“A friend challenged me to make a Gansito paleta,” recounts Joey Rodriguez. It took him several attempts, but after some trial and error, “It came out perfect.” He realized he had a talent for this.
Joey started making paletas when his parents, who own La Jalisco restaurant Downtown, gave him the idea. But it was his wife CeCe who saw the potential of his creations. “Joey has a passion for what he does. Whenever you have a passion for something, everything comes out better,” she says, “You’re working with joy, you’re excited to wake up the next day and make paletas. I feel like people can actually taste that.”
Joey prepares fresh ingredients for the paletas. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
The paletas at Paleteria San Antonio are hand made. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Around two years ago, Joey and CeCe were searching for a permanent space for their business when CeCe saw Hemisfair was taking applications for tenants. The deadline to submit was the next day. They quickly submitted their application, bringing some paletas to the Hemisfair offices so the staff could check out Joey’s work. The staff must have seen something special, calling shortly after to tell CeCe and Joey they were finalists for the retail space.
“When it comes to Hemisfair, it’s just like a big family”
It wasn’t long before they found themselves at Hemisfair, sharing a building with B-Cycle. “When it comes to Hemisfair, it’s just like a big family,” says CeCe. Strong ties in the business community there make is possible for two tenants as different as B-Cycle and Paleteria San Antonio to find a common project: a Paleta bike constructed by B-Cycle for offsite events.
“Hemisfair is very family-friendly,” says Joey, “They want good vibes.” Their family certainly feels these good vibes, as his young daughter Ariel is a regular at the shop and the resident taste-tester. “Ariel can have a paleta and then twenty minutes later she’s like, can I have another one?”
Joey puts the finishing touches on his paleta mixture. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
CeCe jokes that this is the reason they keep the paletas as healthy as possible, using simple ingredients and no preservatives. Every paleta they sell is hand-made by Joey. “That’s what we want to give,” says CeCe, “the freshest, all-natural, and best quality.”
“This goes back to what Hemisfair originally wanted,” says Joey, “to bring authentic San Antonio here.” Hemisfair is where San Antonio meets, and CeCe sees this every day. “We’ve gotten everyone from two year olds to seventy plus,” she says.
“When people walk in here, I want them to feel like they’re in heaven.”
“When people walk in here, I want them to feel like they’re in heaven,” says Joey. He believes it’s not complicated why people enjoy their creations: “They’re very simple, very natural.”
The paleta mixture is ready for freezing. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“If you want art- edible art- come get a paleta,” he says. Joey and his family dedicate a lot of time to creating these little works and he can sometimes spend all day making each batch meticulously. But for him, introducing new flavors to customers is worth it. “Seeing smiles on faces keeps me going.”