Local Dutch Highlight: Holland International Market

A true gem in the Southern California Dutch community is the Holland International Market, and at its heart is Maria Arroyo-Cervantes, who has owned the store for nearly 10 years now. We asked Maria to share her moving story from humble beginnings as a Mexican immigrant to a successful businesswoman and beacon of the local Dutch community.

Early Life

Maria comes from difficult beginnings. Abandoned by her father early on, and later by her mother who left for America. Life in Mexico was hard and in 1990 Maria and her husband decided to take their family to America for a better life. Maria’s first job was at a Vons, but after 5 years she was laid off. Then in 1997 she was hired, with the help of a good friend, to work for a local Dutch store. This wonderful opportunity allowed Maria to climb the ladder from store staff to Assistant Manager to Store Manager. As soon as she started working for the store she came to love everything about it, especially the Dutch community and culture.

Opening Holland International Market

In June 2014 the Dutch store unfortunately had to close its doors after financial struggles. This left hundreds of customers feeling sad. With determination, hard work, encouragement and support from the purchasing manager at Empire International (the Dutch/Indonesian importer) Maria decided to go for it. She opened a new business in just 4 months. She named it the Holland International Market in Bellflower. On October 28, 2014 the new Holland International Market opened its doors. Maria described this as the best day of her life. She told everyone: “I’m Mexican by looks, but really I am Dutch by heart!”. She hired Cathy, a former staff member who speaks Dutch and knew all products by heart, and her husband and son to help run the store. She also created a user friendly website for online ordering.

Present Day

In the first year the Holland International Market reached about 1000 customers, and nowadays they proudly serve 5000 customers. Maria does everything from purchasing the products, to taking phone calls, checking the website for orders and running the store. Her husband is in charge of shipping and her son works with her in the retail store. She has one hired staff currently named Deanna who is of Indo-Dutch descent. With the 4 of them working, the business is doing well. With Maria’s faith, passion and determination, the store will celebrate its 10th anniversary this coming fall.

Holland International Market and its Dutch/Indonesian Inventory

The Holland International Market currently has about a 50% Dutch and 50% Indonesian inventory. The store sells retail as well as online at and ships straight to your doorstep. Most of these products are specialty items that you wouldn’t be able to find in a regular supermarket. They mostly sell drop, cheese, cookies, sprinkles, Krupuk, bumbus, and sambal among others. Maria’s favorite Dutch product is speculaas, a very popular cookie among the Dutch and stroopwafels of course. She evens likes the black licorice, as long as it has a sweet flavor.

Dutch Community

Maria and the Holland International Market are active participants of the Dutch community, hosting celebrations for Sinterklaas, Herring Day and never missing a Holland Festival or King’s Day Event. You can also find her at the local Dutch School in Orange County a few times a year. Maria personally just enjoys being around the Indo-Dutch people as they accept her who she is – Mexican on the outside and Dutch on the inside. She loves the outdoor events where she gets to meet new people from all walks of life while enjoying authentic Dutch foods and the entertainment from back home. It might be a small business but Maria is proud to say they have helped and supported the Consulate of the Netherlands, The United Netherlands Organization (UNO), the Dutch School of Southern California, SoCal Indo, The Netherlands American Foundation (NAF) and the Indo Dutch Project, as well as numerous other organizations. This sets the store apart from others, the deep love and caring the Dutch and Indo-Dutch community.

The Holland International Market truly tried to create a “home away from home” for those from the Netherlands and Indonesia and to bring them the real flavors of the foods they grew up with.

Maria, The Dutch School is so thankful for your support and continued collaboration. We hope to work together for many more years and that our teachers and families will continue to support your local Dutch business.

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