Dulceria El Chavito: Tasty Latin treats at a hidden Lynnwood gem

Nikki Monroy and Eddie Lopez stand outside their store. 

Dulceria El Chavito is a tiny, vibrant, fun and very, very hidden gem in the heart of Lynnwood. The shop is lined wall-to-wall with Latin candy, snacks, drinks and uniquely delightful piñatas. Those are the shop’s specialty, says owner Nicky Monroy. The 30-year-old Monroy spends her days at her full-time job as a medical assistant and her evenings at the store. Her partner Eddie Lopez holds down the fort during the day.

The pair met in Mexico City and quickly became an item despite their very different personalities. As Monroy puts it, Lopez is the personable, chatty shopkeeper with a reputation as a stellar DJ while she is more reserved and focuses on planning and managing the logistics of owning a business. She learned English from the ground up in middle school when she immigrated from Mexico at age 12. Lopez, now 33, also moved to the U.S. at age 12 – but from Guatemala instead.

Noticing a distinct lack of Hispanic/Latino candies and snacks in Washington state, Monroy decided to pursue her childhood dream of opening a dulceria– that is, a candy shop. They began selling goods from around the globe in a quaint tent at a Marysville swap meet aptly named “Hidden Gems Weekend Market.”

An overcast day makes the bright stand stick out even more.

“We still had lots of hope and showed up to set up every single weekend no matter if it was pouring rain or not,” Monroy said. “You can see Eddie on the right and my younger brother Ricky to the left – he often helps us in the market or at the store. Their persistence paid off, motivating them to open Dulceria El Chavito in December 2023. They still operate the candy stand on weekends when the market is open, even as they run the shop.

A wall of chips towers to the right, ranging from plantain to rare flavors of potato chips. Many – but not all –options are spicy. Lopez says limon flavor is a safe choice for picky eaters. Ahead, three aisles of sweets await perusal. Cookies in bright red- and-white packaging draw the eye, but swaths of gummy candy, chocolate and hard candy fill the aisle. Many options are chamoy or tamarind flavored, but the sheer volume of stock means that all shoppers will find something enticing. Those who might dare to try a spicier snack can enjoy a sweet, cold beverage from the coolers at the shop’s north side.

Chocolate dipping cookies, freeze dried candies and novelty sweets.
Lopez says piñatas are good for all sorts of celebrations, including these with more adult-oriented themes.

The store also sports more commonly seen Hispanic foods like spices, dried chilis, hot sauce, canned staples, horchata mix, instant coffee, teas and duritos. Duritos, also referred to as duros or pinwheels, are a wheat-based snack used to make quick and fresh chips. When tossed in hot oil, the wheels spend about a minute growing to three times their original size. After they puff up, they are placed in a bowl and tossed with lime and a dash of Tajín seasoning. The resulting chip is warm, crisp and light.

Despite their diminutive size, these bagged wheels offer several servings.
Fruit flavored pickles are popular among some of the youth. Brave enough to try cherry?
This massive modelo bucket joins the pink champagne piñata as a charming bachelor/bachelorette party addition. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, they have over 200 other options.
Lopez holds a customer favorite piñata inspired by art from a 2023 album from
Bad Bunny, a Puerto Rican rapper and singer

Despite its brilliance, the dulceria is sequestered in a tiny shopping area among other small businesses rarely seen when you drive through Lynnwood’s 196th Street Southwest corridor. There are two entrances to the shopping area.

The parking lot has two entrances along 196th Street. This is the more easily seen angle.
Traveling further into the parking lot, a sign on the end of the building points up a sloped area.

Monroy says most of their business comes from word of mouth. She’s placed signs and directions in the shopping area, but not many drivers can focus on reading as they make their commute or drive home.

That, along with various city codes, mean that the store has run into a few snags on their path to candy shop greatness. They can’t use their lighted sign at the front, as one example. Despite being on one of the most popular streets in the city, the store is so hidden that sometimes, people get lost trying to find their way in.

Due to the way their building is zoned, Dulceria El Chavito isn’t permitted to light this sign.

Monroy hasn’t lost hope. She keeps working to share the word by making videos on social media. Nearby businesses are a great help, too – the building’s salon frequently sends over some curious clients.

Dulceria El Chavito can be found at 3810 196th St. S.W., Suite 8, Lynnwood, WA 98036. They are open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

— Story and photos by Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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