News Column

El Patron an Anchor for Iowa Hispanic Community

Oct. 30, 2012

John Molseed, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa

Aurora Torres says she still has a lot to learn about running a business.

Since June last year, when she and her husband, Vicent Martinez, opened El Patron Family Mexican Restaurant, she has learned quite a bit. The business is now a centerpiece in the heart of downtown Waterloo, Iowa. The restaurant was the anchor for this year's downtown Cinco de Mayo festival. The event brought hundreds of people out to celebrate Hispanic cultures.

Torres said she doesn't see herself as one of the leaders of the Hispanic community.

"But I'm not saying I wouldn't do what I can do to help."

Torrez and Martinez decided to open a restaurant after Martinez had worked at Las Margaritas for years.

"You're working for someone else and you put all those hours in," she said. "If you're going to be working, you might as well work for yourself."

Martinez's restaurant experience helped get the couple established with a menu and set up. The couple had a steep learning curve on the business side of the operation.

"It's a hard job," Torres said. "But when it comes down to it, it's your own and you want to do it right."

The Cinco de Mayo celebration was a rewarding experience and showed people what a big role the Hispanic community plays in the area.

"A lot of people don't realize how many Hispanics are in Waterloo," she said.

Torres said she hopes the festival will continue next year and improve. She said more vendors were expected to set up along East Fourth Street but didn't and that left the closed-off street somewhat empty.

"It was kind of a ghost town," she said. "We can always make it better. We want to do something of our own here."

The event did help raise the profile of the restaurant, Torres said.

"We still get people saying 'I had no idea you were open,'" she said.

The restaurant itself has helped maintain a Hispanic presence in downtown Waterloo.

"It helps downtown to have a little diversity," she said. "I think we need that."

Torres said her fluency in both Spanish and English has helped her succeed. She is able to communicate with all her customers and conduct the legal and financial matters of the business. However, Torres says that's where she still has a lot to learn.

"I still don't think I've learned all I need to know," she said.

Source: (c)2012 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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