Nine years ago, people told Juan Carlos Guizar he was crazy to open a pushcart fruit stand at the Gilroy Outlets. The requirements there were too expensive and there were no other businesses like it in Gilroy.
But two years later, Guizar opened a second All Natural fruit stand there and this month he’s opening an All Natural fruit store at 1120 First St. He’s moved his family from San Jose to Gilroy and is prospering on fruit.
“My business is here and it’s smaller than San Jose and feels better,” he said. “I like Gilroy. What I have, I got here. It’s like a lucky charm to me.”
Guizar, 44, based his business from what he knew growing up in Mexico, where pushcart fruit stands are common. People like the freshest fruit possible, he realized.
He served it in very big portions for $5 or $8 and includes a range of fresh and organic produce, when possible. He makes parfaits with yogurt or homemade chili sauce or just plain fruit, including pineapple, jicama, strawberries, papaya, mango, cantaloupe, and watermelon. You can select some or all of them. He built a loyal following from shoppers and people who drive out of their way for healthy munchies.
What he found right away was that people from all over the world were attracted to his stand, especially people from India and Asia, not to mention those from Mexico who longed for their traditional delicacies.
“There’s a real demand for real fruit with no artificial colors or flavors,” he said. “It’s artisanal.”
It wasn’t cheap to begin at the Outlets. He designed his own pushcart for $22,000 meeting strict requirements for hot water and refrigeration.
“This is not your ordinary pushcart,” he said. “It meets health department standards.”
Guizar was born to be an entrepreneur. His father is American but raised the family in Michoacan, eventually moving to San Jose. Guizar, the oldest son, worked in his father’s Imperio Taqueria at King and San Antonio in San Jose from the time he was 16. He studied business administration at Heald College and tried several businesses to administrate before landing on the Gilroy fruit stands.
He imported limes from a farm in Mexico and sold them in San Francisco, but it grew too expensive to maintain a warehouse and delivery trucks. He tried fruit stands at Eastridge Mall and in Tracy, but they didn’t bring in enough traffic. Then, he came across the Outlets, which proved to be his best success.
Friends were shocked when he started a second stand on the other side of Leavesley from his first. They thought he would be competing with himself. Like the ubiquitous Starbucks shops, his two fruit stands didn’t cancel each other out, but drew even more customers, including Mixed Martial Arts champion Cain Velasquez, who was a regular.