New woman-owned Puyallup business hopes to share Latino culture with Puyallup community

Jacquelyn Jimenez Romero, WA Latino News, Rosemary Montalvo, The News Tribune


Bianca Hernandez went from making and selling custom tumblers and other crafts to family members, to officially starting her business and vending at markets across the Puget Sound, to being a day away from opening her first storefront in downtown Puyallup.

Hernandez, a 24-year-old mom of two, started her first business early last year after her partner encouraged her to take her craft making seriously after giving birth to her daughter.

“I had my daughter and I had postpartum depression and it was very hard and my business was kind of what I leaned back on, so I would just make random crafts and that’s what cleared my mind,” she said in an interview. “He’d take the kids and that time was for me to really clear my mind and to get my feelings out there. One day, he came to me and was like, ‘what if we made this a business?’ and I said I don’t think anybody’s going to purchase this, but he said we should try it, so I started selling my sister’s friends custom cups.”

Hernandez named her business Amicis Novum, which translates to new friends. She began selling custom cups and tumblers and later expanded to designing and printing custom Latino apparel. By April 2023, she began vending at the Puyallup Night Market and later expanded to Olympia and Seattle.

She said that although she moved to Puyallup during her junior year of high school, the city has always felt like home to her, but she knew that the city lacked diversity.

Owner Bianca Hernandez (front row, third from left) poses for a portrait with family at Nuestro Barrio, on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Puyallup, Wash. (Brian Hayes

Hernandez said she always thought about what it would be like to see smaller businesses that were representative of other ethnicities and cultures.

Just one year after starting Amicis Novum, Hernandez is opening her own store and is potentially paving the way for more BIPOC business owners to open storefronts in downtown Puyallup.

She named the store Nuestro Barrio, or our neighborhood, because of the deep connection that she feels to Puyallup.

Nuestro Barrio is a multicultural shop that will not only feature items from Hernandez’s other business, Amicis Novum, but will also showcase products created by at least four other local Latino artisans.

Hernandez said she and her partner are very fond of night markets and when it came time to think about how the store would be set up, they decided to run it similar to a market and invite other vendors to rent out a space in their store.

The store is 1,500 square feet and is broken up into three sections. The front of the store has an open floor plan with shelves and racks lining the walls that are filled with graphic tees, candles, totes and sunglasses. The middle section of the store features shelves displaying traditional Mexican juaraches and a kids play room directly across from it. The back of the store offers a moodier feel and houses products such children’s apparel, bags and Mexican dinnerware. The kitchen area is also located toward the back of the store which will be the center for the various cooking classes. ​

Huaraches and other goods from Latin countries are available at Nuestro Barrio, on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Puyallup, Wash. (Brian Hayes

The goal of Nuestro Barrio is to uplift and increase representation of the Latino community while setting up small BIPOC business owners for success by connecting them with the community in Puyallup.

The shop will carry apparel for people of all ages and genders, authentic huaraches made in Mexico, candles, Mexican candies, dinnerware and more.

Although the store will mainly sell products made by Latino artisans, she hopes everyone feels welcome to come into the store regardless of their race or ethnicity.

“Our store is not just for [Latinos], it’s for everybody,” Hernandez said. “I don’t want people to feel intimidated because they see our sign and feel that it’s only gonna be selling Latin things because we’re going to have a lot of Latino-based things, but we’re also going to be having a lot of non-Latin products as well because we want to make sure everybody feels included.”

Guest peruse shirts and other items highlighting Latin culture during the soft opening of Nuestro Barrio, on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Puyallup, Wash. Brian Hayes (

Nuestro Barrio will feature products from four small businesses including Casa de Espie and Tickle My Sweets.

Here are some of the businesses that you can expect to see at Nuestro Barrio. ​

Casa de Espie

Casa de Espie – or House of Hope – is a mystical candle shop created by Ále Johnson. Johnson said in an interview that she decided to start her own business after moving to Seattle in March 2023 and being fired from her tech job.

As a Honduran-German-American and queer woman, she said she intentionally chooses to sell at markets that embrace her identities, such as Nuestro Barrio. Through these spaces, she’s been able to find community, build relationships, and meet other Latinos in the greater Seattle area.

She found out about Nuestro Barrio when she was a vendor at Aquí Mercado, a Latino pop-up market based in Seattle, and is excited about having a consignment store focused on uplifting Latino creators.

