Chango Botanica is here to stay

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Guys with pressure washers started taking the paint off of a building at West Davis and Edgefield this past weekend.

The dramatic change on such a highly visible storefront prompted several readers to ask what’s going on over there at Chango Botanica.

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Could they be preparing to sell the building? Make way for another gastropub or somesuch?

No way.

The original Chango Botanica in the 1970s. Courtesy of Jorje Diaz
The original Chango Botanica in the 1970s. Courtesy of Jorje Diaz

Francisco “Pancho” Diaz originally opened Chango Botanica in the Kessler Theater building in 1976. He moved it across the street after the rent went up, but the second space didn’t have enough parking, so he bought the current Chango Botanica building in 1995. Diaz died in May. His youngest son, 35-year-old Jorje, now owns the business.

A few real estate investors have approached Jorje Diaz since his dad passed with offers on the building.

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“It would be easy for me to sell it and go to California,” he says. “But what is that going to accomplish?”

Diaz lives in an apartment at the back of the shop. Chango is open seven days a week and has not been closed a day since opened 38 years ago. Jorje Diaz even opened the shop on the day his father died.

The younger Diaz says he couldn’t do it without his “tribe,” employees who have worked at Chango for about 17 years. He also credits Nova for bringing foot traffic and new customers. Even though he’s taking off the white paint on the building’s Davis Street-facing facade, he’s leaving Kevin Obregon’s Saint Barbara mural undisturbed.

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Pancho Diaz at the original Chango Botanica in the ’70s. Courtesy of Jorje Diaz

He also installed can lights that illuminate the shop’s iconic statues from below, instead of the old overhead lights. There could be a few more changes to come as well.

Jorje Diaz was living in Venice Beach, Calif., a place where he feels at home, until his father started chemotherapy this past January. He moved back because he sensed his father was close to the end. And now that he’s here, he feels he can’t leave, even though his father never asked him to stay.

“I don’t know why I’m here,” he says. “I just believe in him.”

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