The St. James Plaindealer proudly supports Hispanic Heritage Month (Sep. 15th-Oct. 15th).

Maria Armendariz became the owner of Lilly Nails Spa in Windom two years ago after working a year with the previous owner. Stepping into the role of a business owner gave her not only more responsibility but also the freedom to make her own decisions. Armendariz has been able to change the look and feel of the salon and be able to offer more services.

“I put a lot of work into upgrading and improving the salon on a very small budget,” said Armendariz. “I’m glad I did, though. People compliment that it’s attractive and has a great feel when you walk in.”

Originally born in Emporia, Kansas, Armendariz has lived in St. James since 1991. She came from a family of migrant farmworkers and grew up moving from state to state.

“We worked in Montana hoeing sugar beets, picking lettuce, cantaloupe, broccoli, and cauliflower in California, topping onions in Oregon, and picking asparagus in Washington,” said Armendariz. “We moved around a lot.”

Now, as a business owner, she admits it was hard at first. Lilly Nails Spa was an existing business ran by an Asian family. They spoke little English but were well known for their talent for doing nails. Armendariz was going to do nails but hair as well. As she kept at it, she maintained existing customers but also attracted a large Hispanic population. Some people like that she speaks English, often asking her when she came from Mexico because she speaks so well.

“I look back and think about how I grew up moving around and looking for work and how it brought us here to Minnesota,” said Armendariz. “Job security was not something we had but seeked.”

It’s important for Armendariz to continue to speak Spanish and be able to provide services with confidence to her customers. They’re often relieved that they’re understood.

“It’s wonderful that people are able to get to know a little better as community members,” said Armendariz. “I am proud to be Hispanic and be able to relate to the community in so many ways, whether it’s about family, friends, food, music, and culture.”