Shop offers taste of home

STOCKTON -- Nothing says summer better than ice cream on a warm afternoon.

The chilled treats are a bit different in Mexico from standard American flavors -- there's chamolladas, mangonadas and paletas de guayaba.

You won't have to go far south for a taste. El Frutal Paletería and Nevería serves up the Mexican treats every day in east Stockton.

Some of what you'll find on the menu: churros locos (crazy churros with sweet fixings), smoothies, fruit popsicles and even some American-inspired delights such as waffles and crepes.

The ice cream shop draws patrons in with colorful signage. But it keeps many coming back for simple reminders of home, said owner Marcos Gonzales.

"I have a lot of people coming in every day," Gonzales, 34, said. "I think it's because it has the flavor of México."

That certainly rings true to sisters Laura and Marie Martínez, who recently spent time together over a scoop of ice cream at El Frutal.

"Oh it's very delicious," said Laura Martínez, 25. "These are the things one you used to eat in México. It's what we craved."

Gonzales, who grew up in Stockton, has frequently visited his father's native hometown of San Luis Colorado, Sonora since he was a child.

He recalled his father taking him to the local paletería, where popsicles were made from scratch. He looked forward to it every annual trip.

Gonzales, now a father of four, still makes the annual visits with his own children. And two years ago, those vacations inspired him and his fiancé, Lorena Bustos, to open up their own Mexican ice cream shop in the neighborhood where the couple grew up.

The opening was only a couple of months apart from winter, not an ideal season for sales.

"The first year was a little slow," Gonzales said. "But my father said that people aren't going to run in here all of a sudden."

Heeding his father's advice to work hard in order to bring the shop to fruition, Gonzales weathered the off season and remained patient until business picked up.

Two years later, the shop is a hit. Whether it's friends meeting for an afternoon conversation, or families treating enjoying themselves after Sunday church service, the shop has a continuous flow of customers every day.

Reminiscent of Gonzales' childhood memories of Mexico's relishing those frozen sweets, he now finds himself making those traditions possible for others in Stockton.

"It's been a dream come true," Gonzales said. "It hasn't been easy, but I'm getting there."

Next on Gonzales' goals is to open a location in Lodi by early next year. In the future, he hopes to expand into other San Joaquín County cities.

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