Roxy Trevino figured it would be a gap summer after earning a graduate degree in architecture from Texas A&M University.
Back home in Weslaco, she was helping her parents run one of the Rio Grande Valley’s better-known Mexican food restaurants. Trevino lent a hand with the business’ social media, marketing and event planning. It was the summer of 2019. She was getting a breather after rigorous academic work that included doing research in Spain.
“I was going to give it a few months, maybe a year, and then join corporate America,” Trevino said.
Before then, there was a small building to explore on the grounds of the family’s Nana’s Taqueria that was being used for storage. She recommended that it be converted into a gift shop, to which her parents then said, “figure out what to do with it.”
The goal, Trevino said, was to do “something that would add to the experience.”
It would be the beginning of Para Mi, an artisanal gift shop of vivid colors filled with handmade products originating from 10 Mexican states. The items are not there by chance. Trevino personally travels across Mexico, meeting with the artisans. She confers with them on what will be the best fit into the concept and design of her shop and online offerings.
“I want to give the essence of Mexico without being literal,” said Trevino, who is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. “I hand select every item.”
Sounding very much like an architect, she speaks of using “space, scale and design” to go with effective lighting in making a store presentation that dazzles the eyes.
“I’ve heard kids come into the store and say, ‘Mom, look, it’s like Coco in here!'”
The reference to the Disney animation movie certainly pleases her in what she’s trying to do with her Weslaco shop.
“I really like that sense of magic,” Trevino said.
Brilliance Of Colors
Walking into Para Mi, it’s a blitz of colors.
Earrings attach to traditional Mexican bingo cards. Virgencita dolls line up in neat rows. Christmas ornaments feature Freida Kahlo, the legendary Mexican artist. Purses made of textiles splash with flowers of all colors. A stylish holiday gift basket has a label that says, “Presented by the Ramirez family, hecho en Oaxaca, Mexico.”
This is the sort of personal connection Trevino wants to make with her shop.
“You see the importance of a physical space with a storefront,” she said.
Showing a visitor around her store and its cascade of colors, she said, “It’s hard to translate this into digital.”
Trevino knows the importance of the latter while designing her shop’s physical space for maximum visual effect. She is very much a millennial entrepreneur when she describes “small batch wholesale,” in which she hopes to sell products online in big volumes to museums and bigger shops. Para Mi’s sales mix of 75 percent store and 25 percent digital makes sense when considering the time Trevino has invested in transforming a storage space to a multi-layered shop that has all the colors of a rainbow, and then some.
It’s not only the presentation. On a recent busy weekday afternoon, she gracefully connected with her customers and gave insights on the products she was selling.
“You lose that sense of connectedness in the digital era,” Trevino said.
Looking At The Future
Trevino’s short-term plan of “a gap summer” and then doing her part at the family restaurant has morphed into thinking about her longer-range goals. Para Mi has done better business wise than she could have imagined. Trevino is having so much fun running her business that she sometimes asks herself, “Did I even work today?”
She is still open to pursuing the right kind of architectural opportunity if a firm offers the sort of meaningful and socially impactful work she seeks. At the same time, she and her younger sister, Citlali, also a Texas A&M graduate, are taking a bigger role in the family business. Nana’s will have a second location next year. The sisters are at the forefront in deciding where that will be.
“I don’t know exactly where I’m headed in the future,” Trevino said. “I know one thing. I’m going to keep the shop going.”