Celebrating some new community flavors

Araceli Gonzalez prepares a strawberries and cream treat at La Michoacana in downtown Lenoir City.

For the last four months, the corner of Kingston and East Broadway streets in downtown Lenoir City has been buzzing with the opening of La Michoacana.

La Michoacana in Spanish is shorthand for a paleteria or ice cream shop and is loosely connected with 8,000-15,000 other ice cream parlors in Mexico.

Owners Noah and Heley Morales liken La Michoacana to Mexico’s version of McDonald’s.

“The whole idea behind this was bringing something real authentic to the community and bring something from Mexico that’s going to be different to most of the people,” Noah said. “La Michoacana is like McDonald’s over here — they’re everywhere. If you pretty much ask any Hispanic person, ‘Hey, do you know what a la michoacana is?’ They’re going to say, ‘Oh yeah, they sell snacks, ice cream and all that.’ There’s nothing like that up here that’s even close and every time we travel to Nashville or Kentucky, we had to go to a la michoacana because there’s nothing like that over here.”

After opening their first store in Knoxville nearly five years ago, the pair decided to take a chance and open a second store in downtown Lenoir City.

Heley said many of their clientele in Knoxville comes from Loudon County.

“We thought it had pretty good potential because there really isn’t any ice cream shop around here in the area,” Noah said. “We live in Loudon, so it’s pretty much right there in the middle and on the way to the one in Knoxville. My friend told me about the building because he knew the owner and when I came in, I was like, ‘It needs a lot of work.’ I wasn’t thinking about purchasing the building because it needed a lot of work, but everything worked out pretty good and that’s pretty much where the idea to make an ice cream shop came from.”

The parlor sells treats, such as Mexican street corn, esquites, fresedas, jarriloko and numerous flavors of ice cream.

“Street corn is like corn in a cup, and in Mexico it’s very popular and it’s on a stick like corn on the cob,” Heley said. “But ours is in a cup and it’s easier to eat. We add mayonnaise, cheese, chili powder and hot Cheeto crumbs to it. That’s the most authentic thing we have, but we also have our empanadas, which is like mango ice cream, syrup, chili powder, mango pieces. It’s different because it’s like sweet and sour and is a top seller.”

“We also have the Walking Taco, so it’s a bag of chips and you get to choose from whatever you like such as Doritos,” Noah added. “We add sour cream, salsa, lettuce, pico de gallo, ground beef so it’s pretty much like a small meal. Our strawberries and cream is also really popular.”

La Michoacana provides guests with unique ice cream flavors based on fruits and water to add a true Mexican zest.

“We have tequila and almonds, rum and raisin, coconut and mango,” Heley said.

“It’s water based that I don’t think you can find those that easily anywhere else,” Noah added. “It’s like lime, strawberry, mango and everything that we sell ice cream-wise is made in the back — it’s all homemade. That’s one of the biggest things.”

Business has gone well for the Morales.

“I think it’s better than we expected because during the week, it’s pretty much the same sales as compared to the one in Knoxville,” Noah said. “It’s been good. Lenoir City’s been good to us and I think we’ve done really good. The weekends are really busy.”

The couple said they hope to open a third store in the near future in Sevierville but the main ingredient to success is staying local and family oriented.

“I think because the majority of our family does the work in Knoxville and here, it’s like a family business,” Heley said. “Noah had his own job, my brother-in-law had his own job so just being able to work for ourselves and have the majority of our family work with us and having them work here since it’s closer to home, it just made more since than going somewhere further. I think that’s why we picked Lenoir City.”

La Michoacana is located at 123 East Broadway St., Lenoir City, and can be contacted at 865-635-8165.