Odair Da Silva, Brazilian goods importer
Elk Grove resident Odair Da Silva brings a far-away niche much closer to home
If you're of South American descent or, more specifically, from the Brazilian culture, you're likely aware that there aren't many options to find Brazilian goods around here, and you're probably used to traveling to San Francisco or the East Bay to find traditional Brazilian foods. There is something much closer in the Sacramento Valley these days thanks to Odair Da Silva, a.k.a. Junior, who runs a store appropriately called Brazilian Portuguese Online Grocery Store, located in Elk Grove. The store's goods are available by appointment only and it's open every day except Monday. His store, which is licensed and certified by the city and state, is run out of his ultraclean garage and has been doing business since opening in November 2014. He took a few minutes to talk about his store, his transition in moving from Brazil to Elk Grove and the guidance of faith in his life.
Why did you come to Elk Grove, of all the cities in California?
I got invited for a discipleship program called a Master's Commission for Harvest Church [in Elk Grove]. The school paid for me to come every day and I was attending school for eight hours a day for one-and-a-half years, starting in 2002. It's technically a nondenominational church but considers itself an Assembly Of God.
How else has faith impacted your life?
I've lived in the United States for 14 years now. Believe it or not, I met my wife at Burger King at Stockton Boulevard. I prayed to get married for many years and one day I was driving to Carl's Jr. and a voice inside my heart said I should go to Burger King. When I walked inside, I looked to my left and saw four girls. I was shaking and nervous so I drove immediately home. As luck would have it, the very next Sunday, [one of those girls] sat in front of me in church. I asked her on a date and then asked her to marry me on the second date. As of May 17, we will celebrate 11 years together. We have have a young boy (9 years old) and a little girl (6 years old).
How do you keep in touch with your Brazilian roots?
I go every five years because of my family's growth and size. We now have two kids and it costs more to travel. I miss my brother, mom and my dad, but I use FaceTime every day for 20 minutes or more to keep in touch.
What do you like about California and its culture?
There are so many things I love about being here. The mix of people and the different friendships I've made here have really made a big difference in my life. I've made friends with [people from] many cultures including Mexicans, Haitians, Chinese, Japanese, Africans, Fijians and countless others. I also enjoy all the wonderful styles of food and will eat virtually anything.
You must get lots of repeat customers, since you’re a big people person.
We definitely have lots of repeat customers and the word has been spreading through our website, social media—Facebook has helped me a lot—and, of course, simple word of mouth. At present, I do not cater events or make hot food, but I sell coxinhas [Brazilian chicken croquettes] and many other Brazilian frozen foods that can be prepared at home quickly. Thankfully, my customers that make appointments and travel here from all over the Sacramento Valley and beyond love my stuff. We have customers coming that aren't Brazilian as well. I have Chinese customers that love our pure guava juice. Americans usually come here since I get some of the best pure acai and caju juice [juice from cashew fruits] from my distributor and can keep the prices affordable. I sell only the freshest foods and am very aware of my customer's expectations and mine since I have seen many businesses sell expired or near-expired foods.
Was it hard to get the store set up to be a legitimate business?
The process was very easy. You have to ask the city for all the requirements to make sure you're obeying food-code laws and more. After that, you need to file a handful of paperwork and pay a small annual fee of $150. The city is very thorough and take your fingerprints along with running background checks to make sure people doing business are not criminals.
When do you plan to open the food truck?
Just recently, my dreams of having a food truck were shattered when the Chicago-based company I gave $50,000 went suddenly bankrupt. The company was then sold off and the guy who I trusted disappeared. I have had lawyers look into it but he has gone underground and cannot be found.
There are plans to open a proper brick-and-mortar store, correct?
Of course. My plan is to start a new business that is half restaurant and half store. I haven't got a solid date yet since the plans are still in the works and so is the location. I hope to sell half Brazilian and half Portuguese food fare like octopus and codfish at the restaurant since my grandfather is from Portugal. It will happen. These things take time, you know?