Anyone who has passed through the Floreciente neighborhood in Moline certainly noticed the store with the long green, white and red awning along 4th Avenue La Imperial Grocery Store. After almost 3 decades in business, no one can imagine the neighborhood without this store.
Vicente Zepeda is originally from the town of San Nicolas in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico and he came to the United States in the 70s. He launched La Imperial, with his wife Maria Luisa, about 28 years ago. Today, they work in the store full time, but when they first opened Mr. Zepeda still worked a regular production job in Rock Island. While his wife was taking care of the newly opened store and their family. He worked a regular job and helped his wife at the store after getting off work. The couple were not sure if the store would take off.
“We gave it 6 months to see if the store would work” Zepeda remembered the decision they made before fully committing to running the store.
After a wild and tiring period of working his regular job and running the store, Mr. Zepeda came to the conclusion that it was time to quit his production job and dedicate his time to his now thriving business. Little by little they built their customer base and earned the trust of the neighborhood. By 2001, with the assistance of the city of Moline, the couple decided to launch another business. That year La Imperial Laundromat was opened down the avenue from their grocery store.
“There was no other laundromat around in the neighborhood,” Zepeda explained why after running a store, they decided to open the laundromat.
Mr. Zepeda explained that it was hard for the couple with three children to run two different businesses while raising the kids.
“Having a store, we couldn’t go out much,” He shared the difficulties of running a business and having a family. “It was hard to spend time together with the family.”
In spite of all the difficulties, the couple continued on and worked their two businesses while trying to be the best parents to their growing children.
“I am thankful to my wife for making this possible because it was her who stayed running the store while I had to work,” Mr. Zepeda said.
It’s obvious to their clients and friends that the Zepedas have a strong work ethic but many people are not aware of the work they’ve done throughout the years giving back to their Floreciente community and to their hometown in San Nicolas.
“I’ve known Don Vicente and “La Chata” (that’s how Mrs Zepeda is affectionately known by her friends and clients) since they started their business. Their success, in my opinion, is due to their humbleness and willingness to give back” said Tar Macias, publisher of Hola America.
Back in the early 2000s Mr. Zepeda was the president of the organization Viva Paisanos San Nicolas. Mr. Zepeda admits the idea to raise money to help the Mexican town in which they grew up came from his wife, Maria Luisa Zepeda.
“It started with getting something fixed, by no means did I think it would become what it would,” Vicente Zepeda told Hola America in an interview in 2007. “A retired employee of the state of Mexico started collecting money for a cemetery and that’s how we got started.”
Eventually the Viva Paisanos San Nicolas organization helped raise money for a cemetery, a health clinic, a dental clinic inside the health clinic and for a main door and other things that needed fixing at their home town church.
As a result of fundraising, the cemetery was fixed. Zepeda says it became the best cemetery in that area. The cemetery even has a chapel. “There are not too many chapels in the cemeteries,” Zepeda said.
Now that their children are adults, the couple dedicates their full attention to the two businesses. Over the years their two businesses have become two proud staples of the Floreciente neighborhood and of the Latino business community in the Quad Cities. Las Imperial store and La Imperial laundromat have been serving their customers for decades and the Zepedas are planning to stay around for many years to come.
You can visit Las Imperial Store at 134 4th Avenue in Moline. And La Imperial Laundromat at 721 3th Avenue, Moline.