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When Michell Baca Ball moved to Bozeman from El Paso, Texas, she missed the ice cream trucks and paleteros that would sell sweets through her old neighborhood.

She couldn’t find a place to get frozen Mexican treats like paletas and mangonadas or even specific flavors of ice cream that satisfied her cravings.

Last year, Ball and her husband, Jesus Martinez, decided to open their own business. He suggested a taco truck. Ball had another idea.

“I said ‘You know what I miss on hot days like this?’” she said. “Taco trucks are one thing. But a piece of sweetness? It makes life so much better.”

Michoacán a Pedir de Boca, serving handmade ice creams, paletas, aguas frescas — like horchata and jamaica — and a small assortment of snacks and quick foods, opened at the end of June.

It’s open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 215 N. Seventh Ave., in the former Bar 3 BBQ building.

Ball and Martinez, along with two cousins and two close family friends, co-own and run the shop.

Bozeman already has an assortment of Mexican restaurants and food trucks. And, while there are several ice cream shops offering handmade cones, Ball said hers carves a niche.

“Almost every ice cream shop (here) has the same flavors,” she said. Michoacán offers an alternative.

On a given day, the store has about 36 flavors of ice cream and 17 types of paletas, or cream or fruit-based popsicles.

The store also serves fresh fruit desserts like mangonadas and a few snacks like esquite, nachos, dorilocos and tostilocos.

All the sweets are made fresh daily in the shop, using fresh fruits and ingredients.

Ice cream flavors range from simple classics to specialty flavors like tequila with almonds, mango and chamoy, mazapan, tres leches and rum raisin. Pistachio is Ball’s favorite.

Thursday morning before opening, Ball said the store has stayed busy. She’s exceeded her sales goal every day and hasn’t had a day off since the shop opened.

The long hours have been hard on her three sons, aged 16 to 8, but unlimited access to sweets have softened the blow for the boys, she said.

Her 9-year-old son, Mikey, loves being behind the counter and chatting with customers, she said.

The business is a family venture and Ball wants her family warmth to convey to customers.

“I want everybody to know that this is a place where you could feel at home,” Ball said. “We feed you, we greet you, we talk to you and we make friends with you.”

The majority of her customers, especially during the store’s initial opening, have been a part of Gallatin Valley’s Hispanic and Latino community.

Ball wants to encourage anyone from Bozeman, especially those who have never tried Mexican treats, to stop by the store. She enjoys answering questions and talking about the significance of certain desserts.

“It’s part of the fun of coming in here. You’re not going to just get ice cream, you’re going to get history,” she said.

Michoacán a Pedir de Boca is part of a Mexican chain of ice cream shops. In Mexico, the well-known chain is called La Michoacana and is headquartered in Guadalajara. The Bozeman store is the first of the franchise to open in the intermountain west.

The Mexican company opened its first storefront in the U.S. in 2006 in Chicago.

Ball and her co-owners have a goal of opening five Michoacán ice cream shops in five years, scattered across Montana to help bring a taste of home to the Hispanic population.

“I do try to serve the Hispanic community, because there are many who haven’t been back to Mexico, or wherever they’re from, in many years. This is a little piece of home,” Ball said.

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Juliana Sukut can be reached at 582-2630 or jsukut@dailychronicle.com

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