Ramsey County’s only Filipino-specific grocery opens in Mounds View

28December 2020

Ramsey County’s only Filipino-specific grocery opens in Mounds View

Can’t find salted duck eggs or sea grapes at the local grocery store?

The newly opened Filipino Village grocery in Mounds View has those, plus Drumstick leaves, banana flowers, milkfish and more.

Herman and Faith Rott, owners of the only Filipino-specific grocery in Ramsey County, opened the store in November and found it was more than just Filipino expats who craved their food.

“We have a lot of Somali. We have a lot of Mexican. They appreciate this store being here because we have food that they can relate to,” said Herman Rott, 39, of New Brighton. They’ve also had plenty of natural-born citizens stopping in out of curiosity.

“The Mounds View community has been very supportive,” Rott said. “So it’s been very smooth sailing for us so far.”

The store, which sits at the corner of Edgewood Drive and County Road I, is about the size of a gas station mini-mart. It offers fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen meats, a myriad of spices, a cooler of specialty juices and plenty of Filipino snacks. Ninety percent of the products are imported from the Philippines.

Filipino food is spicy and shares a heritage with Spanish food. The island nation is named for King Phillip II of Spain and was part of the Spanish empire for 300 years.

Food has been flying off the shelves faster than the Rotts can get it in from the Philippines where severe COVID-19 restrictions have slowed production and interfered with harvests.

He calls this demand a “good problem.”

Rott is no stranger to problems of the bad sort. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s one of the Cebu 6-Pack, a nickname given him and his five siblings when a Minnesota couple adopted them in 1997.

He was 15 at the time, so the transition was difficult for him. As the oldest, he had been living on his own for two years, separated from his siblings who were sent to an orphanage in Cebu, Philippines, after their parents were unable to care for them.

The orphanage worked to keep siblings together. They tracked down Rott, who had to be convinced that living at the orphanage was better than his current situation.

The little family — four brothers and two sisters — were adopted by Ken and Dianna Rott who had tried unsuccessfully for 16 years to have a baby. Local news stations dubbed them the Cebu 6-Pack and kept tabs on them as they grew up.

“In my youth I struggled a little bit because of the culture,” he said. “But God is good. He’s the one that made everything possible.”

Herman Rott, right, answers a customer’s questions about an imported pineapple juice. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

He has made several return trips to the Philippines where he met his wife of five years, Faith. They have three children under the age of five.

Rott tried programs to become a medical tech and later a mechanic but would always end up dropping out to work in order to pay the bills. Eventually he found his niche as an entrepreneur. He owns a second business, Twin Cities Recreational, also in Mounds View, which sells swimming pools, pool tables and other games.

As he was growing up, he missed the tastes of his youth, and once he was established, he felt it was time to bring those tastes to Minnesota.

“I was dying for good Filipino food,” he said.

He has plans to expand into the former laundry next door and add a commercial kitchen so customers can taste authentic Filipino dishes such as Suwam na Mais, a soup made with corn and Drumstick (or Moringa) leaves.

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