On the corner of Vine and Main streets in Tooele City sits what looks like a small corner store, but inside things are cooking and the place is packed — with color, everything under the sun to sell, and people.
Samuel and Aida Berumen are celebrating the 15th year since they bought a small Mexican market in Tooele and turned it into a thriving business, Zacatecas Market.
It all started one morning in 2007, Samuel and Aida took a drive from Salt Lake City to Tooele to check out a small market, La Hispana, that was for sale.
Sam had been working for 12 years as a cook at a Chinese restaurant in West Valley City. He enjoyed cooking but was tired of working for somebody else. He wanted his own business.
Aida said on the way out to Tooele that morning she questioned Sam’s sanity for considering leaving work to start a new business in Tooele.
When they arrived, customers were waiting outside by the door for the store to open, and Aida’s opposition to the plan softened.
They bought the place and renamed it Zacatecas for the Zacatecas region of central Mexico where Samuel and Aida are from. Both grew up in the small town of Susticacan, though they met for the first time in Salt Lake City.
Over 15 years the Berumens have transformed the little Hispanic Market into a buzzing business now with their own instore grill, a mobile taco cart, and a catering business
After the Berumen’s owned the store for about one year, Sam got itching to put his cooking skills to work.
In February 2008, Zacatecas started selling tacos and tortas, cooked by Sam.
It was a risk. It was during the recession, some local startup restaurants were closing down.
Initially, Sam prepared the food at the Chinese restaurant in West Valley where he used to work. Every day he brought the freshly prepared food to the Tooele market where it was kept warm and served according to health department regulations.
The menu was limited at first. Zacatecas served tacos — grilled beef with onion, fresh cilantro, and salsa on the side— and tortas — grilled beef with lettuce, avocado, and jalapeno peppers. Carnitas — roasted pork served for take home use.
Today Zacatecas serves a full menu of food from their Zacatecas Market Grill inside the store.
A flat-top grill has been installed. Sam cooks from an open kitchen behind his meat counter. A stainless steel counter has been installed along the back wall of the market where customers can sit and eat if they aren’t ordering to-go.
Tacos, tortas and carnitas are still available. Customers can also get the “Big Meat Quesadilla” with the meat of their choice. It feeds up to three people, according to the menu.
The menu also listsa Big Burrito, ensalada, tamales, fajitas queso birria tacos and encebollado ranchero — beef sauteed with onions and jalapenos.
The El Nopalito Platter, with a combination of beef and chicken with sauteed bell peppers, bulb onions, cactus, and a side of avocado, jalapenos, lime, salsa, sour cream and tortillas, feeds up to four, according to the menu.
And the menu doesn’t stop there. It has snacks, fresh fruit, fresh guacamole, weekend specials with menudo, red pozole, refried beans and red mexican rice.
All this comes out of a small kitchen in a store packed full of goods.
Along with canned, bottled and dried goods, Zacatecas carries fresh produce — delivered four days a week, meat cut fresh by Sam, some with in store made marinades — the Berumen’s make all their marinades and salsas fresh in their store. Fresh bakery products are brought in from Salt Lake City.
Sam grinds his own chorizo and they sell their own secret recipe beef jerky.
Zacatecas also has their own taco stand that they haul to local events. They also do catering.
The store is very much a family business.
Sam and Aida’s four children are their employees — daughter Aida Jr., 21, and son Angel 17, who were just 6 and 2 when the store opened. Sairah, 14, and Saul, 13 — who claims he was born at the store, came along shortly after the store opened.
Sam and Aida originally took turns working at the store so the other one could watch the children at home. When the store first opened customers might have seen the children occasionally as babies behind the counter with Aida.
Today those kids are grown and they hop all around the store, helping customers, working behind the meat counter, helping Sam cook or checking people out.
While Zacatecas is a Hispanic market, the majority of its customers are non Hispanic, according to Aida.
“We get a lot of non Hispanic people coming in that have been to Mexico and are looking for the right things to fix their favorite authentic food,” said Aida.
Seth Bertrand, 20, said he has been buying tacos at Zacatecas for almost eight years.
“I like to support local businesses and their tacos taste better than other places,” he said.
With 15 years under their belt, Zacatecas has survived a recession, a pandemic and now inflation.
Aida credits part of their success to the store’s regular hours, open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
“I think that helps our business a lot — people know that we will be open,” said Aida.
Daughter Aida said her parents’ secret to success is their commitment to high standards.
“I believe the reason my parents have been so successful is because they hold everything they do to the highest standard possible,” Aida Jr. said. “They serve the way they would want to be served.”