Local restaurateur Jos/ Ramos knew he was taking a chance when he opened Las Salsitas Mexican Grill at 1010 S. College Ave. in April 2004.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of independently owned restaurants fail within their first two years.
The Ramos family’s business made it over that second-year bump only to be gutted by a water heater fire last October. The fire caused an estimated $160,000 in damages.
Las Salsitas is set to reopen today after four months of rebuilding and struggle.
“This is the only source of income for the family,” Ramos said. “Even though the building was closed, we still had to be paying the bills and our house’s mortgage.”
Ramos, who has a computer science degree from California Polytechnic State, used the months to work on contracts as a software engineer. The family had to rent a commercial kitchen in Loveland so one son could continue with his homemade breakfast burrito route.
“It was a big struggle, but we were determined to get back in business,” said Ramos, originally from Mexico.
The restaurant has been refurnished and redesigned, but Ramos has made no changes to the authentic Mexican menu. He looks to implement a weekly promotional program.
“We’re going to offer everything half price, all day on Monday,” he said. “Every week from there, we’re going to have a new dish of the week.”
A frequent diner program and a delivery option are also in the works. Ramos hopes to advertise soon after today’s reopening, something the restaurant had not done before the fire.
“Word-of-mouth is working, but it’s taking too long,” he said. “One thing we’ve discovered is that not many students walk by and because there’s no advertising, they don’t know that we’re here.”
Las Salsitas has also had to fight for survival in a town dotted with other Mexican restaurants, but the competition doesn’t worry Ramos much.
“Customers notice the difference,” he said. “Once they eventually stop and try it, they love it.”
The restaurant prides its menu’s healthy selections, many of which come from traditional family recipes. Fresh tortillas are made daily by hand and no frying or lard is used.
As Las Salsitas looks forward to a fresh start, Ramos cannot help but reflect back on the road it has taken to get where he is.
“My wife and I are a family of immigrants. We’re American citizens today, but we came here with nothing on us,” he said. “I was the first in my family to ever graduate college. In Mexico, the thing was to just finish high school. Nobody knew anything about college.”
Now, with one graduated son, two currently in college, and a 13-year-old daughter, Ramos recognizes the importance of education and of giving back.
“My wife gave up her future to support me. She sacrificed a lot to help me get through college,” Ramos said. “Her dream was to have her own business, so it’s time to help her fulfill her dream.”
Staff writer Jen Cintora can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Las Salsitas Mexican Grill
Address: 1010 S. College Ave.
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sundays.