Take a walk through Northridge Mall during the holiday season and you’ll notice a new store in the food court: BKM Healthy Foods.
That location is the latest of a handful of spots for the family-owned Salinas health food store offering fresh, healthy foods.
They first opened at the Indoor Swap Meet next to Sherwood Elementary school in the late 1990s. Ever since then, they’ve steadily expanded to a half dozen locations spread out across Salinas.
“My parents started out in the Swap Meet 24 years ago,” said Julio Perez, who runs the BKM Healthy Foods location in the DC Fashion Mart. “They used to work in the farms and flea markets so they had a chance to open a store in there. They started with fruit cups and some hot food.”
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Since then, the family-owned business now includes six different locations with the addition of the Northridge Mall. That adds to the stores in the Swap Meet, DC Fashion Mart, Alvin Square Shopping Center, CreekBridge Village and on Laurel Drive next to Rabobank Stadium.
As the stores have expanded, so has the menu. The fresh fruit and licuados (smoothie-like fruit drinks) now are part of a menu that has a laundry list of healthy options: fresh-squeezed juices, acai bowls and sandwiches. Many of the new items came from Perez’s sister, Nancy, who traveled during her time in college at UC Davis.
“We added the acai bowls about 10 years ago,” Perez said. “My sister came across a lot of new items when she traveled a lot, so we wanted to bring them to Salinas.”
The food is sourced locally from shops in Salinas or, if need be, from vendors in the Bay Area. That means long hours for Perez and the rest of his family who personally take care of the six locations.
Perez takes care of the DC Fashion Mart and Northridge locations, Nancy handles business at the Alvin Square and Laurel Drive stores, his brother operates the CreekBridge Village store and his parents maintain the original front at the Swap Meet.
“We’re all pretty busy with it,” Perez said.
Helping a local athlete
Take a look at any of the BKM Healthy Foods posts on Instagram or Facebook and there are vibrant pictures of appetizing food.
But there’s also photographs of a local athlete on the rise — world champion boxer Ruben Villa IV.
Perez met some of Villa’s uncles, Ruben and Israel, while interning with MILPA and became familiar with the young prodigy. He watched some of Villa’s fights after hearing about him through Ruben and Israel. And when he was looking for new sponsors as he continues to rise up the boxing ranks, Perez reached out and formed a partnership.
“He comes by, shops here and promotes us,” Perez said. “He’s a busy guy so we appreciate it.”
And they promote him, too. As Perez stocks the DC Fashion Mart location, he wears a hat bearing the local boxer’s logo.
Their logo has been featured on Villa’s boxing shorts in every fight since their partnership. He’ll usually sport a BKM Healthy Foods hat post-fight and during promotions as well.
Though the holidays are a busy time for Perez and the family keeping the locations up and running, they appreciate the business and enjoy the season.
“The foot traffic’s great and we’re happy people like it,” Perez said. “We’ll keep growing as much as possible.”