Zal and Otella Lanceta are making sure Kentucky and the Philippines stay connected, despite the more than 8,000 miles separating their two home bases. As owners of the Lanceta Trading Co, located in Breckenridge Plaza, Zal and Otella have enabled those living in Louisville to experience a taste of the Philippines while helping fellow immigrants stay linked to their homeland, shipping boxes direct to their friends’ and families’ doorsteps.
With 20 years of business under its belt, Lanceta Trading Co has established itself as one of the only—if not the only—groceries in the state specializing specifically in Filipino goods; however, Zal and Otella had long called Louisville home before they decided to venture into the grocery business.
My visit to Lanceta just happened to fall on the 44th anniversary of Zal’s arrival to America, where his sister and brother-in-law were already based. A member of the U.S. Army, Zal’s brother-in-law was stationed at Fort Knox. Zal’s Mother had made the journey to Kentucky to be with her daughter and wanted the rest of her family to join them. Slowly but surely, Zal and his other seven siblings made their way to America, settling in Kentucky. Twenty years ago, when Zal learned the company he worked for was merging with another, he had to decide to either stay put and carve out a new career or move his family to Minneapolis. Lucky for Louisville, he chose the former and the Lanceta Trading Co was born.
Sidearm Business Help Grocery Expand
The close-knit nature of Zal’s family has remained as they have continued to expand over the years. Their annual New Year’s Eve gathering quickly outgrew personal homes and now requires the rental of an event space to accommodate the more than 100 guests.
Of course, Lanceta Trading Co is not supported by Zal’s large family alone. Lanceta’s patrons span the state, repeat guests traveling from up to three hours away to visit the grocery, often with boxes they would like to ship home in tow. This sidearm of Zal and Otella’s grocery business has been a worthwhile venture. Zal travels to Chicago every two weeks, shipping the boxes from there and then refilling his vehicle with items he procures from a wholesale facility focused on provisions from the Philippines.
Inventory Based on Customer Demand
Lanceta’s inventory has grown over the years, items added and amended based on customer demand. While visitors are more than willing to make a long drive to visit Lanceta, the location of the store was central to where much of Louisville’s Filipino population was based 20 years ago, making it the ideal place for Zal and Otella to open their store.
The shop itself is intimate and approachable in size. A row of white refrigerators line the back wall. A handwritten account of what one will find inside, along with prices are secured with a magnet to the front of each door. A trove of goods from halfway across the world are found within, including tubs of violet-hued ube ice cream (made from purple yams), frozen lumpia (Filipino egg rolls), loads of dried fish, goat meat, pig’s blood, jackfruit, coconut, and milkfish both filleted and whole. One form of calamansi or another is available in nearly every refrigerator, this essential citrus used in a variety of Filipino dishes. Calamansi tea is stocked in the grocery’s aisles, where one will also discover numerous sauces, canned fish “the most popular item in the store,” shares Zal, jars of banana ketchup, and a curated collection of rice and noodles.
As we stroll the aisles Zal stops to show me a jar of his favorite marinade for pork ribs, Mama Sita’s BBQ. Zal likes to bathe the ribs in this marinade along with white vinegar and plenty of calamansi juice. A dash of salt and pepper and the ribs come out just right after receiving the low and slow treatment on the grill.
As my visit wraps up, Zal is quick to invite me to their New Year’s Eve gathering, his kind and generous nature as genuine as it is infectious. It is easy to understand why Lanceta Trading Co has become such an important resource for locals looking to expand their palates as well as those Filipinos who now call Kentucky home.