By Danielle Elliott
Young and thrilled to start a new life in America, Juan Rodriguez moved to the U.S. from his beautiful hometown of Jalisco, Mexico when he was just 14 years old. Eager to work and adapt to his new life here, Juan worked intently on fields in California and Washington State, but he knew it wasn’t what he wanted to pursue. Later on, Juan and his brothers decided to move to Oregon, where they worked in a few nearby restaurants working late hours and bussing tables.
Esaul, Juan’s brother, and himself decided to take on one of their lifelong dreams; open their own authentic Mexican restaurant named after the beautiful city itself, “Puerto Vallarta”! Located in Coos Bay, Oregon, “Puerto Vallarta” quickly gained the hearts of the community, bringing together all types of people with the freshest food around in a dazzling, vibrant atmosphere. Juan says he had no idea of how large this business would blossom into.
It was certainly not a walk in the park for Juan to get to where he is today, as he spent 10 long years in Mexico building his dream house, which he eventually sold to move to the states. July of 2000, Juan made his dreams a reality and moved to Connecticut to open his own “Puerto Vallarta” here. Juan’s intentions were clear: Open a restaurant in Newington to gain business in the area which would lead to more locations.
Since then opening six other locations in Connecticut alongside his brothers, Juan made it clear that this did not come without years of work. “I don’t have a problem working the hours that I work or what I’ve done. It’s just that you sacrifice and the family sacrifice[s] because you put up so many hours [to] compare.” // “I’m the boss, doesn’t mean I can stop or I can just stop in and out. I like to show presence for the employees, for the customers, [and] if anything comes up I’m there to fix it,” Rodriguez said.
With the successful business the restaurant has gained comes difficulty with making time for family and work. Mondays and Tuesdays have turned into weekends for Juan; whether he takes the day to rest, or go see a movie with his loving family, he tries to enjoy every second he’s not working with them. As restaurant owners, almost all weekends and holidays are sacrifices needed to make in order to be successful in the restaurant business.
Juan still makes time to give back to the community, donating to surrounding school fundraisers, as well as events across CT. He likes to give back to the schools that have provided his children with excellent education and likes to make himself more involved in the community. As Juan describes it, “It’s a big circle; you help, word to mouth gets around, at the end, the restaurant benefit[s] , the customer[s] benefit, with the fundraising, everyone benefits.”
With last year making over $70,000 in sales for fundraisers, it is only going up from here. “Puerto Vallarta” hosts fundraisers for cancer twice a year, for Newington and Wethersfield Public Schools, The PTO, uniforms for football players, cheerleaders, and books for kids, as this is what Juan loves to do, sponsor and help out as much as he can. 20% of all sales made are donated back to all of the fundraising companies! “Everybody wins,” Rodriguez says.
Rodriguez describes that the best part of the job is playing everyone’s favorite role; the boss. From meeting people all over the world to forming close relationships with regulars, Juan has had an incredible experience ever since he came to the United States. He often likes to go back and reminisce where he grew up and see how Union de Tula, Jalisco has changed.
“Puerto Vallarta” now has seven locations in California, one in Oregon, and six in Connecticut that all share one common goal; hospitality and warmth. With compelling atmospheres to colorful personalities, this restaurant provides authentic, fresh Mexican food that makes you feel comfortable of any and every descent. Juan has made this restaurant a little piece of the place he calls home.