When a student drives by Fruty Loca Ice Cream shop on the corner of Harden Street and Maple Avenue, they would expect to just find different types of ice cream. But instead, they will find a variety of about 75 Mexican desserts and appetizers.
The vibrant pink walls of the shop are complemented with orange seats and purple to create a fun and young aesthetic. Fruty Loca opened in January 2016 and has been extending its client base and menu since.
Mauricio Barrera and Martha Oliva, owners of the shop, wanted to create a place meant to cater families and people of all ages in the Burlington and surrounding areas.
“My brother has one [ice cream shop] in California,” Oliva said. “He always told me to make one in North Carolina and my kids motivated us, telling us ‘Yes do it because a lot of teenagers don’t have places to go especially in Burlington.’”
Barrera and Oliva decided to open the shop to offer people a bit of food from their countries of origin. Their recipes and combinations are originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, where the duo is from. They wanted to give people products with chamoy, chile and other ingredients or spices that make up Latino food.
“We knew of people that would travel to other cities looking for these types of plates including ourselves,” Barrera said. “So, when we opened this business we were surprised at the people that came from Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Winston, Durham and even Virginia.”
The Fruty Loca menu is full of sweet and savory treats. They have a variety of ice cream, fruit cocktails, smoothies, fruit flavored raspados also known as snow cones, desserts, fresh juices, milkshakes and special appetizers.
"When we originally opened the business, we thought about the Latinos and Hispanics and what they like," Oliva said. "But as Latino teenagers came from Elon with their American friends then we opened the concept of making stuff that isn’t generally spicy."
To cater to different clients, they offer both spicy and not spicy treats such as smoothies. Barrera said Fruty Loca prides itself in having natural and fresh ingredients and being one of the few local smoothie makers in the area.
“You only see natural fruit smoothies in chains and not local independent businesses,” Barrera said. “We have the fresh fruit and all we need to make the smoothie.”
Their most popular order would be a “chamoyada.” This is a sweet and spicy raspado prepared with chamoy, a Mexican condiment. Fruty Loca's version sells a mango smoothie, consisting of chopped mango, chamoy, powdered chile and “banderia de tamarindo,” or tamarind jelly.
Other popular orders are chamopepinos which are like the chamoyadas but with cucumbers, chamorchatas which is a horchata smoothie/frappe, and chamopaletas which are frozen fruit smoothies of different flavors.
The desserts with the “chamo” root were invented by Barrera and Oliva.
“We invented them and they are a success,” Barrera said. “For example, the chamorchata. Latino teenagers love it because horchata is a drink that is known in Latin America.”
Besides the desserts and sweet treats, Fruty Loca also offers special Mexican treats such as chicharrón preparado, tosti locos, Mexican-street corn, hot dogs in Mexican or American style, amongst others.
With the colder weather approaching, Oliva said that they begin selling tamales and other seasonal desserts.
Next week they are hosting a big event where they will be releasing a set of new desserts. The first 40 people that show up at Fruty Loca from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. will get a taste of the dessert of their choice. A percentage of the proceeds will go to those affected by the recent earthquakes in Mexico through the Mexican Red Cross.
Fruty Loca is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the weekdays. During the weekend, they open at 11 and close until the last customer has left at night. The prices range from $5 to $15.