Cajeta, aguacate, membrillo, escamocha, piñon, pitaya, horchata, tamarindo, chamoy, arroz con leche, and zapote—at La Michoacana Paleteria y Neveria in Hollister, these are names to conjure with.
Located at 195 Meridian Street Suite B-18 across from the Lucky’s Supermarket, La Michoacana is owned by Ana Ramos-Aguilera and operated with her husband Daniel Aguilera, who started with a shop in Watsonville that opened in 2016.
“When we started out we got a really good response from everybody,” Ana said. “We overgrew the space and were so successful we lost our lease because our customers kept filling up the parking lot. We moved to another location and started looking to open another shop in Hollister. We thought we could handle having another business and we thought it would be a good place for our kids to work. Now that my children are grown, the ice cream shops are now my babies.”
The sweet shop offers ice cream made with fresh Watsonville strawberries that explodes with flavor. They have a vanilla which has depth and complexity not found in supermarket versions. They have mangonadas—mango sorbet, tajin, chamoy, and lime, topped with chopped mango. Chocolate-covered frozen confections like bananas or cheesecake? They have those, too.
Ana traced her interest in ice cream back to her childhood in Mexico.
“I remember being in Mexico City with my grandfather in his ice cream shop,” she said. “One of my uncles is still in the ice cream business in Mexico running ice cream shops. The recipes come from my brothers and sister who have moved around a lot. They have had shops in places like Guadalajara, Indiana, Chicago, Salt Lake City and Texas. With my kids, we are four generations of ice cream makers.”
Opening during the pandemic presented its own set of problems though. The popularity of the shop led to occasional long lines forming outside due to restrictions on how many people can be inside at one time prior to the regional stay-at-home order. La Michoacana is now restricted to take-out and delivery options.
“It was not the right time to be opening because of COVID,” Ana said. “I was a little afraid, but people came and supported us. We have been so blessed.”
The menu behind the counter lists over 40 types of milk and water-based ice cream, which can be had as ice cream bars, in cones, or cups. Milkshakes and bananas splits are available as well. There are also cooked items like nachos, tostadas and elote (corn on the cob served with mayonnaise, cotija cheese, lime and hot sauce).
La Michoacana offers agua fresca in eight flavors, and customers can also order a michelagua, made with cucumber or lime water and a scoop of water-based ice cream of your choice, served in a glass rimmed with chamoy and tajin spice.
“Everything is made in the house,” Daniel said. “I make it with family, with my son, who helps me a lot. I taste everything before I pour it into the machines to be sure it’s right and that is the best part of the job. I love all of it.”
Daniel’s favorite is the guanabana ice cream, a hard to describe flavor that is a refreshing mix of delicate sweet and sour tastes served with the fruit pulp and seeds.
Pressed for a favorite flavor, Ana hedged a bit.
“I love the passionfruit, but it changes all the time,” she said. “I remember back to when I was a little girl I used to eat fresh water-based strawberry with cotija cheese. I will have that now and feel just like a little kid.”
La Michoacana sources as much local, fresh fruit for their products as they can, including strawberries, mangoes, and prickly pears, but some of the ingredients come from further away.
“Every day we get fresh fruit in season,” Ana said, “but some of the fruits have to travel from Mexico, frozen. We make sure that everything we get is as special as it can be.”
One satisfied customer is Ariel from Hollister (she withheld her last name). “My favorite is the chocolate and my family loves the agua fresca. The people here are very nice and everything tastes great. I would tell everyone to come here and enjoy all the flavors.”
It’s just fun,” Ana said. “Getting to interact with people, getting to see their eyes light up because the ice cream brings back memories. I get to hear stories that make me cry and laugh, stories that people tell me about when they were young, and the memories they have. We want to be able to say to people that we are here for you and we want you to remember these things, but we also want to help you make new memories.”
La Michoacana Paleteria y Neveria is located at 195 Meridian Street, Suite B-18 in Hollister. They are open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
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