince him to refocus on improving his business instead.
“Originally, we started off as just a dessert shop, but I felt that we weren’t really going to be successful if we limited ourselves in that way. Now we offer snacks and treats from different regions in Mexico,” said Velazquez.
Items on the menu include fruit salad variations with toppings such as ground chili powder and chamoy (a tangy condiment common in Mexican treats and candies); fresas con crema (strawberries with cream); a frozen dessert with sliced strawberries and condensed milk; and iced muffins, two scoops of ice cream separated by muffin halves.
Mis Antojos is also one of the few places in the Napa Valley where customers can purchase Dorilocos, an increasingly popular snack among the Hispanic community. The unique concoction consists of Nacho Cheese Doritos topped with a wild mixture of diced cucumber, cueritos (pickled pork strips), Valentina sauce and Japanese-style peanuts.
“What helped our business the most was when we started serving tortas,” said Velazquez. “It was definitely the one item that made a big difference as soon as we included it on our menu. Tortas have been the tip of the spear for us.”
In Mexico, tortas are a kind of sandwich served on rolls (bolillo, telera or birote, depending on the region), which are sometimes grilled or toasted. Meats used for tortas include ham, chicken and pork, and are accompanied by garnishes such as lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and avocado.
“Customers have been asking us if we can start serving tortas in time for lunch,” said Velazquez. “So, to keep them happy, we recently changed our hours and will be opening up earlier.”
Velazquez believes that his deli’s dedication to providing excellent customer service will lead to continued success for his growing business. He wants all of his employees to share his passion for providing the best customer service possible.
“Now that we have other employees, it has been a strange transition for some of our customers,” said Velazquez. “They are so used to dealing with my wife, my children or me that whenever we’re not around, they start asking whoever is working if we’re OK, or if we sold the deli.”
Through social media websites such as Facebook and Foursquare, Velazquez is able to advertise special offers and show off appetizing photos of his creations, as well as communicate directly with his customers. He also advertises through local Spanish-language radio.
The feedback Velazquez and his family have received from customers kept them motivated during their early struggles, but it also helped Mis Antojos add new items to its expanding menu.
On one occasion, Velazquez, feeling hungrier than usual, asked his wife if she could make him a torta. When she asked what he wanted on it, he responded, “Whatever you have.”
“It had chicken, ham and egg … it was big,” said Velazquez. “When a customer saw me eating it, he asked if we could make one for him. When he was done, he told us it was the best torta he had ever tasted, so we just added it to the menu.”
Velazquez is also planning on modifying the deli’s interior to seat more people. On busy days, there are times when customers choose to leave rather than wait for a space to open up.
“We’ve been asked by people from out of town if we are planning on opening another deli in a neighboring city, but I would actually like to open a second location here in Napa,” said Velazquez. “It would give the growing Hispanic population another option.”
In the meantime, he wants to ensure that everyone who steps through the doors of Mis Antojos can find something to satisfy their appetite.
“Our plan is to keep innovating and creating new treats,” said Velazquez. “We’re always open to any suggestions that customers might have, and love receiving suggestions from our customers.”