New business to offer taste of Peru in northeastern Nebraska
WAYNE, Neb. (AP) – Pop quiz: How much do you know about Peru?
It’s a country in South America. Correct.
Its capital city is Lima. Correct.
Maybe you’ve heard of Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan mountain city and popular tourist destination.
Unless you’re a geography expert or a world traveler, chances are you might not know much more than that about Peru.
Mytzy Rodriguez-Kufner hopes to give people a good taste of what her home country is about.
Her business, Ekeko Blends, is scheduled to open this month at 110 Main St. on the south end of Wayne’s business district. In addition to cold-pressed juices, she’ll be selling Peruvian coffee and traditional coffee drinks, plus sandwiches, salads, sweets and other treats common to Peru. She also plans to display Peruvian artifacts and sell Peruvian wool sweaters and hats and, of course, Ekeko statues, the Sioux City Journal reported.
“I’m just trying to bring in a little bit of culture to Wayne, to rural Nebraska,” Rodriguez-Kufner said. “I want to promote the town of Wayne by having something different.”
It might be different for Wayne, but it remains familiar for Rodriguez-Kufner, whose family immigrated to Chicago from Peru in 1979 when she was 5 so her mother could receive medical treatment. They remained in the Chicago area near other relatives and kept their culture alive. They spoke Spanish at home and celebrated Peruvian holidays with traditional song, dance and food.
“It was very important for my family to retain that link,” she said.
Rodriguez-Kufner eventually received a doctorate in teaching and learning and was the director of a program that helped students learn English. Five years ago, she moved to Wayne with her husband, Brian Kufner, who teaches at Wayne State College.
Rodriguez-Kufner spent a couple years as a lecturer at Wayne State and provides translation services for Wayne Community Schools. She runs an education consulting business and is involved with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Boy Scouts and the local farmer’s market.
But the idea for her newest venture began more than 10 years ago. Rodriguez-Kufner for years has enjoyed cold-press juicing, which utilizes a press that wrings the juice from the pulp and separates it rather than chopping it up. In about 2007, her oldest son told her that it was so good she could sell it.
“I just put it in the back of my mind,” she said. “My dream job for retirement was to have a coffee shop.”
Rodriguez-Kufner, who periodically returns to Peru to visit family, isn’t at retirement age, but she decided earlier this year to follow through on that dream. She pressed and sold juice at the farmer’s market this summer, and was encouraged by how many people liked it.
Naming her business Ekeko Blend, Rodriguez-Kufner is calling upon Peruvian tradition for a successful endeavor. Ekeko is a pre-Incan deity and god of fertility, wealth and health. Many Peruvians keep an Ekeko statue in their home as a good luck charm.
The Ekeko name and statues are a small taste of Peruvian culture the shop will offer. Rodriguez-Kufner will sell Peruvian coffee, which she said has a natural hazelnut taste, and traditional coffee drinks, including her favorite, which has dark sugar and cheese.
There will be alfajores, cookies made of corn flour and butter that contain a filling similar to sweetened condensed milk, and other Peruvian treats. Other menu items, many of them gluten-free, will include light sandwiches and salads with a Peruvian flair.
The food and drink might be unfamiliar to many people, but Rodriguez-Kufner hopes that by trying something new, customers will enjoy it and become more willing to learn about other cultures. Rodriguez-Kufner said the business adds a niche to Wayne, giving visitors another reason to come to town, shop and eat.
“It will be a place where they can come and feel welcomed and appreciated,” she said.
She hopes that, in turn, those visitors will welcome and appreciate Peruvian culture.