Meet the team
Whether you’re looking for ingredients to make your traditional home-cooked meals or simply curious to try something new, our team at Paraiso Tropical truly values each customer and we strive to provide exceptional customer service in every experience. We come from a wide range of countries in North, Central, and South America, and have staff that speak Spanish, Portuguese, and English.
Here’s some interesting facts and stories from the team! We look forward to seeing you on your next visit!
Jesus Gonzalez & Alba Gonzalez, Founders
# of years at Paraiso: We started the business in 1991. 5 years after having immigrated into Canada. We found there was a need for products from back home and at the time there was no other latino market to serve our community.
Country of Origin: El Salvador
What were the first foods sold at Paraiso’s kitchen? We started off by selling foods from back home. Tamales, Semita (Salvadoran sweet bread) and Chicharron (Baked Pork Belly) are food items we would cook at home and sell on the weekends. Later on we noticed there was need for all these foods so we opened up a kitchen.
Can you share a memorable experience at the store? Many in our Hispanic community make mention of common joke still told today. The myth goes that after waking up a drunken customer on our storefront one morning, he asked me (Jesus) where he was. I told him that he was in Tropical Paradise (Paraiso Tropical) and he asked me who I was. I told him I was Jesus. He concluded that that he had died and gone to heaven.
Jesus Gonzalez Rivas Jr., Owner
# of years at Paraiso: Since the store was founded by my parents in 1991.
Country of origin: I am a born and raised Edmontonian from Salvadoran parents.
Favourite Paraiso item: It would be yuca con chicharrón: the delicious crunchiness of cassava topped with baked pork, cabbage salad, and salsas with some added spiciness. Pure heaven.
What do you like to do in your spare time? I have a passion for travelling, learning about new cultures, languages and foods from all around the world. I’m also passionate about any outdoor activities like cycling and hiking.
Can you share a memorable experience at the store? Growing up with the business – from stealing candies as a little kid to borrowing hot sauce and food as an adult. There are endless stories! A popular well-known story among our older customers is Jesús en el Paraíso (Jesus in Paradise) – you will have to ask me about that.
Bruna Campos Gonzalez, Co-Owner & Manager
# of years at Paraiso: 4.5 years.
Country of origin: Brazil.
Favourite Paraiso item: Pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread).
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Reading books, drinking good coffee, and travelling.
Can you share a work challenge and/or learning experience? When I first arrived, I couldn’t speak any Spanish. I remember the team would help and laugh a lot with me because of my portuñol (Portuguese mixed with Español), which still happens.
Can you share a memorable experience on the job? We were setting up a table for an Arts Festival that happens every year at our north store. Our senior employee, Don Julio and I were moving this really heavy table when something happened that he had to let go of his side, and the table came crashing down on my foot. I screamed so loud that the whole store came out to see what happened! It hurt lots at the time, but nothing broke. Now, the team makes fun of me, saying it was my fault. 😉
Ariana Moctezuma, Manager
# of years at Paraiso: 7 years.
Country of origin: Mexico
Favourite Paraiso item: Mexican chips.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Spending time with my family.
Can you share a work challenge and/or learning experience? When I first got to Paraiso, it was a little hard, because I started as a cook (something I had never worked as before, and which was not my strength). My coworkers were only the González family, and from each one of them, I learned all about the store. In one day, I would either be wrapping tamales or sending money. Little by little, I got to stay at the store and to this day, I do cash remittances. I’m grateful for the trust that has been given to me in allowing me to work here. I like seeing the team that we have now, as well as Paraiso, steadily making headway.
Karen Alvarado, Manager
# of years at Paraiso: 5 years.
Country of origin: Honduras.
Favourite Paraiso items: I like all the tropical fruits like nance, jocotes, and marañon (cashew fruit). They make me feel closer to Honduras.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Cooking something special from Honduras and having a good time with friends and family.
What has it been like to work at Paraiso? I started in the kitchen and that opportunity gave me the chance to be quite savvy in preparing dishes from Latin American cuisine. I remember that every time we’d have new employees, they would come to look for me and ask me about products or some recipes. They would say, “You don’t have to be in the kitchen since you know so much about the store!” And that’s how I learn something new every day.