El Oasis owner fuses Mexican heritage with ice cream business


Cameron Krasucki

A number of flavored paletas line the inside of a freezer at the El Oasis ice cream shop at 510 N Cunningham Ave in Urbana on Sept. 1. Owner, Javier Chavez, fuses his Mexican heritage with his ice cream business to satisfy the community’s sweet tooth.

By Carolina Garibay, buzz Editor

The age of 21 is novel for so many reasons. Many may associate 21 with its establishment of senior year in college. For others, the more exciting aspect of turning 21 is receiving the infamous go-ahead to legally drink.

But everyone’s experiences are different, and for everyone, a different memory is going to come up when you ask about being 21.

For Javier Chavez, for example, turning 21 marked a time in his life where he traveled on foot for 15 days from Mexico City to the United States.

“It was difficult,” said Javier Chavez. “But now I’m a resident.”

Not only is Chavez a U.S. citizen and an Urbana resident of 20 years, but he’s also the owner of an ice cream shop called El Oasis, located in Urbana. Chavez is the shop’s third owner and was asked to take over after the previous owner got tied up with other restaurants he was managing, Chavez said.

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    Owner of El Oasis, Javier Chavez, speaks with buzz editor Carolina Garibay in an interview about his ice cream shop on Sept. 1. (Cameron Krasucki)

    Besides loving ice cream, Chavez said one of the main reasons he decided to take up the position as El Oasis manager was to provide for his family.

    “I have my family, so I need to work for my kids, for the school, for my wife,” Chavez said. And it’s clear that above all, Chavez loves his family, and that shows immediately upon walking into El Oasis.

    The tropical, ocean-themed store has a huge mural of an island, and the tables and chairs resemble ones that one might find at a beach-side café. In the corner of the shop, Chavez’s kids color at one of the tables, talking to each other and showing each other their drawings.

    “Papi!” Chavez’s daughter calls to him, showing him a picture she drew.

    The ability to be so close to his family while at work is one of Chavez’s favorite parts of the business, he said. He also said he likes being in Urbana, where he said the people are really nice and it’s a smaller area, which Chavez said he prefers.

    “I like Champaign, too, but it’s bigger than Urbana,” Chavez said. But, despite this, he said Urbana still seems to have more people and be more active.

    The colorful interior of the El Oasis ice cream shop basks in the afternoon sun on Sept. 1. (Cameron Krasucki)

    Though Chavez loves Urbana and his job, he said it can still be really difficult running a business sometimes.

    “It’s expensive,” he said. “People don’t like to pay too much for the ice cream. Some people don’t like the prices – people get angry.”

    But after five months of running El Oasis, Chavez is starting to get the hang of it, he said. He likes the job, and he especially likes that he can bring his heritage and background into the business.

    “The Latin people like the Mexican style. They don’t like the fake sundae syrup, right, they like fresh fruit,” Chavez said. “I’m trying to make everything fresh – fresh fruit, fresh ice cream. Everything fresh, not fake.”

    Pretty much everything El Oasis sells is a traditional Mexican snack or a variation on street snacks you might find in Mexico. For example, Chavez sells paletas in several flavors, elote and mangonada, which Chavez said is his favorite.

    But when Chavez reflects on where he is today and how he got there, he said it all comes down to his family. He said he’s proud of all the work he’s done

    “I work in lots of forms, earning money,” Chavez said.  “I’m just working hard. Everybody is working for something, right?”

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