Sanchez overcomes challenges to open restaurant

<p>Mely Estrada helps paint the interior of the new Nelly’s Super Tacos restaurant in Hermiston.</p>

As Nelly Sanchez stepped back to admire the work she and her band of helpers achieved this week, a grin appeared on her face.

Sanchez has reason to smile. She has overcome a number of hurdles to establish herself as one of Hermiston’s newest restaurateurs amid the increasingly competitive market in this growing community.

Sanchez came to Hermiston almost 10 years ago not knowing anything about the restaurant business. She and her then husband established a taco wagon, a business that has been under increased scrutiny lately by city officials. Currently, mobile vendors are required to purchase a business license, a requirement not made of other businesses that serve food. Sanchez said this was one reason she decided to move her business to a permanent location.

“When the city started to come down on the taco wagons, I was really sad,” Sanchez said. “Other restaurants were complaining that the taco wagons were taking away their business, and the city bowed to the pressure. Before the city had nothing to do with the vendors.”

Instead of beating her head against a municipal wall, Sanchez decided to control her own fate. After acquiring the building, piece by piece she filled the facility with equipment and made cosmetic and functional adjustments to comply with health code regulations, turning the place into her first permanent restaurant.

“When I decided I wanted to get this building, I didn’t have any money,” Sanchez said. “I started out with nothing. If it weren’t for my customers, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

Sanchez said one alternative to avoid paying for a business license would have been to move outside the city limits. She did not consider this an option, however, for a number of reasons, mostly because it would have cost her a lot of foot traffic.

“When you’ve been working really hard you don’t want to go back,” Sanchez said. “Moving my taco wagon outside city limits was going backwards. I wanted to move forward. I’ve worked hard for this.”

Despite her obvious affection for her old taco wagon and her empathy for mobile food vendors who will soon be subject to a $500-a-year business license fee, Sanchez said she is happy with her new place. She smiled as she moved unfettered around several rooms, including a food prep area, dishwashing area and storage room. She even has her own office.

Sanchez reiterated her patrons are the only reason she has been successful.

“I have such loyal customers,” Sanchez said. “I always ask them how the food is and what I could do different. I have to thank them for this. I could not have done this without them.”

Nelly’s Super Tacos is still undergoing renovations but is open for business at its location on Highway 395, next to 7-11.

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