In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Regions Bank is celebrating associates, nonprofits and business owners who make a powerful difference in the communities they serve. Here, meet the Leonides family and discover how Maria’s Snacks is serving up delicious treats that remind their customers of home – wherever that may be.
Maria Leonides has found a place that feels like home. Twice.
She’s now creating that same feeling for others through food.
“We make things custom,” said Leonides. “We make them the way the customer wants it.”
Those who visit Maria’s Snacks in Nashville, Tennessee, for homemade Elote corn, flour chips, ice cream and other Mexican confections appreciate all Leonides does to make them special.
“When someone mentions how things are made in their country, my mom will find the ingredients to make them,” said Elizabeth, Maria’s 18-year-old daughter, who works at the shop. “She’ll try to improve it.”
The Leonides family recently moved their small business to the city’s bustling International District, just south of downtown, to increase customer traffic. The move was possible thanks in part to a grant presented to Conexión Americas by the Regions Foundation, an Alabama-based nonprofit initiative of Regions Bank. The bank’s Nashville market has built a community partnership with Conexión Americas over the past several years.
“Conexión Americas is in the heart of the International District, too, and their work is at the heart of supporting Latino small businesses in Middle Tennessee,” said Lee Blank, market executive for Regions in Nashville. “They are an incredibly important resource in Nashville. We’re proud to work with them to advance the richness and diversity of our community.”
In fact, Conexión Americas is helping 15 – and counting – businesses like Maria’s Snacks through the $100,000 Regions Foundation grant.
The focus? Helping more Latino families create places where they can flourish, even amid the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Maria Leonides, like many Latino immigrants in our country, possesses an unquestionable entrepreneurial spirit and drive,” said Juliana Ospina Cano, executive director of Conexión Americas. “Families like hers are the anchors of our community, and their contributions to Nashville bring a taste of home for many of us.”
That taste includes diablitos – a sno-cone-like drink made with shaved ice, fruit and homemade syrups topped off with a kick of seasonings and hot sauce.
“These are family recipes prepared with love,” Maria Leonides said. She’s been making diablitos for her customers since launching her business at a flea market in 2010. She arrived in the United States from Mexico in 2001, following two of her siblings.
“I moved because there weren’t many jobs in my hometown – and those that were available only paid minimum wage,” said Leonides. “There wasn’t much left over to enjoy life.”
But her first move to Los Angeles wasn’t the right fit. Friends in Nashville suggested it as an alternative.
“They told me it was a good city with good opportunities,” she said.
Leonides went to Tennessee 2002. She’s so grateful she did.
Now, Leonides and family are making the most of their latest move to the new retail location. Business is growing. There are more diablitos to make. And she’s serving them up just the way her customers like.
“We have customers tell us, ‘Oh my goodness, it tastes just like home. It tastes so good. It brings back memories.’ When that happens, it’s the best feeling,” she shared.
After recently graduating high school, Elizabeth plans to continue her education. She’s interested in entering the health care field, an area she’s passionate about.
“Without our health, where would we be?” she asks.
Maria’s dream is bigger than her business. It’s ensuring that each of her three children obtain a college education. It’s what drives her to keep working hard as she settles into her new space. She also loves learning every day.
These are family recipes prepared with love.
“I’m very thankful, I appreciate the help – it came at a time when I especially needed it,” said Maria. “I want to help someone else in the future.”
And that spirit of creating prosperity among small businesses is why the Regions Foundation is committed to lending its support.
“There is no International District without small businesses like Maria’s that bring it to life,” said Marta Self, executive director of the Regions Foundation. “Through grants like this one to Conexión Americas, we can help turn dollars into connections on the ground. We can be a catalyst to help small business and our communities succeed.”
About Regions Foundation
The Alabama-based Regions Foundation supports community investments that positively impact communities served by Regions Bank. The Foundation engages in a grantmaking program focused on priorities including economic and community development; education and workforce readiness; and financial wellness. The Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation funded primarily through contributions from Regions Bank.
About Regions Financial Corporation
Regions Financial Corporation (NYSE:RF), with $144 billion in assets, is a member of the S&P 500 Index and is one of the nation’s largest full-service providers of consumer and commercial banking, wealth management, and mortgage products and services. Regions serves customers across the South, Midwest and Texas, and through its subsidiary, Regions Bank, operates approximately 1,400 banking offices and 2,000 ATMs. Regions Bank is an Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC. Additional information about Regions and its full line of products and services can be found at www.regions.com.