EL MONTE, Calif. – It may not make sense to clean menus when you have don’t have any customers in the restaurant. But despite losing 90 percent of their business due to stay-at-home orders, Melody Hadjis and her twin sister, Erica, are determined to find a way to keep the El Sombrero restaurant that their grandmother and mother started in 1966 up and running.
“We're going to make this work. We're going to make this business successful. There's no way we're going to let it fail. It's been in my family for 54 years. And I'm not going to be the generation to say we couldn't do it,” says Melody.
They had to lay-off 17 workers, and now it's just the sisters, Melody’s husband, Erica’s son, and two chefs who are working there. Longtime loyal customers are still ordering deliveries and coming for curbside takeout. But those orders aren't enough to keep the lights on.
“We're struggling. It's the first time ever that we've had asked for help or we've had a call all of our utility companies and ask them to put us on a payment plan until we can get them paid off.”
The family applied for the new El Monte Employer Assistance Grant, which is providing one-time $10,000 grants to eligible businesses to help them create jobs, retain jobs, and offer services to the residents of El Monte. The sisters sent in their application within five minutes of the first-come-first-serve process on April 27.
But the city has received over 750 applications for only 55 grants. Mayor Andre Quintero says a committee is reviewing the applications, and this is just the beginning of what the city will need to do to help their business owners and residents get through the ramification of the pandemic.
“Despite the difficulties and challenges that we're facing, we have hope. As we develop our post COVID recovery program we understand that it's going to be a long term slog and a five to 10 year program.”
The sisters are determined to push through these hard times.
“For me there's no room for failure. You just think of the positive and you think you're going to do it. You're going to get through this with everybody and all the support and you're going to make this happen. This is there's no other alternative.”
In honor of the two women who founded this restaurant, these two women are putting their faith in their hometown to keep their family’s legacy alive.