In 2009, Jimmy Roman and his father-in-law, Jose Asuncion Hernandez, opened Fonda Don Chon, a home-style restaurant featuring dishes inspired by the cuisine of Jalisco, Mexico. The Covina restaurant soon became a hit, with lines out the door on weekends and regular customers coming from as far as Hesperia and Moreno Valley.
In 2014, Roman and Hernandez were scouting locations to open a quick-serve taco concept when they discovered a restaurant space ideal for a second, larger Fonda Don Chon location. Thus, Roman confidently approached his long-term business bank for a loan to buy the building. Unfortunately, the bank would not approve a loan large enough to cover the cost of the building, upgrades, and working capital. Consequently, Roman visited the Small Business Development Center hosted by Pasadena City College for assistance with significant worries about losing the possible second location.
SBDC Business Advisor Nathaniel Jemison and Director Salvatrice Cummo connected Roman with potential lender SCE Federal Credit Union Commercial Business Development Executive, Robert Hernandez to obtain the capital he needed to buy and refurbish the building. Then, the SBDC assisted him with the necessary permitting for the building upgrades and much more.
The second location is slated to open in mid-February 2015, and has already created jobs in the community; Fonda Don Chon now has 130 employees in total. The new building is bigger, seating nearly 300 customers compared to the first location’s 115. “A bigger building means bigger responsibilities and more overhead,” says Roman, but he’s not worried. He projects 2015 sales at the Rancho Cucamonga location will hit $5 million, adding to the $3.6 milion in sales the Covina location enjoyed in 2014.
“I like to keep my plate full,” says Roman, and he’s not kidding. In addition to opening the Rancho Cucamonga restaurant, he is currently launching a business wholesaling salsa, Diablo sauce and mojo de ajo (garlic butter) to retail stores. Later this year, he plans to move ahead with California Taco Company, a quick-serve concept that he believes could become a franchise. He’ll also be returning to the SBDC—this time for marketing advice—once Fonda Don Chon’s second location is off the ground.
“When you’re ready to purchase real estate and you don’t have a bank to back you up, that puts a lot of pressure on you, I was surprised how quickly it turned around. Everything went so smoothly with the SBDC that it made my life a lot easier.”-Jimmy Roman , Owner, Fonda Don Chon