Back in February, most of us heard of the “Corona” virus, but didn’t for a second feel that we’d end up here. If you did, well, we’d like to befriend you, because if your foresight works that well, it can certainly be put to good use. Vanessa Zubia-Meza, owner of El Paseo Cafe in Downtown El Paso, certainly didn’t see this coming. Had she, perhaps she and many others would have made different choices. And yet, times like this bring out the best in a lot of us.
Vanessa and her Mother, Margarita have adapted their business model, modified their menu and still greet their customers with as wide a smile as it can get, despite being covered with a mask. We spoke with Vanessa this week to find out what its like to open their doors, only to close them not long after, and re-open again in a different world with the same unwavering dreams as before.
Q. As the owner, please tell us how the journey to open your own café got started and why you wanted to open one?
A. Having grown up in a family of entrepreneurs, it was always a plan to become a business owner. That plan eventually became a stronger desire as I grew older. First, as we became parents about 12 years ago, so we saw the need for healthier, affordable, fast AND convenient tasty food in El Paso. After having studied and traveled abroad and in different parts of the U.S.A and Mexico, I learned to appreciate diverse and culturally enriching foods. So, my desire to share such delicacies with our community only grew stronger. In addition, I wanted my mother to stay busy and keep utilizing her amazing cooking skills and beautiful personality. I also enjoy cooking and baking when I’m not working in the classroom as a French and Spanish teacher. My family and I strongly believe food and mealtime go hand in hand with quality family time. We’d like to offer such an experience here at El Paseo!
Q. Why choose Downtown as a location?
A. Downtown was not our original location we were looking into, but it has always been a great option for several reasons. First, it feels like home since our grandparents had their own businesses in Downtown El Paso, and we grew up running errands for them. Second, as El Paso has seen much growth in the downtown area, it just seems like an exciting option to be a part of its growth. We took advantage of the opportunity that became available to open our café in a historic building and great location, so we didn’t think twice. And finally, having studied in Lyon, France and Florence, Italy, the downtown feel with its history, shops and apartments gives me a strong sense of nostalgia from European life.
Q. Please tell us what went through your head, and how you adapted to the global circumstance we find ourselves in?
A. The first thing that went through our heads of course, was everyone’s safety so we didn’t think twice about closing the dining area and transitioning to only pick-up orders via our pick-up window. The health and safety of all parties involved was and remains the number one priority for us. We will continue to assess the situation on a day to day basis. Naturally, because the health and safety of everyone is our priority, we invested in the proper supplies needed to help create a sanitary and less stressed environment for our employees and customers alike. We also adjusted our menu for now until we get a better feeling of what our customer base will be and how much traffic we will have throughout the restrictions still in place. Obviously, there is a significant decrease in foot traffic as the border remains closed to our Mexican consumers. Therefore, we have less inventory in house and a smaller menu than originally planned for our café.
Q. If and when everything goes back to what we felt was normal, what would you like to do differently at your café?
A. We had just opened our doors “softly” to the public prior to the quarantine. We had just started gaining momentum when we had to close our doors. So, if anything, we would celebrate our opening from day one. In addition, I wish I would’ve known an exact time frame to go by for our employees because unfortunately, we did lose some employees as they sought for work wherever they could.
Q. Lastly, what promotions do you currently have, or what do you recommend customers order?
A. We recommend that customers order one of “Momma’s” Guisados, Caldo de Res or for a different cultural taste, we recommend indulging in our homemade Quiche of the day or Panini. One can never go wrong with a made-to-order decadent crêpe filled with Nutella, pecans and strawberries! Whatever one chooses for the palate will be sure to be a delectable ride. “Disfruta del Paseo”
You can find El Paseo Cafe on INSTAGRAM
As a French teacher was interviewed in French! If you speak the language of love, check out the article HERE!
El Paseo Cafe (301 S. El Paso St.)-To ORDER pick-up or delivery, or catering call (915) 219-9064
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