La Merced, the delicious new juice bar at 1008 Manhattan Ave., opened two weeks ago, and the smoothies are as rich and colorful as the vibrant colors seen on the shop’s exterior. The owners of La Merced bring a Mexican flair to the menu that reflects their upbringing; pitaya bowls, luchador smoothies, and Mexicano juices are just a few items on this health-filled menu that also boasts salads, toasts, cold-pressed shots and more. Here, we speak with Ricardo Rodriguez Pacheco, La Merced’s affable owner, about opening up and serving smoothies.
Greenpointers: You guys have been hard at work painting and setting up and now opening. How did the idea for a juice bar come about?
Ricardo Rodriguez Pacheco: Yes, we remodeled the whole place, from the floor to the walls; it’s been hard work but we are very happy to be here.
I always wanted to have my own place, while I was studying in college I used to work as a waiter, however, after finishing college and joining the corporate world I discovered that my path was in the hospitality industry, so I thought about opening a juice bar because I really enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. I am from Mexico, and as you may know we are well-known for our fresh products. We are the capital of the world of avocados, strawberries, limes, etc. I felt that I wanted to pass on those fresh flavors that I tasted in Mexico as a child. I wanted to be able to bring people joy and make them feel good from the inside with healthy and organic juices and smoothies.
The symbol of a luchador mask on your cups and logo is a fun one. Talk to us about choosing that look and name, La Merced.
I love luchadores; they are our Mexican superheroes and of course are one of our symbols. While growing up I remember watching Lucha Libre and my godfather was a luchador, so I thought it would be fun to have a strong and brave luchador as our logo, and also I like the fact that it promotes body positivity in some way. And our name “La Merced” — it’s because in Mexico there is a huge mercado “market” with fresh products, so we wanted to create something similar in a smaller version, something that when people hear the name relate it with fresh and organic produce.
Your Instagram page mentions this is a store owned by immigrants. We love seeing that pride! What is your story and background?
I’m from Mexico; I migrated to the US when I was 11 years old with my brother and my parents. I grew up in the United States; I grew up very much in a Mexican home. I was always speaking Spanish, eating our traditional food, as well as drinking our “aguas frescas” made with fresh fruits and listening to Latin music. English was tough for me in the beginning of my school year because I couldn’t understand or communicate. My mother would stay up late, helping my brother and me with our homework, using a dictionary so that she could understand and help us, and my father would be working late in a supermarket, so that he will be with us in the morning and take us to school. This life rhythm was seven day a week for my parents.
I see my parents as very heroic people. Both left their whole family behind to move to the US and had nobody. I think of them often, and how they’ve handled the pain of separation and the readjustment of being in this new country. There’s a lot of heroism in the day-to-day, and trying to stay centered in the midst of an unstable situation. I admire my immigrant family more than they’ll ever know. That’s the reason I push myself to do the best I can to make them proud and throw my path to help anybody that struggles in any situation. I think we all need to try and go for the things we want even though the paths are hard, but at the end it’s worth it. I believed that was an important step in our immigrant journey. I’m very grateful to have my parents and very thankful for their hard work and sacrifices they made to give my brother and me a better future.
Any favorite items on your menu?
I love the whole menu, because each juice, smoothie, bowl, salad, and toast is designed to bring a positive effect to people’s bodies, but if I have to decide I think the avocado smoothie because I loved the combination and the consistent of the smoothie; its like drinking pieces of happiness 🙂
What excites you about having a store in Greenpoint?
We love Brooklyn, it is our home and being here in Greenpoint has been awesome, everybody has been amazing and very welcoming to us, we are excited to find ways to bring back to this community and make it better. I’m thrill every time I see a guest with a smile once they try something from our menu. It’s my best reward.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Just that we are very happy to be here, and that we’d like to invite everybody to give us a chance and taste our menu, we are sure they won’t regret it. Gracias 🙂