Part of the charm of Ramon Jacobo’s grocery store near 24th and L Streets is that you never know who you might meet waiting in line to buy its homemade salsa.
“Ramon had a real affinity for business, but he really opened up when others reached out to him,” said a longtime friend, Jose Francisco Garcia, of the Mexican American Historical Society. “I would look forward to waiting in line because I would meet all kinds of people, European Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, and pretty soon we’d be talking and laughing.”
For 44 years, the Jacobo Grocery deli has provided enchiladas, flautas, beans, rice, carnitas, salsa and pork tamales made from traditional family recipes. It all came together under Ramon’s watchful eyes.
“My father was tireless and he expected us to be tireless, too,” daughter Martha Jacobo of Omaha said Sunday. “My dad left us an understanding of giving your best at whatever you do, to be honest and to know that there’s always something else to be done.”
The tireless store owner came to his final rest on Sept. 13, when he died at age 90 of natural causes at an Omaha hospital. The family held a celebration of his life at a local mortuary.
“My dad would really have been humbled to know so many people really enjoyed all the things created by him,” Martha said. “He felt so lucky to have had all the attention over the years regarding the grocery store.”
Jacobo was born in Omaha in 1930 after his parents had emigrated from Michoacán, Mexico, for work. The Depression caused the family to move back to Mexico, where Jacobo married his wife, Cirina, 68 years ago next month.
The Jacobos later moved to Chicago’s South Side, where he worked 20 years at an appliance factory and his wife operated a small grocery store. They saw an opportunity to open a larger store in Omaha and moved here in 1976, their daughter said.
Jacobo Grocery opened at 6330 S. 30th St. and later added a bakery at 24th and B Streets. In 1989, Jacobo combined the store and bakery at the present location.
“He really filled a need,” Garcia said. “My wife and I moved to Omaha in 1976, too. We looked all over for a store to introduce our children to authentic Mexican products, and Ramon had everything we needed.”
Martha said the family was fairly mystified when demand for their mother’s salsa creations surged in the early 1990s. Lines, especially for the regular-style salsa, regularly snake out the door.
“All of a sudden people were coming in to get the salsa for parties and for their workplaces,” she said. “People have tried to replicate it, but they can’t. It’s just so good.”
People often asked why the Jacobos didn’t open another location, his daughter said. Customers from smaller towns make regular trips to the South Omaha store.
“One location was a lot of work,” Martha said. “Dad wanted the store to be managed his way. He didn’t want to move out of South Omaha because the community had embraced him, and a store somewhere else would’ve lost something.”
In addition to his wife and daughter, Jacobo is survived by sons Jose, of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Carlos and Alfred, both of Omaha; and six grandchildren: Carlos Jr., Fernando, Manuel, Karla, Sarah and Daniela.