The signs advertising Hispanic-owned businesses are up all over south Little Rock. Despite that, census stats show the number of those businesses has dropped 19 percent between 1997 and 2002.
"Those numbers are not accurate. It couldn't be. I travel the state, I know the community well," says Maura Lozano-Yancy.
Yancy owns the Hispanic newspaper Hola! Arkansas, which partners with Today's THV to provide Hispanic interpretation for newscasts. She says the census numbers are out of date and she knows of 15 new Hispanic businesses that have opened in the area in the last few years.
She says, "We're entrepreneurs, so when we see the opportunity, we go for it. I can see the growth in the businesses. Hispanic companies are coming up everywhere."
Yancy says there are three main areas of growth for Hispanic business owners: restaurants, construction and mom-and-pop style grocery stores.
Ssaul Gutierrez is one of those grocery store owners. His family runs Mercado San Jose in Little Rock. "We've been here at this location for about six years now,” says Gutierrez. “We brought the Mexican bread here to Arkansas."
The growing popularity of their baked goods meant they had to expand. Gutierrez says they also added a meat market when they moved to a bigger location. It's all part of bringing traditionally Hispanic goods to Arkansans.
"We get all kinds of people,” says Gutierrez. “Mainly Hispanic (people) because we're known for our products, but it's a very good place, a very good place to do business."
Gutierrez says Arkansas provides a lot of opportunity for Hispanic business owners. He has dreams of one day having a store as big and as popular as a Kroger.
Yancy says that's a goal that can be achieved. "You have people who open a place and in a year have another one," she says. "We have people here who have over 20 restaurants in Arkansas."
The Census Bureau shows there are a little more than 2,000 Hispanic owned businesses in the state. Nationwide, Hispanic businesses grew 31 percent between 1997 and 2002.