PILSEN — Taqueria Sabor y Sazon in Pilsen is closing for good, owners confirmed.
The owners of the taqueria, 2018 S. Blue Island Ave., will sell off “everything from plates and cups to knick knacks” this weekend after making the difficult decision to close the popular Pilsen restaurant because of financial difficulties related to the coronavirus shutdown.
Owners Jesus Quiroz and Mercedes Cruz announced the closure with a simple note on the restaurant’s website: “Thank you for seven years.”
The closure comes as the husband-and-wife team are leaving their home, too. They rented an apartment in same building as the restaurant, and with the loss of income, they are looking for a new place to live by June 1.
They began to feel the economic strain as soon as restrictions on gathering were put into place to limit the spread of coronavirus. But when schools closed, like Benito Juarez High School nearby, they lost a large base of their customers.
“Not only did we have many of the students as customers, but also teachers,” said their daughter, Giovanna.
“We had taquiza orders and catering orders that were canceled with no sign of them continuing since large gatherings are not permitted,” she said. “The rent, bills and business taxes were not taking a pause and the sales were only enough to cover inventory.”
When “meat prices doubled,” the couple began to weigh the pros and cons of staying open for takeout only. It wasn’t an easy decision, Giovanna said. The restaurant was a source of personal pride, built on their hard work and family recipes.
At age 20, Quiroz started as a line cook and has worked at Mexican restaurants ever since. Nearing her 48th birthday, Cruz has worked in the restaurant industry for almost 30 years. But “once she worked for herself, she was no longer just a waitress and was able to cook and serve all her recipes in the restaurant,” Giovanna said.
She was most proud to serve her signature mole because “she made it completely from scratch which entails hours of work and over 20 ingredients,” her daughter said.
Despite the closure, the husband-and-wife team feel fortunate to be in good health. Chicago’s Latino neighborhoods like Pilsen and Little Village have been hit hard by coronavirus, but their four daughters and close relatives are healthy, thankfully.
A GoFundMe campaign was created to help the family pay bills as they search for a new home. As of Thursday afternoon, the campaign has raised more than $2,500.
From 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Sunday, items from the restaurant will be sold off, too. People will be required to wear a facemask and comply with social distancing measures.
The couple hopes the fundraiser and the weekend sale will help them pay off their current debt so they “can start from scratch in a different path.”
With a passion for the kitchen, Cruz hopes to stay in the restaurant industry. Quiroz hopes to pivot to a new industry. As a handyman who renovated the restaurant several times over the years, he’s hoping to find a job in construction.
The couple said they are grateful for every customer who came in and supported the small restaurant over their seven years in business.
“Owning a restaurant was not easy, many years were worked without pay and working six days a week,” they said. “[But] all the sacrifices were worth it in seeing the joy of everyone that walked through our doors.”
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