The Essex Street Market is a Lower East Side staple when it comes to fresh food and prepared goods. Meet the vendors in this profile series and swing by the market all month long during May to celebrate 75 years of Essex Street Market.
Viva Fruits & Vegetables has sold fruits, vegetables, and Mexican specialty food products at Essex Street Market for over 14 years. Some of the products are even imported directly from Mexico and Santo Domingo, like green bananas, plantains, yucca, eggplants, pineapples, coconuts, sugar cane, cassava, and grapefruits!
We spoke to Sobeida de la Cruz, the daughter of Viva’s owner, Jose de la Cruz, about what the experience working out of Essex Street Market has been like.
Owner: Jose de la Cruz
Business name: Viva Fruits and Vegetables
Market start: 2000
Product sold: Fruits & Vegetables, including Spanish roots and Korean and Japanese produce; some packaged goods.
Who started the business and why did they want to be in the market?
My father started the business 14 years ago. We’re from the neighborhood. My grandmother lived across the street and I grew up on Orchard Street. My father had a wholesale food business. We used to shop here, so of course we wanted to open here. It’s a little jewel of the Lower East Side. There’s so much diversity and everyone comes here—all different kinds of people.
What is your specialty? Tell us the story of the product.
Our specialty lies in our Spanish roots: cassava/yucca, green bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes, and bread fruit. It’s all fresh and people come here to get it because of that.
What is your favorite memory at the market?
I’m just happy to work with my dad and be close to my mom. We are a real family business and I enjoy it. I enjoy my customers. I moved to the Dominican Republic a few years ago but then I decided to come back to help my dad. We all still live in the neighborhood.
What is your favorite time of the week at the market and why?
It’s all good. I have customers all day long every day and every day is different. It gets busier now and through the holidays with people starting to make pasteles for the holidays and all the celebrations.
Are there any fun facts about your business that you want to share?
People probably don’t realize that we get up at 2 am every morning to buy food at the wholesale markets so that we have everything fresh. We bring it here and to our shop at La Marqueta. We have a wholesale business too. It’s a family business. It’s what we do every day.
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