Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Frankenstein monster, Santa Claus.
Agustin Juarez can get pretty much any kind of piñata you want.
For 12 years he’s been bringing them back from Mexico to sell in his combination restaurant and market in Kansas City, and he said he’s happy to hear ideas from customers.
“Everything is by request,” he said.
The bin Ladens and Husseins on display now have been part of his seasonal Fourth of July stock since customers asked about them two years ago. He bought a few, sold them quickly and found that his customers on the West Side had their own ideas about how to break a piñata.
A half stick of dynamite, for instance, will reduce the four-foot effigy to a litter of paper and a severed head.
Juarez’s primary business at Los Alamos Market y Cocina is a lunchtime trade of Mexican food, but he is also becoming known for unusual novelty items from Mexico, such as the piñatas. Juarez takes customer requests to a shop in Nuevo Laredo, just across the border, and shows his partners there a picture of the piñata he wants.
He makes the trip — 18 hours, in a rental truck — about once a year to restock inventory.
“Every time I go, I like to bring something back,” he said.
The piñatas generally sell for $30.
More and more people have been requesting new piñata models lately, he said, and he’s listening.
This Fourth of July, Juarez said, he sold 50 of them, with the bin Ladens going the fastest. He plans to bring fewer Husseins back next time.
But neither of the public enemies rate as his all-time best-seller, Juarez said. His other seasonal characters do far better: the Easter bunny in the spring, pumpkins and skeletons in the fall. And the birthday cakes appeal to a wider consumer base.
Over the years, too, he has learned to cater to the local sports crowd with Royals and Chiefs piñatas, as well as out-of-town teams.
“Oh my goodness,” he said, shaking his head at the popularity of Raiders and Yankees figures — remember, they’re made to be beaten with a stick.
And Juarez is aware that many of his customers have not forgotten the Border War quite yet. He said he plans to load up on Kansas Jayhawk and Missouri Tiger piñatas the next time he drives back from the border.
Juarez said he knows he could provoke an emotional reaction with the mascots, but he shrugs mischievously.
“If I get in trouble, I get in trouble,” he said.
There are some models of piñata that Juarez is unsure he wants to sell, he said. For example, some people have asked for President Barack Obama.
“No,” he said. “Let’s not do that.”