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Life & Work with Benito Rios Banchez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Benito Rios Banchez.

Hi Benito, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I am a Nievero (ice cream man) from Oaxaca, Mexico! The Nieve business has been in my family for three generations! My grandpa and my dad taught me how to do Nieve de Garrafa! I started doing my own nieve at the age of 13. When I was about 15, I had told my dad and my grandpa that one day I would open a Nieveria y Paleteria, they didn’t think I was serious but I was. I worked (hustle) the street of LA for many years as a street vendor during my teenage years. During my middle school years and high school years, I would spend my Saturdays selling at the famous Callejones located at Pico and Maple and Sundays, I would be selling Nieves at Santa Cecilia Church (located at Normandie and 42nd st). After high school, I went to community college and I was also street vending my Nieve to pay for my books and classes. College didn’t work for me. So after college, I started working and selling my nieve as a full-time street vendor. At the age of 26, I opened my first Nieveria y Paleteria store (2271 w. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. 9006). We opened on December 2019! The hardest part of this journey was when the pandemic hit and made many business close down for good! I was worried that I would have to close before making it to my one year anniversary, thankfully we are going for our second year! Nothing is easy and nothing is free all one can do is have a clear goal and be consistent no matter what!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Nothing is smooth. When I first started street vending on my own, it wasn’t a new world for me because my parent would take me as a child when they would go sell their Nieve at downtown LA (4th and Winston). It wasn’t a new world, but it was my first experience on everything, I would usually be a spectator and see how the police and Health department would take away my parent cart away and dumped all the nieve on the floor. I saw what my parent went thru but I never felt the pain, the anger, the shame, the hopelessness of not been able to do anything. Like I said it wasn’t something new or something I have never seen before but the feeling I felt when I got my first cart taken away was shame and embarrassed. I got my first cart taken away at the age of 15. I will never forget that day. The police stopped me and told me not to move, they asked for my information to give me a citation. As the police was getting my info health department came and then they got my cart and put bleach on top of all my Nieve. I felt so embarrassed as every person that passed by just looked at me with sadness telling me it will be OK! That day was one of my worst day of my life.

Another harsh road was when my wife and I opened our store on Dec 2019. We were so happy that we achieved one of our goals but we didn’t know it was going to be one of the hardest years of our life. The pandemic hit, and on April 2020 we were thinking of closing the store that we had just opened a couple of months ago because we were behind of bills and rent. It was a difficult month and year but I refused to quit and I did what I knew what to do best (selling on the streets). I had to get the money somehow to pay the bills and the rent for the store, so I went to downtown LA and I invested all the money I had left (300 dollars) on face masks. I still remember that I bought 25 dozen face masks, I didn’t hesitate to go sell them! I sold all my masks that same day. I was overwhelmed with joy, but I knew it wasn’t enough; thus, I did this for months until I was able to pay my bills and the rent.

2020 was a hard year because we Also had burglars break into our shop! Thanks to that break in we lost three days of work, and all our frozen supply melted because the burglars decided to cut off the power! That day I just wanted to yank out all of my hair from my head. I was full of anger. I didn’t want to know anything about the store and about anyone I just wanted to be alone. We also had to fix the wall that they broke to get in the shop.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
For a living, I do the best Nieves in town. I specialize in Nieves y paletas! I do all my Nieves and paletas from natural fruit. I do my Nieves in a special barrel known as barriles in Spanish. So, I prep my Nieve either with milk or with water depending if the flavor is going to be water-based or milk-based. Then I mix it with freshly fruit and some sugar. After prepping, I pour the liquid that I mixed into a metallic container that’s inside the barrel already. Once the liquid is inside the metallic container, I close it with its metallic lid and then I put ice and salt between the barrel and the metal container. Once the ice is spread evenly, I begging to spin the container that has the liquid inside for about an hour and a half until it becomes a Nieve de garrafa! I am really proud that am a third-generation nievero and what makes me stand out more is our unique flavor that we display from our hometown Oaxaca. I am know for having flavors like Leche quemada, tuna, beso de angel, chilacayota, Mezcal, chapulin.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Yes, never give up especially when you want to give up!

Pricing:

  • 1 scoop of nieve $2.25
  • Paletas $2.50
  • Tostilocos $6.00
  • Chicago preparado $6.00
  • Fresa con cremas $6.00

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

Benito Rios Banchez

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