Tres Hermanos grocery store relocates into the former Handcrafted Furniture building on Sixth Street
Annie Williams, manager for owners Gonzalo and Rosalba Ramirez, in front of the new Tres Hermanos grocery store on Sixth Street in Wausau
Gonzalo and Rosalba Ramirez came to Wausau to visit cousins; but Gonzalo, who had been running businesses in Chicago, fell in love with Wausau on those visits. One night he stumbled upon a Concert on the Square in the 400 Block, and he was hooked.
Today the Ramirezes own two Tres Hermanos businesses in Wausau—a grocery store and a Mexican restaurant known as one of the most authentic in town. And now their grocery store is expanding.
On Wednesday the grocery store opened at its new spot at 1616 N. Sixth St., in the building that had housed Handcrafted Furniture’s retail store since 1987. (That company closed the storefront last summer, but maintains a manufacturing operation in Wausau and retail store in Lake Tomahawk).
The Ramirezes first opened Tres Hermanos grocery store in 2010 at 808 Third St., across from the YMCA. A year later, the couple launched Taqueria Tres Hermanos at 525 Fulton St., which by 2014 won a “Best Hidden Gem” category in City Pages’ Best of Wausau survey.
The biggest surprise to the Ramirezes was how much Wausau embraced the business and its owners, says Annie Williams, their manager who spoke to City Pages on behalf of the Ramirezes and served as a translator. “He was so surprised that most of his customers were Caucasians,” Williams says. “He was happy to see that people of all ethnic backgrounds were happy with the grocery store.”
The Ramirezes moved to Chicago from Veracruz, Mexico in 1986. Gonzalo was impressed with the liveliness of Wausau, Williams says, and he saw an opportunity when he realized there were no Mexican grocery stores in town. The couple first moved to Merrill, then later to Wausau to open the grocery store. “I came in the summer time and the city was filled with happy people, there was lots of activity, and concerts,” Gonzalo says through a translator.
Their grocery store customers encouraged them to open a restaurant. He decided to open a taqueria (specializing in tacos) based on authentic recipes from his home town of Veracruz. “People who have been to Mexico and then eat here say the food is exactly the same,” Williams says.
Williams says the Ramirezes operate by the principle of “Mi casa, su casa”—or, what is mine, is yours (my house, your house, literally translated.) It signifies the gratitude the Ramirezes feel toward Wausau, Williams says, as well as how the Ramirezes want to give back to the community. The store has become a hub for newcomers, Williams says, and the Ramirezes can help direct them to resources for jobs and housing, for example.
The store also added services such as a butcher section for fresh meats, and two wire services for people to transfer money, Williams says.
History is important to the Ramirezes, Williams says. The former Handcrafted Furniture building is more than 100 years old, and the Ramirezes relished the opportunity to put a historic building to use as well as expand the grocery store.
Steve and Nancy Woller, owners of Handcrafted Furniture, helped remodel the storefront, with polished hardwood floors and a “bank” area dedicated to money transfers. The location will be more than double the size of the former Tres Hermanos grocery store on Third Street.
The Ramirezes hoped to have their official opening on Feb. 14, to pair it with a day of love to express their appreciation for how the community has embraced their businesses, Williams says. “It’s a way of saying thank you Wausau for what you did for us, welcoming us so much,” Williams says.