While driving down Second Street in Marietta, a restaurant with a colorful painting stands out, resting between a white office building and a bricked LLC.
Within the painting, a blue sky transitions into an orange for the sunrise. Whites and blues dominate the bottom as waves crash onto a beach. Green leaves on trees occupy the painting’s sides. Red letters spell “Tampico” in the sky.
The text below the painting indicates the building is a Mexican restaurant. Behind the painting, there is a story of determination and family that keeps the business running.
The owners of Tampico Mexican Restaurant are Luis and Mayra Salas. They pride themselves on having recipes with local products on their menu. The menu includes something for everyone.
- Vegetarian dishes
- Fried ice cream
Unfortunately, the past few years have been rough for the business.
“In the pandemic, for almost six months, we were only able to sell as carryout, and I only had two or three people to keep working with me,” Luis says.
A 2021 report by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, titled “The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Small Businesses,” compared employment numbers from April 2019 and April 2020.
- The percentage change in the total number of self-employed people working showed a decrease of 20.2%.
- For self-employed Hispanic people like Luis and Mayra Salas, the decrease was 26%.
- The change in employment for food services and drinking places showed a decrease of 48%.
Luis says his biggest problem now is hiring the right staff.
Overcoming with Family
Despite labor shortages, the Salas family has seen some major success with two chefs. Chef Samuel Amaya has worked for Tampico for over 10 years, and Chef Ricardo Solórzano has worked there for over 20 years.
“The biggest strength we have as business owners is by keeping the same employees in our kitchen,” Luis says. “We consider them like family members.”
Solórzano now only works part-time for Tampico because he has medical issues.
“Lately, after too many years working, what I like to do, I think it’s affecting me somehow,” Solórzano says.
The Salas family has experienced troubling times before the recent pandemic. In 2004, the business had to deal with a flood in Marietta.
During the 2020 pandemic, the family had to sell its location in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The Marietta location survived.
“In 1998, when we started business, we decided to do whatever we had to do to make success,” Luis says.
Tampico plans on updating its menu and website soon. Luis wants to add a bit more business from a certain demographic.
“I really want to conquer more young people, the new generation. I want to try and do some deals,” Luis says.
One such deal is any Marietta student gets 10% off.
At Marietta’s Tampico Mexican Restaurant, the paintings outside and inside the restaurant exude a warm feeling. The festive Mexican music matches the vibe of the paintings by not being overly loud.
The business has undergone many hardships. The Mexican dishes with local products hold as much love as the family has for the community.
“We are proud to be in (the) Mid-Ohio Valley for so long. We want to continue to provide and improve our customer service,” Luis says.