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Family-run La Flor de Michoacan ice cream shops take over Chico

A rainbow of handmade paletas La Flor de Michoacán.

At 23 years old, Marco Arreguin manages four ice cream shops in Chico and one in Yuba City. La Flor de Michoacán Paletería y Neveria is his family’s business, which started in 2012 with one pink-walled shop in the Nord Safeway shopping center, and Arreguin worked there throughout high school and while earning his bachelor’s degree at Chico State.

He’s the eldest son of Dr. Antonio Arreguin-Bermudez, an author, Chico State Spanish and Spanish Literature professor and owner of La Flor de Michoacán. Dr. Arreguin-Bermudez grew up working in his own parents’ ice cream shop in El Rodeo de San Antonio, Michoacán, Mexico, in the early 1980s before coming to California at the age of 14.

The colorful La Flor shops have spread out across Chico—with additional locations in Safeway shopping centers on East and Mangrove avenues, and the just-opened spot it the old Cold Stone Creamery building—and are jam-packed with more than 50 flavors of ice cream and freezers overstuffed with traditional, hand-packed ice cream bars and juice pops formed with fresh slices of fruit or chunks of cookies. The menu also includes aguas frescas and all kinds of antojitos Mexicanos.

As Arreguin settles into his larger role in the business, he spoke to the CN&R about his family’s growing ice-cream legacy.

What did you study at Chico State?
Business marketing. I wanted to do marketing to expand my skills and try to apply that to the business. So far it’s been pretty good. It’s not necessary to study business to have a business, but it helps.

What makes La Flor’s ice cream stand out?
Probably the ingredients. We always use fresh fruit. Not a lot of people use fresh ingredients like we do, so I think that’s really important—using the highest quality possible.

Marco Arreguin manager of La Flor de Michoacán.

You offer so many options. Any recommendations for people who might find themselves overwhelmed by choices?
The most popular for us is one with mango and chamoy sauce [the mangonada special]. We have a lot of flavors that you wouldn’t think would be good, but they’re actually popular, like avocado, tequila and other interesting exotic flavors you wouldn’t really expect to see.

You recently opened a shop in Yuba City. What’s it like to open a new store during a global pandemic?
We did. We’ve been struggling a bit with the pandemic and having new rules and procedures to follow. But so far it’s been pretty good. People are starting to find out that we’re there through word of mouth. It has been tough to rely on takeout only, since we can’t have customers eat inside, and having everyone wear face coverings. Obviously dealing with some customers who don’t want to wear a face covering. And then definitely, when this whole thing first started, a lot of supplies were sold out and a lot of suppliers weren’t selling products like gloves or hand sanitizer because of the shortages.

You also have a new location in the old Cold Stone/Doc Burnstein’s spot downtown. Where are things at with that?
That place was most recently Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab. My dad drove by one day and saw the space was available. It happened to be like a day after they put the sign out, and we called them right away because we knew it’s the perfect spot. We knew we wanted to be there since we first came to Chico—downtown is the perfect location.

A lot of the things we need are already there because it was an ice cream shop, so there are just a few details that we need to finish to make it how we like it. [The new shop has since opened.] There are still concerns, especially with college students not being here. We’re a little worried about that—not having as much foot traffic in the area right now—but I think things will go pretty good.

What other plans are in the works?
Our plan is always to try to grow. If anything, we want to look for a place maybe in Sacramento. And if we were to open up out there, maybe have a sort of factory where we can produce more. Right now we make everything at our store on Nord, and it’s kinda small. If we were to expand further, we need a bigger space. Other than that, I don’t know. We just hope everyone can continue to stay safe and always wear their face covers to keep everyone else safe, too.

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