Luizinha Stores, in the heart of the Mapusa Municipal market, is not merely a landmark. The store, located in the bylanes of the busy bazaar, stands as a symbol of hard work and dedication of the local entrepreneurial spirit of Goans.
From groceries to traditional Goan sweets, snacks and other eats, the store has carved a niche for itself in the business, winning hearts with its mouth-watering snacks and confectionaries.
IN THE BEGINNING
This year, Alfonso Bond Braganza and his wife, Sara Maria Braganza, complete 40 years since taking over Luizinha Stores from its original owner in 1984.
Over a decade later, the couple started Apsara Pastries and Snacks – a bakery and confectionary unit in Olaulim-Pomburpa, making sweets and snacks – adding to the product repertoire at Luizinha Stores which also supplies products to established supermarkets in Goa.
It's not just people in Goa who feast on goodies from Luizinha, the diaspora abroad also delight in these delicacies. Sara Maria Braganza, who runs the store, tells us how a batch of forminhas, made at their bakery have just been couriered to the UK.
“The thing about our store is that we get repeat customers. This speaks a lot,” says Sara.
The store has not only maintained high standards of tradition when it comes to food, but has been a trendsetter, be it in reviving the production of bolacha corpial (an old biscuit) or making their hallmark garlic and cheese sticks.
LABOUR OF LOVE
Sara remembers coming to Mapusa market, as a teen, along with her mother, to supply bebincas – made by her mother to various stores.
Sara picked up the skills of baking and making Goan sweets from her mum. This is speciality of the store, she feels.
She says, “I stand by the products I make. I believe in truth. I speak for my own product because I make the sweets like bebinca and letri myself. I have staff to help, but I mix the main ingredients. I set up everything with regard to the preparation in the bakery and then come to the store.”
From making calls to supervising production to helming affairs at the store, the petite, bespectacled Sara says she can’t stay idle.
“I can’t think of resting even if I am at home,” says she.
Recalling a recent incident, she says, “My husband asked me why I was making the letri for Christmas when I was weary, and I said to him ‘But I got calls from people asking me to make letri’. I can’t let people down. When people want my products, why not make them?”
When the Covid-19 pandemic started, Luizinha stores began doorstep delivery of their products, a service which they continue. “God protected us all during that time,” remembers Sara.
She says the store has grown over the years, acknowledging the support and contribution of her husband and three children.
Luizinha stores stocks a few items that aren’t easily available, such as bolacha corpial, a very old biscuit that was made in Goa in the past. People stopped making it over the years, but thanks to the Braganza couple, the biscuit has picked up on production.
“It’s a flat biscuit made from coconut juice, maida and a little sugar. It’s more like a broken biscuit,” explains Sara.
“We shaped and packaged it. It’s an old-time biscuit. Now, others are making it too,” she continues.
Another USP of Luizinha Stores is its cheese and garlic sticks. These are eaten with a dip or as a snack.
BEHIND THE NAME ‘LUIZINHA’
It’s a story of valour, not just on the battlefield, but also off the war zone. While her husband was a soldier and lost his life, Luizinha Alvares showed courage in the face of life’s challenging times through her hard work.
In her early 20s, and expecting a child when this happened, Luizinha accepted the offer made by the relative of a shop in the old market area in Mapusa to help her earn a living.
When the market was shifted to the currently location, shopkeepers were offered shops in the new market.
Luizinha's family ran the store selling grocery items, before handing over the reins to Sara Maria and Alfonso Braganza, following the family’s decision to migrate to Canada.
Sara says that every time the descendants of the family come on holiday to Goa, they make it a point to visit Luizinha Stores, and express happiness and joy at how successfully it is running while keeping the Luizinha legacy alive.
“We like the name, Luizinha, and have even retained the same old board,” says Sara.
For delicious traditional Goan sweets, check out Luizinha Stores, behind Shakuntala Fountain, Mapusa market