Johnson’s business was inspired from her Indigenous roots of Maya Ch’ortí, Lenca, and Garífuna/Garínagu, which are Indigenous and Afro-Indigenous people of Honduras.

“Growing up being Honduran, and it was always, you’re a minority within a minority group,” Johnson said. “It’s like, oh, I fit in, because I’m Latina, but I’m not the exact same and people don’t really understand Central Americans. I feel like we’re kind of invisible in a lot of ways.”

Johnson said that it’s important to highlight both the similarities and the things that differentiate cultures in Latin America. She says it’s been exciting to collaborate with people who are passionate about the diversity within Latin America at Nuestro Barrio.

“The owners of Nuestro Barrio have always been vocal about having full representation of Latin America and that’s been something that has been really meaningful to me,” Johnson said.

Tickle My Sweets

Tickle My Sweets is a family-owned small business that sells Mexican novelty candies and snacks such as dulces enchilados, or spicy candy.

Carla and Ernesto Rodriguez, owners of Tickle My Sweets, are originally from Texas and moved to Washington 16 years ago. When they moved to Washington, they couldn’t find any of the candy they loved to eat when they lived in Texas.

“My husband’s background is in culinary and he jokingly said one day ‘I can make this myself,’ let’s give it a shot,” Carla said.

They first began sharing these sweet treats with their families but within a month they ended up becoming a business. Since July 2023, this family has worked together to keep their business running, appearing at local pop-ups and making deliveries.

“Everything we do is made with passion,” Carla said. “We love what we’re doing and we love our little business and the people that we’re meeting along the way.”

Ernesto is in charge of making the candies and snacks, inspired by his Mexican heritage which include nuts, fruits, and candy mixed with chamoy, a Mexican condiment or sauce made from pickled fruit, lime juice, and dried chilies, and tajin, Mexican seasoning blend of chile peppers, lime juice, and salt. He also makes various flavors of rim dip which is a thick tamarind paste used to coat the rim of a cup for drinks.

Carla helps run the markets and social media. Their oldest son is their graphic designer and has helped design their logo and their youngest son helps with deliveries, stocking, and working at the markets.

“For us just doing it together and being connected has just made it even more special to us,” Carla said.

Since starting their business, they’ve gone to several markets but Carla said that Latino markets are unique because they feel like a big family and celebration whereas other markets feel like people are there to just run their business.

“It doesn’t feel like work when you’re there [at Latino markets], it just feels like you’re there to have a good time with each other,” Carla said.

Nuestro Barrio’s community events

Although the business will mainly be operated as a storefront, Hernandez said that they plan on hosting cooking classes, children’s reading events, craft classes, Latino nights and loteria game nights, which a Mexican game that is similar to bingo.

One of the first events in the books for Nuestro Barrio is a salsa making class that will be led and taught by Hernandez’s dad.

“My dad does not share his salsa recipes and I think that your typical dad doesn’t,” Hernandez said. “But my dad is actually going to be hosting the salsa making classes and it’s going to be with the molcajete. He’s going to show people how to cure their molcajete and it’s going to be a hands-on experience, so people are going to be able to follow along and make their own salsa.”

A molcajete, or mortar and pestle, is a traditional Mexican tool that is used to grind spices, chiles, seeds and nuts to create salsas or purees.

The salsa-making class will be held on Saturday, June 8 and those looking to participate will have to purchase their tickets.

Ticket information:

  • $35 ticket – ingredients, chips, drinks, griddle, blender
  • $65 ticket – ingredients, chips, drinks, griddle, cured molcajete

Hernandez said she and her family are still figuring out how many events they’d like to host each month, but she hopes that her store will be a hub for her community and that people feel welcomed enough to just want to hang out in the store’s lounge area, even when there aren’t any events happening.

Grand opening

Nuestro Barrio (116 S Meridian) had its grand opening on Saturday, May 4. The grand opening featured food, drinks, flash tattoos and gifts for the first 100 purchases.

Normal store hours vary, but the business hours will be posted on their social media and on their doors.

Normal business hours:

  • Wednesday-Thursday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Friday-Saturday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Cover Photo: Guest peruse shirts and other items highlighting Latino culture during the soft opening of Nuestro Barrio, on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Puyallup, Wash. (BRIAN HAYES

Publisher’s Notes: This article was produced in collaboration between Washington Latino News and The News Tribune.

© 2024 All Rights Reserved.

Latino News Network