In 1983, Florentina Martínez and Jess González started the grocery store that their daughter runs today. Now it’s up for sale
It is one of the last colmados or groceries in the Old Town, and, without a doubt, the most charismatic due to its external appearance, its beautiful carpentry, previously green and now red, and the awning that gives it that appearance as if it had always been in the city. Saint Francis Square. “We haven’t changed anything, it’s just like the drugstore was before.” Kontxi González dates back to the early 1980s, because that was when her parents, Jesús González and Florentina Martínez, got their heads together and leased the establishment on Calle Ansoleaga, 24. “Back then, my father was retired, and my mother took care of the ice cream kiosk that was installed in the square in the summer, next to Nueva street”. While there, “she noticed that it was trespassing and decided to take it.”
Since then, San Francisco Food has spent a life, ten years of Florentina’s (who at 94 still smiles when she remembers her) and almost all of Kontxi’s, one of the González sisters who, after their mother retired, took over the business. “Before there were my sisters Anabel and Begoña, and then I joined,” she explains.
Until today. A today that sounds, almost forty years later, with a lot of melancholy because Kontxi has put the store up for sale. He is not yet retired, but he would like, with time, to find relief: “I am 62 years old, I would have one left to retire, but I want to leave things well done”. He tells it, and his voice is muted: “It’s hard for me to leave the store, because a large part of my life goes with it. That’s why I’d like someone to take it, because if you feel like it and you like to work, you’re comfortable.” “. Next to her is Antxon, her 25-year-old son, who shares the business. “Before we had an employee, but when Antxon turned 18 he came.” He has been with her for 7 years, behind the counter; She has won over all the kids from the San Francisco school and from the entire neighborhood, but now, when her mistress leaves, she has decided to study and “try elsewhere.”
The business is already posted on a real estate portal. “It would be great if someone jumped on it,” she says, adding that “this could come in handy for a couple just starting out…”. The interior of the Kontxi grocery store is impressive because in its barely 60 square meters it exhibits, with a meticulous organization, in addition to freshly baked bread and the press, dozens and dozens of products, all kinds of food, drinks and Navarran specialities: “We have a lot … chistorra from Zubiri and sweets from Mendigorría”, along with wines, organic eggs, cold drinks… And a universe of trinkets that, at the moment, “is the most popular”.
Kontxi and Antxon are so good-natured that they even prepare a sandwich for anyone who asks for it. “This cannot be missed, it is a very great service that you do to the people and to the neighborhood in general.” Because she just loads the bus pass for you, that she takes care of your kid if she needs it and she has even worked as a nurse with more than one txiki that has fallen in the square. “I have made the store my home, I like the relationship with people and these values are going to be lost.” Kontxi refers to the human treatment that the merchant of all life has given to her clients, calling them by her name and knowing her tastes. What a franchise can’t give you. That is why she is very critical of politicians: “They sew us into taxes, when these types of stores should be subsidized.” She thinks the same of the hotel industry, which they won the battle when they wanted to be prohibited from selling drinks. “I told them: don’t you realize the service we are giving?” A service that, in short, means creating a neighborhood, because when everything closes, the light from the Kontxi grocery store illuminates the Casco Viejo. From 8 in the morning to 10 at night and 363 days a year. Priceless. That is why she does not understand that the City Council does nothing, because almost everyone around her has closed.
Food San Francisco is still at the foot of the canyon and now has a Sanfermines ahead that will help them overcome a “pandemic that has been devastating”. Because at first the neighborhood businesses regained prominence, but then everything opened up and it was worse for them: “We also feed on extras, what people buy for dinner or to take to societies. And everything has been closed”.
Kontxi plans to retire in a year, but the light in his store is still on. “I remember a neighbor who went to live in Boston who, when she returned from a trip to Casco Viejo, she always told me: ‘As soon as I see the light in the store, I know I’m home.’ Nothing better reflects what these neighborhood stores mean for the life of the city.