When family comes together, a business can thrive.
That was the message shared by two of the most successful family-owned businesses in the Sacramento region.
Family members of both Márquez Brothers International (El Mexicano) and La Esperanza Bakery shared their thoughts on being this year’s recipients of the ‘Salud Legacy Award’ at the 45th Annual Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce gala, held last Saturday evening at the DoubleTree Hotel.
“For us, it was very important to bring one of the most important parts of our culture to the United States and that was the food,” said Efrain Márquez, managing partner of Márquez Brothers International.
When the family emigrated to the United States from México in the early 1980s, they witnessed an absence of Mexican food products in the United States. Eager to fill the void, the family created their own small enterprise of bringing authentic Mexican food products from their native country to the United States.
They named their business El Mexicano.
“We wanted to bring products over that are used in many of our favorite signature Mexican dishes but that were hard to find in the United States. Those products always reminded us of México, of our culture and traditions,” said Márquez.
The family enterprise began when family members would sell their homemade artisan Mexican cheeses and creams to communities and local stores. Their popularity led to the expansion of other Mexican food products that are now exported across the globe.
Márquez stressed the importance of family unity as a reason for the brand’s success.
“From the beginning, we came together as a family to support this idea of creating a business together. We all helped in one form or the other and it was a goal we all had from the beginning,” said Márquez.
The Plasencia family who has a long history in the Sacramento region for not just being the first, but the longest standing producer of fresh Mexican ‘pan dulce’ spoke of their humble beginnings.
“The panadería started with our parents. They came to this country seeking the American Dream. Our father had it in his heart since he was a child, to go into business and that’s what led him to create La Esperanza,” said Jorge Plasencia, who runs and operates the popular South Sacramento panadería.
Located on Franklin Boulevard, La Esperanza family bakery opened its doors in the late 1960’s and has expanded from their popular pan dulce, to a meat market and grocery store that sells Mexican food products.
When Don Plasencia passed away, the family didn’t shut its doors. They continued to run the panadería to keep the dream of family business alive.
“We all went through a hard time when our father passed away. He was the leader. There were adjustments that had to be made but one thing we didn’t do was give up. Our father knew the significance, impact and importance of providing a product to our community,” said Plasencia.
Keeping the business thriving through the years has been a result of hard work, determination and a real commitment to serving the Hispanic community.
“Nobody tells you when you go into the food industry of all the sacrifices you have to make, and all the long hours you will put into your work. I would advise anyone who is considering this type of business to be prepared,” said Plasencia.
The Plasencia family accepted the award by dedicating it to their parents who were able to create a small business as immigrants to the country.
“They faced so many barriers and still they thrived. We couldn’t be more proud of them and everything they have taught us,” said Plasencia.
The annual gala included an auction of community products donated by local businesses in an effort to help raise funds for the chamber’s annual scholarship drive.
The Salud Champion Award recipient was bestowed upon Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, who spoke of his father’s work and legacy and how it impacted his life in a positive way.
“I didn’t seek office by chance. I grew up with a father who was active; not only as a city council member but also as mayor and he was my greatest source of inspiration and determination,” said Serna.
Choosing to run for elected office was a fairly easy decision to make, he said.
“I knew that the role of a local leader was all-consuming. I knew that if I was going to run for public office, I couldn’t do it half-hearted, but out of love,” said Serna.
As a representative of one of Sacramento’s most diverse regions, Serna says he continues to enjoy his role as a community leader and plans to continue helping his constituents in making Sacramento a destination city.
“Sacramento is a great place and it wouldn’t be great without its people. I am here for the people and I hope they feel that I am a representative for them,” said Serna.
Two awards given Saturday night were chosen by the people of Sacramento.
Daniel Savala, senior council representative for Councilmember Allen W. Warren, was honored as the year’s top young professional winning against two other nominees including Nathan Ulsh, Executive Director of the Franklin Blvd. Association and Tere Veloz, Account Director of Imprenta Communications.
The 2017 Small Business of the Year winner was Cielito Lindo, favored by voters against R&M Framing and Zocalo Mexican restaurant.
Cielito Lindo owner/chef Ramiro Alarcón came to the United States as an immigrant from his native México City to Sacramento bringing with him some of México’s most renowned dishes that he creates at his popular East Sacramento eatery.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this award. To me, to my wife and children and to my partner Ulises, this award could not be possible,” said Alarcón.
He spoke of the significance of his job and his restaurant.
“Being in the kitchen is a commitment. The dishes I create were recipes that belonged to my mother. They are the dishes that are present in every Mexican family. It is the food that I cook with so much love and passion that make my job the most rewarding,” said Alarcón.
The evening’s gala hosted nearly 450 guests that included elected officials, community members, and small business owners from throughout the Sacramento region. The night concluded with music and dancing from Sacramento’s local musician and singer, Dinorah and the Crosswinds Band.
Cathy Rodríguez-Aguirre, the Chamber’s President and CEO said it was important to celebrate Hispanic small business during a time when the community is facing backlash and hate from the President of the United States.
“Times have been really, really ugly. There is so much hate in the world and so many divisions. Tonight, it is about recognizing and celebrating the achievements of what makes our community great; and that is our Hispanic community,” said Aguirre.