Pasco produce store opens amid shutdown, nears first anniversary

As a teenager Veronica Delgado worked in the Pasco Specialty Kitchen with a woman who made her own jams and sold them at the farmers market.

After graduating, she worked in a grocery store selling produce.

Later she began selling produce from her uncle’s Pasco farm off Road 100 at the Pasco Farmers Market.

Fruit tables line the sidewalk in front of Veronica’s Fresh Produce which opened last summer at 528 W. Clark St. in Pasco after state-mandated shutdowns closed many businesses, including farmers markets. (Courtesy Veronica’s Fresh Produce)

Delgado, 27, said she loved seeing food go from farm-to-table in the same community. Soon she began making products herself to sell at the farmers market.

“We have 250 beehives… we sold honey at two to five different farmers markets before the shutdown. We had chickens. I make handmade soaps … my aunt taught me to make soap,” she said.

When the state-mandated lockdowns closed farmers markets, Delgado knew people still had to eat and wanted to support local producers, so she looked around for a storefront so she could stay open as a grocery store.

After examining several places, she settled on the 1,200-square-foot Clark Street storefront because it’s close to her home and the farmers market, where she also operates a stand now that it has reopened.

It was hard to get the word out about her new store at first.

“We’ve been doing a lot of Facebook. The people who come spread the word. They say we have great produce, great honey and a lot of people like fresh stuff, grown local or handmade,” she said.

Gustavo Gutierrez-Gomez, executive director of the Downtown Pasco Development Authority, said he loves all the different products offered there that other businesses don’t offer.

“I love the honey; she has coconuts, mangos… very fresh, very unique things, some of which are culturally-specific with tropical flavors. She has organic products, some beauty and even some health products too,” he said.

In addition to keeping her family’s produce and products moving to customers, Delgado said it’s also been a blessing to sell food and other items from other local businesses.

She sells ice cream made by a friend, cider pressed from local orchards, asparagus from the Mid-Columbia, jarred pickles from a local kitchen and more.

“We’re helping the community,” she said.

The Downtown Pasco Development Authority’s 501(c)3 arm has been able to funnel grants, donations and government funding from the federal coronavirus relief packages, state Department of Commerce and city of Pasco to help businesses open and/or stay open during the pandemic, including Veronica’s Fresh Produce, he said.

A few downtown Pasco businesses did choose to close during the 2020 shutdowns, but $240,000 was available to help startups like Delgado’s cover rent during the worst months. She received $7,000.

Delgado said she opened her doors in July after daily deliveries and foot traffic to her home for pickup orders got to be too much.

She found refrigerators and produce display tables and received help from family in running the store seven days a week, including staffing the farmers market.

Delgado is a longtime entrepreneur, selling cotton candy, popcorn and water at the Pasco Flea Market when she was in high school.

“That’s when I knew I liked selling products, mostly because I like talking to people,” she said.

The Pasco High graduate started the part-time honey business in 2012 as a senior in high school.

She earned her associate degree from Columbia Basin College and bachelor’s in social work from Heritage University.

Gutierrez-Gomez said it’s been gratifying to see Veronica’s Fresh Produce and other downtown businesses weather the pandemic.

The development authority coordinates a variety of programs to help support these entrepreneurs, he said, such as business classes offered in Spanish with the help of Wenatchee Community College. Grants from the Seattle Foundation and other groups are keeping doors open and people working, he added.

Currently grant money is being used to produce a Spanish-language podcast and digital radio content to promote downtown businesses. In addition to the business classes, the development authority also is helping with Spanish-language online marketing.

Delgado says she’s lived in Pasco 15 years and enjoys seeing the local support for her store and knowing she’s supporting others: “We help a lot of local farmers and local businesses.”

Veronica’s Fresh Produce: 528 W. Clark St., Pasco; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; Facebook; 509-851-2739.

 

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