Antonia Macias Nungaray and her family relocated to Madera from the Central Coast due to the cost of living. They opened an eatery in October — achieving Antonia’s dream of becoming a business owner. Photos by Frank Lopez

published on March 23, 2022 - 12:33 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

As inspiring as stories of young entrepreneurs getting their ventures off the ground can be, first-time business owners with longer histories also have rich stories to tell.

For Antonia Macias Nungaray, the story she longed to tell for herself was that of owning her very own business.

As owner of Chavita’s Café in Madera for the last six months with her husband Salvador Nungaray, she is now able to tell the story she’s always wanted.

Located at 26063 Ave. 17 in northern Madera, Chavita’s Café serves Mexican snacks such as shaved ice, spiced fruit and mangonadas as well as Mexican-styled coffees, smoothies, fruit waters, milkshakes, sandwiches and more.

Though it was always a dream for Nungaray to start her own business, the realization of the dream also came out of necessity.

Around six years ago, Nungaray and her husband both worked at a lodge in Big Sur — for nearly 17 years at that point. She worked as a housekeeper and in the lodge’s café and snack bar. Salvador worked in maintenance.

“Working there, I made coffee, served ice cream. I’d always say to myself ‘One day I’m going to own my own café. One day I will have my little store to sell ice cream and coffees and all kinds of snacks,’” Nungaray said.

The potted succulents on the wall of Chavita’s started with a family gift. The wall has evolved into a decorative statement as well as a revenue opportunity.

 

One day while Salvador was on the job, a tree service was carrying 15- to 20-foot branches on the back of a truck. The branches were not secured, and when the truck started moving, a branch fell and hit him. The injuries left him in the hospital for 10 days.

He was then put on disability.

They then decided they’d have to come up with ways to support the family.

When Nungaray and her family moved to Madera around two years ago due to the cost of living being too high in the Big Sur area, she saw the opportunity to open her own store.

To raise startup capital, Nungaray and her husband would resell items at flea markets. Her husband was a long-time flea market shopper.

Sales from the flea market went on to fund rent for the location as well as more than $15,000 in renovations including carpet removal, flooring, painting, plumbing, architecture and contract work.

After about a year and a half of saving and renovations to the location, Chavita’s Café opened in October 2021.

Salvador is proud that his wife was able to finally accomplish one of her dreams.

“I feel very good for her. Ever since Mexico, we’ve had our own vegetable stands and we’ve always liked to sell and work for ourselves. We’ve always done everything together. We wish to be able to come out a little more forward this year,” Salvador said. “Everything is really hard right now, but we are going to keep going.

The Nungarays have three children: two grown daughters who live in the Bay Area and a 14-year-old son Salvador who is nicknamed “Chavita.” The café is named after him.

Though not too tech savvy herself, Nungaray’s children and family — as well as the owners of a business next door, The Come Up Kickz — helped with the café’s Instagram account, chavitascafe, which has nearly 1,600 followers.

Nungaray also has a wall of succulent plants at the front of the café, with each potted cactus available to purchase. The first cactus pots were a gift from her daughter and her boyfriend, but she kept on potting cacti in unique pots, and eventually filled up a wall to help decorate the space.

Nungaray started her business to help support the family after her husband’s accident and put her son through college. She admits that she hopes business picks up, but the café is making enough to keep the doors open and pay bills.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Nungaray. “If one wants to start a successful business, you have to stay your ground and stand strong. I don’t want to be rich, I just want my business to provide me a living and send my son to college. I feel marvelous for being in business for myself. It’s what I’ve wanted.”


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