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Grand Junction’s Diverse Culinary Tapestry: Immigrant-Owned Markets and Ethnic Eateries Transforming Colorado’s Food Scene

When third-generation Japanese-American Carol Leinberger began teaching Japanese and Chinese food cooking classes in 1976, she opened a small grocery store in Grand Junction so her students could access the ingredients she used. Back then you couldn’t find water chestnuts or fresh bean sprouts locally, she recalls. 

Interest in sushi-making has increased since then, and so has local demand for raw frozen fish, seaweed and other Asian foods, Leinberger says. She expanded her Carol’s Oriental Foods store in 1980, moving to North Avenue to offer a greater selection of ingredients.  

Carol’s is no longer the only Asian grocery in town. Two additional shops opened in just the past year — Asian Market in the Cottonwood Mall and GJ Mart on Belford Avenue.  

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One in 10 Colorado residents is an immigrant, while another one in 10 residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent, according to the American Immigration Council (AIC). In 2018, 42,844 immigrant business owners accounted for 12 percent of all self-employed Colorado residents and generated $1 billion in business income. 

Although an AIC analysis of the 2019 American Community Survey Five-Year Data found the number of immigrant entrepreneurs in restaurants, food retail and other food services did not increase in Colorado from 2014 to 2019, that trend appears to be changing in Grand Junction where several immigrant-owned ethnic food-related businesses have opened in recent years. Data concerning immigrant entrepreneurs in food businesses was not available after 2019.  

Meng Truong, a native of Vietnam, and his wife Mey, originally from Cambodia, opened their GJ Mart in February 2023. Both work at the shop, which is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  

Meng Truong, a native of Vietnam, and his wife Mey, owners of GJ Market.

Coolers are stocked with fresh produce like bok choy, ong choy, taro root and green papayas. Freezers hold various types of frozen fish, including eel. Fifty-pound bags of jasmine rice are stacked on a pallet near the front of the store.

“It’s a main dish in Asia, typically eaten twice a day, though sometimes substituted with noodles,” Truong says, explaining the stacks of rice. A steady stream of customers, many of Asian descent, were shopping at the store both days a reporter happened to stop in. 

Truong, who is fluent in seven languages — English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, French and another Chinese dialect — says he orders what customers want, like the potato and fish corndogs popular in Korea, seaweed salads from Japan, and packages of pancake mix with bean paste.  

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Employees and patients from the nearby Grand Junction Veterans Administration Medical Center often shop at the Asian market. Veterans come for foods they remember from their time serving overseas, and many are married to Filipino women who continue to cook traditional foods, Truong says. 

Not far from the Asian market is a grocery specializing in European foods. Polish-American couple Agata and Lukasz Dziwisz opened Euromart in November 2022 on North Avenue. They say they were homesick for foods from their native country of Poland. “The closest European foods store was in Salt Lake City or Denver,” Agata says. “We got tired of driving.” 

Euromart carries 10 different varieties of spicy, garlic or smoked sausages. “American sausages are just not the same — they’re made differently,” while his are precooked and “perfect,” Lukasz says. Across from the cooler containing the sausages are shelves of pickled vegetables and sauerkraut — foods Europeans love, he says. 

Polish-American couple Agata and Lukasz Dziwisz, owners of Euromart.

Additionally, Euromart offers various artisan-type breads and pastries from German and Polish bakeries located on Colorado’s Front Range. “European bread is definitely different than in the U.S. — it’s not as spongy,” Lukasz says.  

“Chocolate is another huge difference,” he adds, pointing to shelves of chocolate bars from Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Lithuania and Poland — all of which contain less sugar than most chocolate bars you’ll find in the U.S., says his wife. 

Grand Junction residents who emigrated here from Germany, Russia, Scandinavia, Turkey and Poland help comprise a regular customer base at Euromart. European-Americans also travel from Montrose and Moab, Utah to shop at the store, which is open Tuesday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  

Lukasz had hoped to draw students from the Colorado Mesa University campus across the street but that hasn’t happened, thus far. He says he purposely stocked the store with cold sodas, juices and snacks to attract students, and that the lack of customers from campus has been disappointing. Students who have shopped at the store are typically foreign exchange students, Agata says

Mexican food restaurants and tortilla shops have long been part of the American culinary landscape. In May 2023, Will Blanco and his mother Carlota Blanco opened La Pupusaria, a food truck serving fare typical of El Salvador. Often parked at local brewpubs, La Pupusaria serves pupusas — a thick corn tortilla made from scratch, filled with various combinations of meat, cheese, veggies, beans and jalapeno peppers, folded and sealed, then cooked on a griddle. Another pupusa variety is made with an edible flower, widespread in El Salvador, called loroco which is ground and mixed with cheese. 

“For us, it was an opportunity to give people the food we eat on a daily basis,” Will Blanco said. “What makes us unique is we’re the only place you can get pupusas.” La Pupusaria also serves tacos, burritos, smothered burritos, L.A. dogs (a hot dog wrapped with bacon with sautéed onions and peppers), plus, orchata — a traditional rice and milk drink made in-house. 

An aunt, two sisters, Will’s wife and two kids, nieces and nephews all help out at times with the food truck. “It’s a true family business; it’s kind of the way we like it,” says Will, a second-generation Salvadoran born in Los Angeles. Their customers include Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans and Anglo-Americans, he says. 

