Oct 062004
 
Authors: Ann Marie Stecker

The spacious and inviting yellow dining room can be seen through

huge glass windows near the northeast corner of College Avenue and

Walnut Street.

This bright, vibrant atmosphere that radiates out on to the

street belongs to La Luz Mexican Grill, 200 Walnut St., a small

locally-owned restaurant in Old Town that serves anything from

salads and burritos to nachos and cookies.

Known around Fort Collins for their fish tacos, La Luz’s current

location was once a dark night club and bar with a seedy

reputation. Before the opening of Starbucks Coffee and the

renovation of The Northern Hotel across the street, this was an

area that most people steered clear of. But all that has changed

since Peter Schultz opened his restaurant in May 1998.

“I like working for myself,” said Shultz, the owner and general

manager of La Luz.

After graduating from the University of Colorado in Denver with

a degree in finance, Shultz quickly became “disenchanted” with the

corporate lifestyle and left a career and salary to work in a

Mexican grill across the street from his office building. The job

paid $6 an hour.

“I worked there for four years,” Schultz said. “I learned the

business inside and out.”

After coming to Fort Collins in 1998, he opened a shop of his

own.

La Luz began with three employees and has now grown to 12. It

offers a variety of fresh burritos, quesadillas, tacos and salads

that are personally made to include an abundance of grilled Mahi

Mahi, shrimp, carnitas, steak, chicken or veggies. They also have a

deluxe breakfast burrito.

Among this varied selection, the fish tacos seem be almost

everyone’s favorite.

“I like working (at La Luz),” said Hilavio Patricio Cordara, a

cook. “I love to eat the fish tacos.”

The recipes for the dishes at La Luz come from years of hard

work. The Mexican staff at the grill Shultz worked for put him to

the test, and after they realized he could hold his own in the

kitchen, they let him in on all sorts of culinary tricks.

“The cooks taught me recipes from home. I learned their mothers’

secrets, their sisters’ secrets and I thought that I could take it

to the next level,” Schultz said.

Sara Hodge loves working for La Luz.

“You get along with everyone, like on Mexican Independence Day

(all the employees) went to the parties together,” said Hodge, a La

Luz manager.

Customers also seem to have a close relationship with La Luz

employees.

“It’s very personal,” Hodge said. “I have a 1 year old and

people are always asking me ‘How’s your daughter?'”

Fort Collins has a place in its heart for La Luz and the

restaurant is growing.

“Fort Collins has been very kind to us,” Shultz said. “We try to

listen to our customers.”

In six weeks, another La Luz is scheduled to open on Boardwalk

Drive and John F. Kennedy Parkway in south Fort Collins. The new

location will have a traditional Mexican look and an area for

outdoor eating.

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