Walking into Mata’s Fruit Store might be one of the closest things to a time-warp some of us will experience in El Paso provided you experienced a market like this in your youth. Not big, not fancy but full of an inexplicable connectivity. A connectivity that can only be found in a dense Downtown community.
Mata’s Fruit Store is a name that may be a bit misleading. It is a completely functional grocery store. The name as explained by the owner Carlos J. Mata has gone through a few changes. The store purchased by the Mata family in the 1950’s started as Mata’s Fruit Stand. It eventually landed on Mata’s Fruit Store but has a sister business offering wholesale produce called Mata’s Produce.
Once inside the store you are immediately drawn to the various scents and incorporated in to the store’s energy whether you like it or not. Patrons from the community bustle from one end to the other, creatively finding the space to wait in line or search for their intended items. Carlos freely admits that the store is not as big as other grocery stores but sales have not suffered because of it- the business has reported growth each year since 2006.
Part of the reason for that growth might be the adherence to nostalgic services that show an authentic connection to their customers. Besides carrying products one would expect from a grocery store Mata’s Fruit Store has an in store butcher shop that has a fresh supply of keen cuts of meat including meats that are prepared and seasoned in store like, fajitas de res and fresh chorizo. You can still find T-Bone steak, pork chops, sirloin and similar offerings in addition to chicharrones made in store.
A bakery is also part of the store which is partially responsible for dressing the air with the scent of freshly made sweet bread. Freshly made empanadas, cookies, donuts and churros are a small sampling of what is proudly displayed behind glass. Wedding cakes are available for events such as a rare 4 tier Tres Leches cake that is tricky to pull off considering the tendency for it to collapse due to the moisture.
As if this was not enough, you will find a window on opposing ends of the store that fills orders of freshly made tortillas. Called a Tortilleria, this tortilla factory makes both flour and corn tortillas daily. Chances are you will receive a bag too hot to handle coming off of the line. The customer service is so friendly I was offered a fresh one to try as I eyed the window in curiosity.
Without a doubt there is a sense of community here that attracts loyal customers to return. When we asked Carlos, why stay Downtown? He said, “We get great clientele from not only here but all over the city. One driver based in San Antonio stops in for a dozen packages of tortillas whenever he gets the chance as he passes through. We love our customers.”
Mata’s Fruit Store can be found on 826 S Stanton. Hours 7am-7pm For more information call 915.533.1575