MERIDEN — Two local Latino-owned businesses, GS Boutique Café and CTown Supermarket, were visited by Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz in honor of the month-long commencement of Hispanic Heritage Month on Friday morning.
Bysiewicz was joined by Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati; State Reps. Hilda Santiago, Jack Fazzino and Michael Quinn; and Adriana Rodriguez, executive director of the Spanish Community of Wallingford.
GS Boutique Café, the Ecuadorian family-owned coffee shop, at 55 W Main St., was the first location that the politicians visited.
“We are here to celebrate two things, National Coffee Day, and we're also celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month,” Bysiewicz said. “The best way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month is to come and support Hispanic-owned small businesses.
“The Hispanic community in Connecticut is the fastest growing ethnic group in our state. It's a very young community. It's a vibrant community. It's a fun community. And it's a very family-oriented community.”
Vinicio Guaman Gaui Lanes, also known as Angel Guaman, opened the café a year ago with his wife Teresa Guaman-Lojano, two daughters and a son. The family serves authentic Colombian coffee. The goal of Vinicio and Teresa Guaman was to have a place where locals can enjoy food, coffee, music and shopping.
During the celebration, Damaris Guaman, graduate of The Juilliard School in New York, sang the song “Hasta la Raíz” by Natalia Lafourcade. Vinicio Guaman also shared a few words.
“I am very content and happy to be here in Meriden,” he said. “We are here to serve our Latino community.”
Santiago congratulated the Guamans on successfully operating their small family business.
“Here we have another Latino business that opened up in Meriden,” she said. “We have a very large Latino population in the city.”
Hispanic and Latinos residents make up 36 percent of the population in Meriden and 18 percent in Connecticut, according to the United States Census Bureau. In addition, Hispanic-owned businesses grew about 8.2%, from 346,836 in 2019 to 375,256 in 2020 in the U.S.
“These family-owned businesses are the hallmark of our downtown and as we continue to improve as a city, these family-owned businesses are the reason why we're able to do that,” Fazzino said.
According to Joseph Feest, Economic Development Director of Meriden, Latino-owned and ethnic businesses are the highest growing sector in Meriden, especially restaurants.
At CTown Supermarket, 160 Colony St., Bysiewicz met with owner Daniel Diaz, who opened the business seven years ago. He is also the owner of the CTown in New Britain.
Meriden CTown is the go-to place for many Latino families, as the store offers a variety of ethnic products from Colombia, Perú, Ecuador and Puerto Rico.
“For communities like Meriden, or really any urban district, we talk about housing in and around inner cities,” Scarpati said. “It’s critical and essential to have a store like CTown where people can walk to and it’s on the bus route.”
Diaz says that CTown has built a community with shoppers.
“My parents migrated here. So for us, we see our people. We see the same upbringing that we had. And it's a thing where they become like part of the family. Like we all become like a huge family,” he said.