3 years, 3 members: there’s no doubt that 3 is the lucky number for Abarrote de Diseño. It was back in 2014 that Abarrote’s first designs came into existence under Huayapam’s merciless sun. Neither, Jorge Alberto Romero Canseco, Juan Carlos Pinacho Cruz nor Oscar Historietas suspected this was the beginning of an exciting journey that would, this year, lead to the celebration of 3 successful years in partnership. And what better way to celebrate this milestone than to share a bit of their history, present projects and vision for the future. Qué Pasa Oaxaca interviewed the founders of this creative and dynamic enterprise and this is what they said:
Why did you choose the name ‘Abarrote’?
When we decided to commercialise our products we had the tiendas de abarrotes (small-local grocery stores) in mind – the ones that existed when we were children, especially in the villages. One of us comes from a small community in the Tlacolula Valley and the memory of these places where you could find a bit of everything gave us the pointer for the name. In Abarrote you can find everything: cups, bow ties, notebooks, coffee, honey, chocolate, mezcal (our own brand, “Quema Santos”) and a huge variety of other products. This is why we are ‘de chile, de dulce y de manteca’*, hahaha.
What is your biggest achievement?
The blue Oaxaca tshirt. People from all over Mexico and the world love it! We believe it represents Oaxaca in many ways –its colours and design. For example, we love finding people wearing it during the holiday season. Somehow it’s as if they are ‘wearing’ Oaxaca.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Abarrote’s biggest challenge is to sustain itself. We need to have a solid structure, business wise. We have never received, or applied for, any kind of funding but Abarrote needs to strengthen the business side in order to become a solid concept. Another challenge is to open our own store.
There are many options for funding, would you apply for any?
No, not really. We believe that projects should be self-sustainable. Obviously, the store will need a major investment, but instead of applying for funds for the store’s infrastructure we think we can receive this help from our clients and supporters.
What is your favourite product?
It’s very complicated! The pocillo* is one of our most recent creations and one of my favourites but I would say one of my top favourites is the Oaxaca cup with all the alebrije silhouettes; it represents it all: colours, shapes, the typography, the black background which characterises it. It is my favourite product indeed.
What are the most popular products?
The t-shirts and the notebooks. The notebooks are hand-sewn and people really like that. The paper has a special composition and the pages have small designs. This makes the notebooks one of our most attractive and popular products.
Oaxaca is in fashion right now, why?
Well, I think rather than being in fashion Oaxaca has always been a national and international point of reference. I believe that the social issues we experience make others set their eyes on Oaxaca. But Oaxaca is way more than social chaos – it’s about the creativity and potential of its people. The bigger the social needs in Oaxaca, the greater the innovation and entrepreneurship of the people. That’s why the world is paying attention to Oaxaca.
Do you think this creative environment has helped Abarrote?
Yes. Abarrote has been around for three years and we didn’t know anything when we started. Actually, when we had our first t-shirt batch ready we still didn’t know where we were going to sell them. So the first thing we said was “ok, let’s go and sell them at the Feria del Tejate, in Huayapam”. There we were, under the merciless sun, it was awful. I have to say it wasn’t the greatest experience, but we were able to say that our products can be exposed in different conditions and spaces. There a great deal of uncertainty but there is also this pulse to create and to be liked, and that is our real motivation.
You have been involved in other projects besides designing, right?
Yes, we are not focused only on designing. Last year, in collaboration with the Public Library, we organised the first Creative Festival in Our Library Oaxaca 2016. We named it “Capital Letter”, as all activities were literature related. One of the products we launched (it was not entirely ours, we took inspiration from a similar proposal launched in Europe) was the “One for the road”. We had a sort of ticket vending machine where you would push a button and receive a ticket, which contained a quote from particular book with its editorial information. If you liked the quote you could either read it or buy it. People’s response to the festival was good – 3000 attended and they have asked us to organise a second one, so we are thinking of doing it again.
Going back to that day in Huayapam, What stopped you from quitting?
If people say our products are beautiful that’s enough. I mean, I think we are always looking for people to like our work. Maybe not everyone likes it but I would say most people do. I think that is what made us say “hey, we actually can sell this t-shirt design or those designs”. We also invested a lot in this so quitting would mean we’re losing money and, at the same time, avoiding the possibility to challenge ourselves and well, here we are. For us it still is a very exciting challenge.
What are the plans for future products?
This season’s products are the pocillo* and the recipe notebook, where you can write down all your recipes. It’s divided into four sections: soups, main dishes, desserts, and salads. On the other hand, Jorge, who is fully dedicated to textile design has a brand new Spring-Summer collection of shirts and t-shirts. We want to develop some tie designs as well. We have some bow ties designs for guys, but girls like them too, they use them as hair pins.
How has Abarrote evolved in the last three years?
Well, we stopped being a local brand and we are starting to expand regionally. Currently, you can find Abarrote’s products in Puebla, Tlaxcala and Querétaro and we have a distribution project in Mexico City. Our enterprise is starting to go beyond the borders so to speak. We want Abarrote to be present in every state of the country. I also have to add that we are now working on this full time and not just as a hobby. At first we all had our own jobs, but now two of us work for Abarrote whereas the third one still has a part time job. This is helping us to find balance between our future plans and being able to have enough resources to make those plans happen.
You work with Oaxacan families, what is the impact Abarrote has left on them?
First, the impact has been economical. We don’t like bargaining, neither do we favor unfair trade. The idea is, if we win, then families must win as well. Sometimes people sacrifice the value of their work and lower their prices so we’ll keep working with them, but we always respect the prices we initially agreed on. We don’t like to foster the idea that lowering prices is okay if you want to sell. No, on the contrary, we highlight that it is quality that fuels demand and growth. We want the children of these families to realise the potential they have, to learn how to develop it to its maximum, and to enjoy the benefits.
Where can we find your products?
Well, the largest distributor in Oaxaca is Antiga, which is on García Vigil #403 in downtown. The second largest distributor is Tutú Handbags, located in Abasolo #103, downtown area as well. You can also find us in the Grañen Porrúa and MUFI bookstores and with our fellow designer Fatima Santaella, whose shop is on M. Bravo, between García Vigil and Porfirio Diaz streets. Some of our products can also be found in Libreespacio la Jicara and la Mezcalillera.
For online shopping you can find us in Facebook as Abarroteros Diseñadores (profile) and “Abarrote de Diseño (fan page). Our website is www.abarrotedediseño.mx, and through www.kichink.com you can find some of the products that can be sold via e-commerce.
Is there something you would like to add for our readers?
We would like to thank all the people that follow, like and buy our products – we call them “la clientela” -you know, it’s the counterpart of the Abarrote concept. So thank you clients, keep choosing us!
*De chile, de dulce y de manteca: a Mexican idiom used in different contexts to express there is variety, it can make reference to a variety of products or skills. It literally translates as: (one has) chilli, candy and butter.