Other immigrant-owned Grand Junction food offerings include nepalese, indian, and thai restaurants.


Sharon Sullivan is a Grand Junction-based freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].

Annual Western Colorado Economic Summit Returns in 2022

The Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) works to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life in Colorado’s Grand Valley by supporting high-impact capital investment and job creation.

Expanding business across Grand Junction, Fruita, Palisade, and surrounding communities, GJEP is the official economic development agency for Mesa County, and continues to inspire business leaders and innovative working solutions.

ColoradoBiz honored GJEP as a Top Company in Nonprofit in 2021, recognizing the company’s drive, determination, visions, and plans that make Colorado a better place to live and work. Entering spring of 2022, GJEP announces the return of the Western Colorado Economic Summit (WCES), held at the Grand Junction Convention Center on Tuesday, April 26. Event Registration is now: Open.

The agenda for 2022, which will be finalized in the coming weeks, is anticipated to bring back many pertinent topics from the last event — including education, workforce development, and attainable housing. It will also touch upon key focus areas derived from the Grand Vision survey, which debuted at the 2021 WCES.

“We feel that it is really important to circle back on many topics that came up in 2021. Not only are we still maneuvering many of these issues six months later, but they also came up as key areas affecting quality of life on the Grand Vision survey,” said Britain Garza, GJEP Community Relations Manager and lead organizer of the WCES.

Garza continued, “The exciting part is that there’s been lots of movement on these issues in our community in this short time frame. We are now seeing opportunity and progress, where in the past we might have had more questions and concerns. We are looking forward to presenting these efforts at WCES.”

The 2021 WCES had nearly 500 attendees, despite being postponed to late September and maneuvering the fall surge in the COVID-19 pandemic. The event moved to the Convention Center for the first time to be able to bring in more guests and support larger breakout sessions.

“Last year’s Summit was postponed due to COVID, yet we had the most successful event to date,” said Steve Jozefczyk, GJEP Interim Director. “We are glad to be able to return to our normal time frame, but also to be back at the Grand Junction Convention Center, where we are able to accommodate for many more attendees.”

In addition to multiple plenary and breakout sessions throughout the day, the event includes GJEP’s annual update and an award ceremony during the luncheon. Two awards will be handed out to an individual and a local company that has had a significant impact on economic development in Western Colorado.

Nominations for the Spirit of Economic Development, sponsored by Charter Communications (business) and the Joseph C. Prinster Leadership Award (individual), are currently being accepted via: email to Britain Garza. The deadline to submit a nomination is end of day March 31.


WCES is made possible in large part by its sponsors, including six-time title sponsor Coldwell Banker Commercial Prime Properties/Coldwell Banker Distinctive Properties. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Visit: WCES sponsorship page, for details.

About the Grand Junction Economic Partnership
The Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) works to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life in the Grand Junction area by supporting high-impact capital investment and job creation. GJEP is a single stop for businesses looking to relocate or expand in the cities of Grand Junction and Fruita, the Town of Palisade and surrounding communities of Colorado’s Grand Valley (Mesa County). Operating as a 501(c)3, GJEP offers free services that connect businesses with realtors, developers, workforce, local leadership and more. Visit: Grand Junction Economic Partnership, for more information.

About WCES
GJEP launched the Western Colorado Economic Summit, WCES, in 2016 as a forum for regional business leaders, policy makers and community leaders to come together to learn about and discuss the key topics impacting the western slope now and in the future. The event also serves as GJEP’s annual meeting and main fundraising event. Visit: Western Colorado Economic Summit, for more information and registration.

Local entrepreneur plans major expansion in Western Colorado

The Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) is pleased to welcome Låda Cube back to Grand Junction. The building tech company, which is widely considered at the forefront of a construction industry revolution, is expanding its footprint and planning to add anywhere from 80-160 people in the next year.

Låda Cube was founded by John Fay, who grew up in Colorado’s Grand Valley, in 2013. The startup quickly earned national recognition and interest from global companies like Facebook, WeWork, Tesla, SideWalk Labs and Marriott for its demountable wall systems.

In 2018, the company earned a coveted spot in the Telluride Venture Accelerator.  Shortly thereafter, however, John and his family moved to California, bringing the Låda Cube operations with them. A factory remained in Grand Junction and a second factory was opened in the Golden State. Combined, they employ anywhere from 5-15 employees.

The company received an Advanced Industries Accelerator Grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in 2019, which helped Låda Cube scale and expand operations within the state, making Colorado a natural target for further expansion. Yet, Låda Cube explored six different areas in Colorado (including Fort Collins, Castle Rock, Denver, Durango and Montrose), as well as Reno, Nevada, before committing to Grand Junction.  Despite strong offers from other west slope communities, John says the urge to “return home” and give back to their native community ultimately drove his family and business back to Grand Junction. He is also excited to grow his business in a community he considers “on the verge of becoming a true tech hub.”

With a headquarters firmly established in Western Colorado and some major contracts underway, Låda Cube will next look to expand its global footprint.  The company plans to establish a manufacturing center in South Africa, which will allow it to expand into new markets, including Europe.

Låda Cube is currently on the hunt for a bigger facility in Grand Junction, where it will combine its current California and Colorado operations. California employees have been given the option to relocate and Låda Cube is working with GJEP to facilitate relocation.

For more information on Låda Cube, visit the company website at https://www.Lå