At some point I am going to write about why I am crazy obsessed with this whole localism movement. I mean I am nuts about this subject. It’s no secret: over the last couple of years, that has been my central focus and anyone who knows me or is connected to me via social media, or reads my columns or listens to my radio show, knows this about me.
Why? Again, at some point I will share my story. But it’s just too personal , the emotions are too raw and near the surface, to not tell the story well. I have to work on it and make it perfect.
For the meantime, let me tell you, right now I am sitting at a local cafe and writing about something that has moved me so much that I just have to get it out. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s perfect: grammar and spelling errors be damned, this needs to pour our of me immediately. It cuts so close to the heart of my own personal experience that I am must share it now.
Take a look at the picture in this piece. Seriously. Stop reading this right now and take a really good look at it.
I’m not kidding. I will wait for you……
Ok, the man to my right is Jose Quijada, the co-owner of Fatdogs. His 80 year old dad, Jose Quijada Sr., is to my left. And the rest of the boys are a few of Jose’s kids. He has more. Take a good look at these faces. These are members of a solidly, respectable, big Mexican family not unlike my extended family in Sonora.
What I want you to get out of this image is a sense of the real people behind a local business. After Jose and his brother, Omar, both got laid off form their jobs back in 2010 (Jose worked with youth at a non-profit agency and Omar was a truck driver) they decided to start their own business. Jose said, “We didn’t want to work for anyone ever again.”
Let’s stop right there. That line really got to me because I completely understand what he is saying. And I suspect that many of the thousands – if not tens of thousands – of people just like Jose and Omar who were also impacted at the hight of the recent economic meltdown know exactly where Omar was coming from. Thousands of entrepreneurs like these two brothers were born, not out of a midlife crisis inspired whim or a romantic instinct to run their own business, but more out of an urgent necessity to be creative and build their own opportunities. I suspect the part about not working for anyone comes from a profoundly emotional feeling of never wanting to be so vulnerable, so dependent on someone else for the well being of your family, ever again.
I get it. Believe me.
The first thing I noticed about Jose when we settled into the KVOI studio to begin the interview was that he was a naturally private and mellow kind of guy. I first tried to break the ice off the air by asking him if he has ever seen the animated film Turbo. He said he had. I asked him if he had kids. Yes, seven. So, before saying more I gave him the ‘I am Mexican too so I feel I can say this’ line. And then I told him how the two characters in the movie that were Chicano brother and ran their Dos Bros Tacos business reminded me of him and his brother.
You have to see the movie to understand this. It has become one of my all-time favorite movies. I saw it a few months ago with my wife and 4 year old boy. The central plot was all about a snail following his dream. Pretty basic, kid move stuff. But the subplot was about these tow brothers following their dreams as entrepreneurs.
It was a deep movie. On the surface, it did it’s job because kids can enjoy the story as pure entertaimnent while parents get the deeper message. It serves as a starting point to talk to your kids about their dreams and how business ownership can be a viable path to take to realize them.
Back to Jose and the interview. Out of respect for his privacy and what he is going through right now with his family and loss of his business, I won’t share every detail. Yes, I haven’t even mentioned that part. A couple of years ago, they moved their business to the Tucson Mall and, to make a long story short, they may have been forced out due to pressure from their neighboring chain restaurant, Chipotle, who apparently could not compete with little old Fatdogs.
But that is not what I want to share right now. Yes, Fatdogs is temporarily out of business. How it happened is sad and it’s infuriating . And this is not the last you will hear from me and many of us who will step to help the Quijada brothers and their family to open up shop once again.
Here is what I do want to share: I was personally touched by what happened in that KVOI studio this morning. I was moved by the personal stories Jose shared on and off the air. His wife, Karina, called in and explained her vision of how Fatdogs will make a comeback. She totally got the whole Turbo comparison and went even further with it (which was a total relief because I couldn’t really tell from Jose if was offended by my comparison or not). She said they recently saw the movie with their kids and when the Dos Bros characters came up they immediately turned to their father and said something like ‘Hey, that is just like you and tio!’
Karina said, like the brothers in the movie, Jose and Omar were really good at what they did and that they loved each other and their business deeply. Earlier off the air, Jose told me the critical role Karina played behind the scene with her social media marketing, business strategy responsibilities and with her general support and patience with the whole thing. When you hear the kind of details a private man like Jose lovingly used to describe his wife and her support, you just get it.
It was an emotional moment for everyone in that studio.
After the show, I went outside with Jose and met his father and some of his boys. His dad immediately reminded me of my late dad: his boots, jeans and cowboy hat and the authentic mannerisms I have seen from hundreds of Sonoran cowboys growing up made him a distinctly, 100% Sonoran cowboy.
Just like my dad.
And just like my father, Jose and his brother came to the point where they just had it. They could not leave the fate of their family’s wellbeing up to a boss. They had to be their own boss.
Before my father died in 1996, he was his own boss for the last 10 years of his life.
Local business owners are real people with real families and real fears and real dreams.
That is what I needed to write today at a cafe on a cloudy, Tucson afternoon at the beginning of 2014. I’m obsessed with supporting local businesses like Fatdogs. It’s personal to me.
One day I will share my story. But, for now, take another good look at the picture. That should due until then.