Around a dozen people participated in the Downtown Cultural Business and Art Walking Tours Tuesday afternoon, and in addition to experiencing and exploring the many diverse businesses housed in the Marshalltown community, they also got to admire several murals in the process.
The Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA sponsored the two tours, one at 2:30 p.m. and another at 4:30 p.m., each lasting about an hour and a half. Stops on the agenda included the Golden Kayin Asian Store, La Salud Grocery Store, Zamora Fresh Market, Villachuato Supermarket, Adelina’s Grill and Golden Land Asian Food, along with several downtown murals.
These downtown excursions were a fixture in the Y’s yearly programming for about three years prior to the pandemic, and while there was a brief hiatus between events due to COVID-19, they returned for the 2022 rendition Tuesday.
YMCA-YWCA Finance Director Wendy Soltero led and organized this year’s tours with the assistance of Executive Assistant Mari Zamora, and Soltero was excited to have the opportunity to introduce the community to the many ethnic businesses in Marshalltown.
While in the past it has been strictly a Y event, this year, Soltero said they partnered with the Marshall County Arts and Culture Alliance to highlight some of the murals that have been popping up around town in the past few years.
“We really wanted to bring it back again. I know there was a lot of people that had asked about it, and it’s a great thing for the community,” Soltero said. “We are hoping that this will keep being a connection between the community, for those who haven’t been to those ethnic businesses before, and they just feel they — they may feel that they are not welcome, or they are not familiar or they are a little intimidated going in. The idea is that they feel they can just go in and see what’s inside and maybe come back and bring their friends next time.”
The small group participating in the 2:30 tour, which included Y CEO Carol Hibbs as well as Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO John Hall and other chamber associates, were able to go into each of the businesses and look around. Several people made purchases and spoke with shop owners.
One of the La Salud owners, Gabriela Vargas, was generous enough to offer samples of drinks that are made in-house, and Zamora owner Jose Zaragoza offered tacos and fruit samples to tour participants so people could really get a feel for what the businesses offered.
Soltero pointed out different things at each business and even recommended items and foods to try throughout the tour. She felt the tours were a great way to introduce people who don’t generally visit ethnic businesses to the different shops available and a good way to encourage them to come back and visit on their own.
“(The tour) really fits with what we stand for at the Y, so about diversity and inclusion and welcoming,” Soltero said. “I’m lucky to work for an organization that I feel so — that they’re passionate about the same things that I am personally passionate about. So I like to be, me, as a Hispanic person, I like to educate people and try to involve my culture, and it’s not just my culture, it’s different groups and diversities, so in being able to work for the Y, it supports that as well.”
Soltero said visiting these businesses downtown is a good opportunity for people to learn about a new culture and feel like “they are part of the same community.”
“I always say, and I’m always going to say it, the art and culture is universal. It’s a universal way to bring everybody together,” Soltero said. “We’re lucky to be in a community with a lot of diversity. So you can get to know, and eat, and try, and learn about different cultures without leaving your town.”
Throughout the walking tour, participants were able to get close up looks at the Marshalltown Selfie Mural, the Tremont Mural and the Paper Airplane mural, as well as the sidewalk poetry that can be viewed in front of the latter mural.
The Y’s downtown walking tours happen on a yearly basis, and Soltero said she hopes to see more participation in 2023. In her view, people shouldn’t wait to learn about the different businesses and cultures in Marshalltown, and she would personally be glad to answer questions at any time.
“Even if we don’t have the tours and somebody feels like they just want, they want me to come with them, I’ll be happy to do so,” Soltero said.
Soltero can be reached at the Y at (641) 752-8658, extension 207 to answer any downtown tour related questions, and the tours will hopefully be returning again in 2023.
The addresses of the businesses visited during the tour are as follows:
• Golden Kayin Asian Store: 136 W. Main St.
• La Salud Grocery Store: 17 N. First St.
• Zamora Fresh Market: 4 E. Main Street.
• Villachuato Supermarket: 107 N. Center St.
• Adelina’s Grill: 101 N. Center St.
• Golden Kand Asian Food: 11 E. State St.
Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611 or