Guanajuato is a colorful city in the heart of Mexico with breathtaking Spanish colonial architecture and a history of being one of the most lucrative silver mining regions of the 16th century. Guanajuato is the hometown of Maria Romero, co-owner of Reyes Market. Together with her husband, Salvador, the Romeros have owned the store and restaurant on Carpinteria Avenue for 26 years.
We sat at an outdoor table on the patio, chatting through face masks on a hot afternoon. A few people drifted towards the market while a couple finished a meal on the other side. I asked what type of food Guanajuato is known for. For example, Baja, Mexico offers fresh, simple cuisine with lots of seafood. What about Maria’s hometown? âIt’s spicy. More like comfort food.
When Maria and Salvador bought the business over two decades ago from Diane Reyes, it was much smaller and made-to-order food was not available. So over the years, the Romeros have expanded the store to include more groceries and a menu for customers to enjoy a sit-down feast. Maria said that she and her husband worked well together, decided a long time ago to share the business responsibilities – while Salvador looked after the market, Maria took care of the cooking.
âWe started making recipes like my mom and grandma used to do,â Maria said. Chilaquiles are his favorites. A classic Mexican dish of quartered and lightly fried corn tortillas topped with green salsa and may include crumbled queso fresco, fried or scrambled eggs, and a side of rice and beans. Meat, if you like. âBut everything is fine,â Maria said.
I asked what was the best business advice they’ve ever received, and without hesitation, she said, pay your bills. âPay your bills first. Don’t let them go for 30, 40, or 60 days. She said she was taught this trick by previous owners. âThey said, always pay your bills. This way you always have your supplies covered. The Reyes family owned the market before the Romeros, placing the business in 1956. To withstand time, the two families have remained consistent in doing things right.
Which brings us to the key to their success: âWe treat everyone the same,â said Maria. “It doesn’t matter what social category you are in. Whether you have money or have no money, our service is the same.” I took a quick scan of a few clients around the market. It seemed to be a mix of Montecitans in ironed shirts and well-worn hats, workers in the field just out of work, and mothers with children. Reyes had this ‘come as you are’ feeling. No pretension. Just great food and great people.
Their trade secret is something we’ve heard from many companies in the food industry before: Consistency is vital. âJust make good food and take your time with it. Constantly check everything. The way the food is cooked, the recipe. Make sure it’s consistent. If Maria could give her and her husband any advice to their younger children, it would be to slow down and not take it all on themselves. âDon’t try to do it because you can. Eventually it will catch up with you and you will burn yourself out. She admits the couple worked the business seven days a week from its opening until just three years ago, when they decided to close on Sundays for a break. âWe take a day off to regenerate ourselves.
So what is the future of Reyes Market? âThat’s the million dollar question,â Maria said. âWith everything changing, we’re only doing one day at a time right now. When I asked her if there was anything she would like to add, Maria looked halfway before speaking again. âGod has been good to us. I think this is the key. That he put us here for a reason.
Reyes Market is located at 4795 Carpinteria Ave.
Megan Waldrep is a freelance columnist and writer, currently living on a 34-foot sailboat. To learn more about Megan, visit meganwaldrep.com.