Dulceria El Chavito owners Nicky Monroy, left, and Eddie Lopez on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Dulceria El Chavito owners Nicky Monroy, left, and Eddie Lopez on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Indulge your inner child’s sweet tooth at Dulceria El Chavito in Lynnwood

We asked the owners of this new Latin-American shop about their roots, owning a business and their favorite snacks.

LYNNWOOD — Step into Dulceria El Chavito and be transported into a Willy Wonka-like wonderland.

That is, if Willy Wonka had taken a tour through Latin America rather than stopping off wherever he captured the Oompa Loompas.

Hidden around the corner of a nondescript parking lot off 196th Street, the little store offers familiar Latin American goods found in any corner tienda — Goya-brand canned and dried beans, and frosty glass bottles of Mexican Coke and rainbow-colored Jarritos — but it’s the shelves of sweets, the “dulce” in the store’s name, that’ll get you as psyched as a kid in a candy store.

A bag of mixed treats from Dulceria El Chavito on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A bag of mixed treats from Dulceria El Chavito on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

That’s the goal, actually. “Chavito” is a Mexican term for a little boy that connotes a real rug-rat type of kid, the kind whose eyes would glaze over with the sheer dizzying number of treats to choose from in the dulceria’s aisles.

Co-owners and partners Nicky Monroy and Eddie Lopez started up Dulceria El Chavito at the very end of 2023 with the goal of introducing nostalgic treats from home — Monroy is from Mexico City and Lopez hails from Guatemala — to Snohomish County. Several months in, the owners are keeping the chavito spirit alive each and every day from their candy-coated corner of Lynnwood.

We asked Monroy and Lopez a few questions about their inspirations, their beginnings and the snacks that evoke their inner chavito. Read on to learn more, but beware if you’ve got a sweet tooth.

How did Dulceria El Chavito get started?

“(We) are foodies. We saw a lack of traditional candy and products from our homelands, so we decided to seek imported products that were very hard to find.

“In 2023, along with help from our family members, we took the decision to open a stand at Hidden Gems Market, a Tulalip market only open weekends from April to September. There we were able to connect with people. Shortly after, the demand for candy increased more and more to where we needed to do deliveries during the week. After the market closed for the season, we found ourselves doing more and more deliveries, and customers often wanted to come to an established location to do their shopping. That’s when we started looking for places to open a store where we could offer more than just candy.”

What is the idea behind the dulceria? How is it different from other local Latin grocery stores?

“The concept behind our dulceria revolves around offering a diverse selection of sweets from every state in Mexico, as well as Central America, to cater to different tastes and preferences. We provide a delightful experience for consumers looking to satisfy their sweet and sour cravings.

A variety of sweet baked goods are available at Dulceria El Chavito on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A variety of sweet baked goods are available at Dulceria El Chavito on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“Our specialty is candy, but we saw a lack of traditional products, and the demand for more everyday products got bigger and bigger — not only from our Mexican customers; we had a big demand for items from Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Honduras, Peru, Puerto Rico and more Latin countries. While our specialty is still very much candy, we have shifted into a Latin store where we carry a wide variety of goods from Latin America: spices, traditional bread (pan dulce) strictly brought from other countries every Friday morning, and more items.

“Our store is different from any other store you have visited in the past because we have a twist of very traditional items dated from way, way back to trendy candy from TikTok. At Dulceria El Chavito, you will never feel lost — we will always help our customers find the right candy for their personal taste.”

What have been the biggest challenges so far?

“The biggest challenge is getting the word out since the store is located toward the end of the complex building. People have a hard time finding us.”

(Note: If you find yourself struggling to locate the dulceria within the complex, there’s a handy map available on the shop’s website, dulceriaelchavito.com. It’s worth hunting down; stepping into the store is like finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.)

A selection of piñatas are available at Dulceria El Chavito on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A selection of piñatas are available at Dulceria El Chavito on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“We both have full-time jobs outside of the store, but I can confidently say that we haven’t found this to be difficult. We love people and the opportunity to connect with our customers while still doing our other jobs that we are also very passionate about. For us, it’s a perfect mix. But when we need a break, we have our family that is always there to help us. We are extremely lucky and thankful to have them.”

What is your favorite part of running the store?

“Our favorite part is seeing the smiles on our customers’ faces when they enter the store and see their favorite products, products that remind them of home. We have been able to connect with people in such a way that they have transformed from customers to friends. “

What are your favorite treats carried at the dulceria?

Eddie recommends the chamoy pickle kit, which includes everything you need to recreate the sour-sweet-spicy TikTok trend: A pickle doused in bright-red chamoy paste, which you’re meant to wrap with a Fruit Roll-Up for easy handling while you hollow the pickle out to make room for spicy Takis chips, Fruit Gushers and Salsaghetti candies before topping the whole unit with tamarind sauce and more chamoy. For the less adventurous and sensory-seeking, he suggests picking up a cold Tiki, a Guatemalan pineapple soda, or a mini loaf of fresh Guatemalan bread.

Chamoy Skitlz along with other chamoy sweets are available at Dulceria El Chavito on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Chamoy Skitlz along with other chamoy sweets are available at Dulceria El Chavito on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Nicky’s picks are also distinctly chamoy-soaked. She loves the condiment made from pickled fruit on everything, and it lends its distinctive flavor profile to countless items in the store — her favorites include chamoy Fruit Gushers, gummies and chips. On the distinctly sugary side, she says you can’t go wrong with a bottle of Mexican Coke or a slice of tres leches cake, stocked in flavors such as dulce de leche, coconut and Mexican mocha from Seattle bakery Tres Lecheria.

Riley Haun: 425-339-3192; riley.haun@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @RHaunID.

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