Miriam prepares a hand-made pupusa, a popular food in her native El Salvador, at the Garcia’s Market restaurant in Carbondale. Photo by Raleigh Burleigh.

Editor’s note: By popular demand, this feature that debuted in el Sol del Valle (Sept. 9) has been translated into English for The Sopris Sun.

One could say that Carbondale’s restaurant-store Garcia’s Market is a community anchor. Every day, they welcome customers from all throughout the Valley coming for the specialty products and made-from-scratch meals.

“Here, we make all of our own tortillas and salsas,” business owner Francisco Rivera explained. “Everything is made fresh.”

Rivera, originally from Mexico, arrived in Colorado in 1998. For 11 years, he worked for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. He then became involved with Garcia’s Market. When the previous owners, Leti and Samuel, were selling the business, Rivera bought it – accepting the responsibility of maintaining it as a beloved community resource. He had experience working for a similar business in California.

Garcia’s Market offers essential ingredients for homemade Mexican cuisine as well as staples from parts of Central America. This includes specialty meats from the store’s carnicería, dried chili peppers, foreign vegetables and all types of dry beans. Additionally, they sell culturally-relevant items like piñatas and Lotería game sets and also offer services like money transfers to other countries.

Luckily, and “thanks to God,” Rivera said, he recently secured the property too. With help from a Glenwood Springs doctor that loaned him the money, Rivera purchased the building to assure that this cherished business could remain independent of developer ambitions.

“If I hadn’t bought it, somebody else probably would have and it may have changed,” Rivera said. “There was significant interest by investors in the property.”

The pandemic, Rivera admits, has been a challenge but not insurmountable. While the restaurant portion of Garcia’s Market suffered during the lockdowns, the store gained extra business with so many people cooking at home. Plus, government assistance helped to assure that no employees had to be laid off during the most difficult months. Otherwise, business is humming.

Rivera expressed his gratitude for the support of the community that frequents Garcia’s Market. He explained that even the new City Market hasn’t noticeably impacted them. He reasons that their products are specialty, and City Market’s inventory didn’t encroach anymore on that niche with their new store than they had previously. 

There are customers that visit Garcia’s Market once a week or more often. One of them, José Guadalupe, told The Sopris Sun: “They treat me well, the chefs. And their food is great.”

The kitchen’s renowned zest can be attributed to Gladys, a chef that has worked 15 years for Garcia’s Market. The majority of her recipes are from Mexico, but they also prepare recipes from other countries, like pupusas and Salvadoran breakfasts.

With all the changes that have impacted Carbondale, Garcia’s Market remains a local favorite and Roaring Fork Valley mainstay.