Silvia De La Sota, Aguacate Verde
13 Elm StreetPorter Square, Somerville
Sampling ingredients at the source
For Silvia De La Sota, owner of the new Aguacate Verde on 13 Elm Street, Somerville is more than just a home or a place to do business. “Somerville represents the American dream,” she says. “It allows me to be myself and grow.”
De La Sota’s Somerville story began in the late 90s when she moved to the area from her native Peru hoping to study at Harvard University. After volunteering and doing social work for several years, she won a scholarship to take math classes at Harvard Extension School and graduated in 2007. “My professor encouraged me to become a math teacher, but I wanted to do something more directly involved with the community,” she says. She worked in the non-profit sector focusing on local public health issues for several years, but was laid off during the economic recession and soon found herself struggling to make ends meet.
That’s when she turned to Somerville for help. “Through the city I was able to acquire low income housing,” says De La Sota. “This helped me establish good credit and ended up being an important element in allowing me to become approved for an SBA loan and become a business owner later on.” When the owners of Tacos Lupita put the popular Porter Square Mexican restaurant on sale, De La Sota jumped at the chance to try something new. “My relatives had a restaurant back in Peru, and I was looking for a change from non-profit work. So I used my good credit to get a loan from the bank and bought the restaurant.” She renamed the restaurant Aguacate Verde (“Green Avocado” in Spanish) and contacted OSCPD for advice about business and marketing tactics. She also enrolled in the , which has provided her with funding to redesign Aguacate Verde’s awning and exterior. She also participated in Somerville’s , which gave her access to free retail and marketing advice from a professional consultant.
Silvia doing research for her menu
De La Sota is thankful for the help that Somerville city staff have provided in her journey to becoming a business owner. “OSPCD staff, the health inspector, the licensing authorities, the police – I’ve had pleasant experiences with them all,” she says. “They’re very friendly and they’ve been helpful in allowing me to pursue my goals. I didn’t have a lot of experience, but with their help I was able to find my way.” She’s definitely making her mark: as a way to foster community and cross-cultural exchange, De La Sota plans on adding live music and bi-lingual karaoke to her restaurant, which has seen an ever-growing customer base since she took ownership in May 2011. And staying true to her interests in public health, she’s made the menu healthier by using low-saturated oils and fresh seasonings as well as more vegetarian options.