came to the United States when she was 18. She and her husband,
Jerry Pérez, have operated the Tesoro (treasure) Market at
188 Chelsea St. for four years now. The regulars know Benevides
by name, and she chats with them in English just as easily as in
her store have quickly become an institution in East Boston, home
to a mix of Italians, Brazilians, Columbians and Salvadorans. Before
Tesoro opened, customers had to walk to the Shaw's in Central Square
a mile away.
Tesoro specializes in
Salvadoran products, which makes sense when you learn that Benevides
grew up on a farm in El Salvador. What might surprise you, though,
is that she had to "learn" about those Salvadoran products
when the store opened in 1999.
but I didn't have experience dealing with Hispanic people,"
says Benevides. "It took a little time."
and Benevides operated a coffee shop at the Lechmere T stop in Cambridge
for 20 years, selling mostly American fast food to a mostly American
clientele. They opened their store in East Boston because they "wanted
At first they
sold only American products, but the customers started asking her
for Salvadoran coffee and rice. "It was a little hard, because
I didn't know who the suppliers were," she says. "I have
products in here I've never tasted in my life!"
the Maxwell House and Quaker Oats, one can find Nescafé Listo
and Rio Grande rice from El Salvador. "They know the brand
name," Benevides says of her Salvadoran clientele. "It
makes them feel like they're home."
To the corner
of Chelsea and Brooks Streets, Benevides has brought a diverse supply
of groceries to a diverse population. To Benevides, the neighborhood
has reintroduced the culinary culture of her homeland.