HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — A Central Virginia business owner is committed to bringing the tastes and vibes of Mexico to Henrico County.
Cruz Albanil can usually be found running his three-year-old food truck El Chido, unassumingly nestled off Staples Mill Road next to the Sunoco gas station.
"I worked in restaurants all my life," Albanil said, who came to Richmond nineteen years ago. "I tried to keep the feeling, for when people come in, they're feeling like they're staying in Mexico."
While Albanil got his start selling tacos from a trailer near local construction sites, his menu, which is inspired by his home country, offers much more than that.
"People come for the sopes, gorditas, and huaraches," said David Albanil, Cruz's 21-year-old son who helps manage the kitchen. "It's not as hard as you think, because I have a lot of support from my family," he said.
Cruz, who also runs multiple other restaurants in the area, said his whole operation is family-driven. The other establishments are also managed by relatives.
While many business owners took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, Albanil saw his customer base increase.
He credited some of the growth to his takeout and open-air concept.
"Restaurants go down because people don't want to go inside, but this one grew by probably 35 percent," he said.
El Chido's success was the exception to the COVID-19 rule. Nationwide, nearly nine out of every 10 Hispanic-owned businesses struggled, according to Esperanza Teasdale, the VP and General Manager for PepsiCo Beverages North America's Hispanic Business Unit. She explained many of them also were less likely to receive assistance from government programs.
"Less than half of them were able to get PPP loans," Teasdale said. "Some of that had to do with information not being available in [Spanish] language or even awareness that it was available. 'How do I apply? What do I do?'"
To help those businesses, PepsiCo is part of a nationwide effort to provide resources for a rebound. That includes providing access to capital, marketing, and support business solutions.
"In the Hispanic community, restaurants and bodegas are places that are the cornerstone of the community," she said.
As part of the rebound program Juntos Crecemos (Together We Grow), Pepsico will invest $50 million in Hispanic-owned restaurants and markets to address racial inequities.
As Albanil celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, he has a message for other business owners who might be facing tough times.
"Every single day when I wake up, my first thought is the business," Albanil said. "We work hard every day. It's why we come to this country. This country is for everybody."