La barca

Photo by Heather Brewer. From left, Juan Villanueva, Maria Carranza and Carlos Camarena make up the team at Oakley’s La Barca Market, which opened in November. The market offers a litany of services and products, including fresh produce, a butcher, a taqueria and Mexican and American drinks, snacks and candies.

When people think about small towns, they often imagine the picturesque community market, brimming with drinks, snacks and homemade meals waiting to be packed into lunch boxes.

La Barca Market, now open on Main Street in Oakley, is just that sort of quaint, family-owned store, but with a Mexican twist, complete with fresh produce, a butcher and delicious food made to order in a homey taqueria. Maria Carranza and her husband, Juan Villanueva, opened the store in late November, and they have been busy since.

“A lot of our customers are so excited there’s a market here again; the last Mexican market here closed about four years ago,” said Carranza, who grew up in Knightsen and Oakley. “We know what it’s like to struggle financially, so we make every effort to keep our prices fair. If something drops in price when we buy it, our prices drop when we sell it.”

After developing his talents in the food-service industry at many local restaurants for more than a decade, Villanueva wanted to create a place of his very own.

“Juan has been wanting to start his own business for years,” said Carranza. “When we saw this location was open, we knew it was time. Even though it took us a year to get ready, he always says things happen for a reason.”

With years of experience behind the food counter, Villanueva offers Hispanic fare like burritos, tostadas, ceviche and horchata, as well as American cuisine like pasta, salads and burgers. While he cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for dine-in or take-out in the store’s open-style taqueria with cousin Carlos Camarena, Carranza runs the rest of the store, including acquiring hard-to-find items requested by patrons who are already becoming regulars.

“In addition to Mexican and American drinks, snacks and candies, I have started looking for some lesser-known products that have been requested by customers, including condiments and treats from South American countries,” she said. “I think we have more variety than most people would expect, and we’re so happy to be in a place so convenient to grab and go. Our taqueria has a very diverse menu.”

So far, their customers have been decidedly satisfied by both the products and the people behind the counters.

“My sister and I stopped in and had fish ceviche tostada, sampled some salsa and bought some freshly made chicken fajita and salsa,” said Kandice Paulk in an online review. “Everything tasted amazing! There is a very welcoming and friendly staff. I highly recommend La Barca, and I will definitely be doing a lot of shopping here for summer (barbecues).”

While they continue to make a name for themselves in Oakley, Carranza and Villanueva will be participating in the upcoming inaugural Menudo Cook Off in Brentwood, and hope more people will stop by the store to see what they’re about.

La Barca Market is located at 3587 Main St., in Oakley, and is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information or large orders, call 925-418-4511 or email labarcamarket@gmail.com.

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