Chris Aguilar of Riverhead was inspired to start one of the town’s newest businesses, Mexicandy, in 2020 after a trip to New York City with his then-girlfriend, Roset Ompok.
He was inspired by a street vendor there who was selling mangonadas and had “an extremely long line,” he said.
Mangonadas, mango slushies with chili powder and salt, are a popular Mexican dessert.
That year, Mr. Aguilar started selling the mangonadas, also known as chamangos, out of his home with Ms. Ompok’s support because she had lost her job as a waitress at a restaurant in the Hamptons due to the pandemic.
They worked on it together as a side gig and grew the business slowly but surely.
“We would go to the parks, and we gave people our numbers,” he said. “The ball started to roll and get bigger and bigger and then we did okay the first season,” he said.
But then everything changed when an unexpected tragedy hit on Christmas Day last year.
“Unfortunately, that year for Christmas [Ms. Ompok] passed away,” Mr. Aguilar said. “The only reason why I didn’t quit this whole thing is because on [Dec.] 24th before she passed away, she told me ‘Whatever happens to me, I need you to keep going on with Mexicandy.’ ”
Mr. Aguilar had been in a relationship with Ms. Ompok for 11 months. Ms. Ompok was perfectly healthy, but had a fatal heart attack in her sleep, he said. She was 21.
After Ms. Ompok’s death, Mr. Aguilar started doing various private events with a van he purchased for the business with the help of three staff members.
The business has grown so much that Mexicandy will be operating out of 221 East Main St. in Riverhead next year. Mr. Aguilar hopes to be open by May 2023, although he doesn’t have a formal opening date set yet.
Some of the treats customers can expect from Mexicandy include ice pops, ice creams, aguas frescas — a fruit drink made from fruit, water, lime juice and a sweetener — Mexican candies and more.
“We’ll have Mexican ices which are similar to Italian ices,” he said. “The difference between, say, me and the Italian ice guy that you find at the carnival is that the guy at the carnival uses artificial flavoring versus me, I use 100% fruit.”
Mexicandy will be staffed with about eight staff members, including Mr. Aguilar, which he will need to meet the growing demand.
“I have grown my Facebook page to about like, 900 likes,” he said. “Everybody that’s tried my product likes it.”
He also has an Instagram for the business, @paleteria_mexicandy. The page features eye-catching photos of the colorful drinks that the business offers.
Propositions have been coming in from other towns on the island for a Mexicandy store front as well, Mr. Aguilar said.
Mexicandy’s customers will be coming to the store and staying for more than just ice cream, he said.
“We’re going to be a whole experience,” Mr. Aguilar said. “The place is going to be designed so beautifully, there’s going to be a lot of lights everywhere, you can actually sit down and eat your ice cream compared to the other places.”
Despite the tragic loss of his partner, the business has flourished and what started as a side project has become Mr. Aguilar’s, “whole life,” as he described it.
“I’m really dedicated to Mexicandy,” he said, “I go to Mexico all the time to try out the newest products coming out. This is my heart, this is my everything.”