Sharing Stories, Finding Inspiration #314together

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many small business owners have had to make tough decisions about how to operate amid the chaos. But despite all the challenges, local business owners are still forging ahead and finding inspiration in the fact that we’re all in this together.

We recently caught up with Maritza Rios, owner of Cocina Latina, to learn how she’s adapting to the “new normal.”

What do you love most about your business? 

Maritza Rios: I think what I love most about my business is that it is built on family — from the food we create, to the staff — and that’s what makes this business so special to me and my family. The food we cook is actually food I grew up eating, as well as my children. It’s been amazing to be able to incorporate that and see that people are responding so positively to the food, because it has been a passion of mine to bring these foods to people for a long time and I’m extremely thankful I get the opportunity to do that. 

How has your business been impacted by COVID-19? 

Maritza Rios: COVID-19 has been tough, this pandemic definitely has brought on challenges in many different ways for us. We have had to adjust to this new norm and to say that it hasn’t been hard, would be a lie. We’ve seen a decrease in sales and we’ve been trying to make up for it by offering carryout orders, but it isn’t the same unfortunately. My staff and I are also having to make sure that we’re following CDC policies so that we are staying up to code with everything, in order to ensure we keep everyone as safe as possible while trying to stay afloat during this time. 

How are you pivoting your business model to accommodate employees, customers, and vendors during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Maritza Rios: In order to pivot our business model to accommodate employees, vendors, and customers we’ve been following closely with the CDC guidelines to ensure everyone is as safe as we can be during this time. We’ve had to reset our norm and it’s been tough, but we have had to make sure we are keeping each other positive throughout this time. We have made it a priority to keep everyone safe and in doing that, we’ve made sure that carryout orders are handled always with gloves and masks at all times. This has helped our employees and myself to feel protected during this time, we just want to continue to serve our customers as safely as we can. We are not letting anyone who isn’t an employee in the building, as to make sure we are minimizing contact as much as we can. The customers come to the door and call or knock, and I personally hand the food off. During our catering, the policy is the same… we always keep masks and gloves on to ensure no extra contact is taking place. 

How can community members continue to support your business during this challenging time?

Maritza Rios: During this time, the support of our community means the world to us. We are a family-owned business, so everything and anything helps. A big way people in the community can help is by ordering from us or even spreading the word about us. Another alternative is buying gift cards to use at a future time because we are aware this is a scary time in the world. I know during this time everything seems uncertain, especially for small business owners and even the community as a whole… but we will get through this, we just have to support each other. I’m so thankful that during this time we’ve had so much support from our community and it means everything to us. 

What are you doing to think proactively about your business when the economy is reopened?

Maritza Rios: I think a big thing I’ve been doing to think proactively about my business is to do just that, know that this is temporary and that hopefully soon we will be able to reopen normally once this is all over. It has been hard at times to stay positive during this time, because there has been so much loss but I have faith in my employees and our community that we will come out of this stronger. I’m thankful for my employees who keep me positive and keep me looking towards the future of reopening and bring so much more gratitude into the things, in the past as a business, we would’ve over looked. 

*If* you have any free time, what are you reading, listening to, creating, watching, cooking, baking, or doing to pass the time indoors? What are you doing for health and wellness?

Maritza Rios: There’s never really a whole lot of free time going on, but when I do have free time I spend it with my family, my favorite thing to do is cook and bake so I spend my time doing that for my family. I think the quality time I get to share with them keeps me positive during this uncertain time. I have four children, three of those children are grown but my youngest is a toddler who keeps me running around. Aside from that, for my health physically and emotionally, I love to do yoga. It is something aside from baking that keeps me calm and ready to tackle the week.  Another thing I’m passionate about doing in my free time is gardening. It’s a relaxing activity that gets me outside and it’s fun to garden different things. I mainly garden flowers, but I’m also gardening peppers.

Lastly, most people don’t know that my all time favorite things to make during my free time are Italian cookies. I actually got my inspiration from a bakery in New York that closed down, but my children and husband love those cookies. They are not the easiest to make, but I love to try to recreate them and not to toot my own horn, but I’ve gotten pretty close! The other thing I love to make is picarones dough, which is the dough for a Peruvian donut. It brings me back to simpler times. When I was a young girl, I would watch my grandma make the dough and the way that she did it so effortless, was always so inspiring to me. She taught me so much and I’d say she definitely instilled the passion for cooking in me.

Free time is something that I use to pour into myself and my children, because sometimes it can get way too easy to get caught up in everyday life… so it’s good to take a step back sometimes and it makes it easy when the job you have allows you to do what you love. I love that I get to share my business with the best community there is, thank you for the support always. 

To learn more about Cocina Latina, click here!

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