Big Dreams and Bigger Goals in Little Guatemala
Inspired by the Central American country of its namesake, Little Guatemala has been a project that’s spent years in the works. As it finally opens its doors to the public, building a cultural bridge between the Guatemalan population and the Morganton community, it becomes even more incredible when one looks at the journey it took to get here.
With Roots in Guatemala
Little Guatemala is the dream child of husband and wife duo, Christian and Erica Ramazzini. The two met in Guatemala, where Christian was born and raised and spent his whole life, and where Erica was living for two years. The two married and moved to Morganton, North Carolina, following Erica’s family who lived there.
After arriving, they quickly realized what a blessing their choice was – Morganton is home to a large Guatemalan population, helping Christian feel right at home in the North Carolina community. But their passion for Guatemalan culture helped the young family realize an opportunity to bring together Christian’s home country and their passions and interests together into a business.
It all started with a small, quarter-pound coffee roaster. The couple began roasting beans out of their house and selling bags of coffee at the farmers market. It was a small business but it was where their passions were. With Christian working a full-time job and having a young, growing family, the couple was busy.
Things changed when they went to check out an empty building that local friends mentioned they should look at for expansion. On entering the dilapidated, worn-out building, the couple saw their business dreams come to life, but also merge into something newer and bigger.
From Concept to Construction to Opening with Mountain BizWorks
The space they looked at offered more than just room for a coffee shop. Christian envisioned it becoming a magical, cultural space reflective of multiple areas of Guatemalan culture: coffee, chocolate, crafts, street food, and soccer. But it was going to take a lot of work.
After facing failed attempt after failed attempt to obtain a business loan, they were advised to head to Mountain BizWorks for help. What they thought would be a month of repairs and construction on the building turned into a three-year project, with a range of expenses all along the way. Not only did Mountain BizWorks provide loan funding to get the project going, but they approved additional funds when the costs continued to rise for the building.
Given the amount of time and effort needed to fix the building, Christian and Erica were also able to take on other additional support. They took advantage of the one-on-one coaching and technical assistance from Mountain BizWorks, from Quickbooks coaching to website development, construction management, and general business coaching. In fact, they recognize it as one of the most valuable assets in their business journey.
“We wouldn’t be able to operate without Mountain BizWorks, but we…also learned so much [from them] and are better business people for it. We send people to them all the time!” Erica notes.
Blending Family and Culture into One
As their partnership with Mountain BizWorks continues to support their dreams and keep their business on the right path, Erica acknowledges her favorite element of starting Little Guatemala: bringing their entire family of five into this incredible experience. “It’s our mission to be a bridge between the Guatemalan culture and the greater population…[we] love the people here, the community at large has been wonderful, and we’ve felt the support.”
Embracing Cultural Diversity in Morganton
Residents of the Morganton area are newly discovering the cultural treasure that is Little Guatemala. Having officially opened in June 2021, visitors will find themselves delightfully imbued in the rich culture of Guatemala.
First, you’ll encounter the deep, bitter smells of freshly roasted coffees in the coffee shop (coincidentally, the start of it all). Grab a bag of home-roasted Guatemalan coffee before checking out some of the bean-to-bar chocolates for sale. The craft shop of Little Guatemala features everything from authentic Guatemalan jewelry, like earrings and bracelets, to wallets and woven pillowcases. If you’re ready for a meal, the street food-inspired cuisine is going to fill you up and leave you happily satiated. Last, but certainly not least, enjoy playing or spectating at the complete indoor soccer field.
Not only is Little Guatemala the perfect taste of home for its Guatemalan community members, but it’s also a beautiful introduction and representation of what the Central American country has to offer. It’s a place for all members of the community to embrace a new culture and learn a bit about the country’s food and society, and an ideal place to bring family or meet new fellow Morgantonian! A single visit is all it takes to gain an appreciation for the incredible Guatemalan culture.