Later this year, Elena Salinas plans to open a small neighborhood grocery store that will not only help provide Southeast Colorado Springs residents access to affordable fresh food, but also act as a haven for women.
“It will be a place where stay-at-home moms who can’t work eight hours a day, five days a week can work,” she said. “I want to offer that flexibility and then a place for domestic violence survivors and retired women to work. The reason why I chose this was because in 2009, I was in a domestic violent relationship. And I almost lost my life.”
Salinas said A Fresh Move is set to open this fall in the Mission Trace Shopping Center. Her goal is to provide a space where domestic violence survivors can heal and build a support system.
“I had family support and they got me through it all, but I didn’t heal,” she said. “I just moved on, and I carried so much guilt and shame, fear and anxiety for years. And then I began to heal when I started to meet women who were transparent about their journeys. ... With this grocery store, I also want to create that space where women can heal and can thrive with the help of each other.”
About two years after moving to Southeast Colorado Springs from Aurora, where she grew up, Salinas started reaching out to neighbors about the possibility of getting a grocery store in the area. In 2019, she joined the THRIVE program, which helped solidify her plans and launch A Fresh Move in early 2020 as a pop-up fresh food stand.
“I actually started operations on March 7 and then COVID hit that week,” she said. “That was definitely like, ‘What am I doing?’ but I’m so glad that I pushed through because I just feel like we really proved that even though we’re a small grocery store we can still provide so much stuff that the big chain grocery stores don’t have.”
The 32-year-old mother of two has also volunteered with the RISE Coalition, Deerfield Neighborhood Association, Deerfield Food Bank, Council of Neighbors & Organizations and the Alzheimer’s Association.
District 4 City Councilor Yolanda Avila, who nominated Salinas, said everyone should know about the impact Salinas has made.
“The work she is doing through her business perfectly addresses a deep need in the community,” Avila said in her nomination. “She closes the gaps of knowledge and food access with warmth and kindness, and she always works to meet people where they are. Even beyond her work, she looks for ways to connect with her community and ways to collaborate on elevating quality of life.”
Salinas was shocked and honored to learn of her Rising Star recognition.
“I don’t really feel like I’m a rising star; I feel like I’m still just pulling everything together,” she said. “I’m living off of faith. I believe in God and I believe in his purpose for me.
“I felt so honored that people recognize me to be a professional because I still feel like this is just kind of like my little thing that I’m doing and not a business.”
Salinas’ advice for other young professionals is to believe in yourself.
“Believe that you are exactly who you are supposed to be today,” she said. “We are going to get broken down, but it is only to be built up for something greater.”