Mexican franchises from Juarez expand into El Paso, beyond

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Entrepreneurs fled Juarez's violence, found success north of the border

Burritos Crisostomo (KTSM Photo)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Some Juarez entrepreneurs who moved operations to El Paso to avoid the city’s violence in 2009 have rediscovered success in the Sun City.

Restaurants like Carnitas Queretaro and Burritos Crisostomo are now franchises expanding in the area and beyond.

Burritos Crisostomo operates five restaurants here and has plans to build two more, one in the Far East and another near The Outlet Shoppes at El Paso.

Carnitas Queretaro has evolved from a single location in the West Side to four restaurants in El Paso. The company that started with a single eatery on Gomez Morin Avenue in Juarez (which has since closed) now employs 200 El Pasoans and is contemplating expanding to San Antonio, Arizona and other states.

Ricardo Hernandez, adjunct consul of Mexico in El Paso, said he’s not surprised that Juarez entrepreneurs are duplicating their success in El Paso.

Burritos Crisostomo plays up its Juarez roots on the drive-rhru of its West Side El Paso restaurant.

“Mexican businesspeople are aware that we live in a regional economy, they understand the American market and know how to compete,” he said. “And as far as restaurants go, we are in an area dominated by Mexican culture where everyone is familiar with our food and loves it. … They love tortillas, salsas, tacos, mole, etc.”

Larger Mexican companies like bread maker Bimbo and cement giant Cemex have been mainstays in the United States for many years, Hernandez said.

Now smaller, family owned companies are doing the same, he said.

According to a 2016 study by the Washington, D.C.-based Mexico Institute, Mexican investment directly supports 123,000 jobs in the United States.

‘We let the food speak for itself’

Zulem Bordier, co-owner of Carnitas Queretaro, talks about the chain’s expansion plans in the United States.

Don’t expect plastic chairs or folding tables when you walk into Carnitas Queretaro’s West Side location. Instead, you’ll be facing wooden tables and chairs, booths with cushion seats and a full-service bar in a 5,000 square-foot building.

“Our first location in El Paso was much smaller with very few items on the menu. … We have grown and so has our menu. It’s been a big transformation,” said Zulem Bordier, co-owner and marketing director for the chain.

Carnitas — chopped or sliced pork — are still on the menu, but the fare now includes rib-eye, arrachera (skirt steak) and fish tacos.

“Our quality is high-end, but our prices are very affordable. We take pride in the quality of our food and the service. We do a lot of training, a lot of tasting to ensure we’re giving our customers the best food,” she said.

Bordier and other Juarez entrepreneurs interviewed said building customer loyalty has been important to their success in El Paso.

“People here, if they like something, they will come to visit you again. The style of our carnitas has always been our calling card. In other markets, you have to try very hard to attract people,” she said.

Still, the company is ready to try expanding elsewhere.

Burritos Crisostomo still has restaurants in Juarez, but its growth engine is now El Paso.

“We like to have good customer service, fair prices and let our food speak for itself,” said manager Luis Padilla.

Each burrito is made with tortillas baked in the restaurant’s kitchen, with meats and other fillings cooked on-site as well, he said. They also sell fruit-based Mexican ice cream treats.

Rather than shy away from it, the chain plays up its origins. A large poster in the drive-thru says, “100% from Juarez.”

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