SBDC Recognizes Espanola’s La Cocina Restaurant As STAR Business Of the Year


Sen. Leo Jaramillo, Julianna Barbee, Small Business Development Center Director at Northern New Mexico College and NNMC College President Rick Bailey recently recognized and announced Espanola’s SBDC Outstanding STAR Business, La Cocina Restaurant. Javier Sanchez and Phil Maestas were honored and recognized on the virtual Roundhouse New Mexico event.

Who thought a restaurant could expand during this economic crisis? But La Cocina did! The outbreak of Covid-19 has impacted our food industry but this restaurant made the choice to adapt to the COVID Change and move forward.  La Cocina Restaurant has added a larger outdoor patio; they have also added heaters to make winter dining comfortable and a great experience! The expansion has increased its safe seating capacity to 250 people.  They offer dine in, curbside and delivery! They currently have 35 employees.

La Cocina Restaurant was founded 50 years ago by Grandma Jessie.  She knew that good family cooking used fresh ingredients, hot food, and real chile.  But what made her great was her commitment to high standards—whether it was in the quality of the food or the great service.  Her legacy of attention to detail is one Phil Maestas, her grandson, continues to meet.  Grandma Jessie and the Emily Maestas family continue to pass on the La Cocina tradition.

Celebrating 50 years of serving the City of Espanola and plans for a big party had to be put on hold.  Instead, a nationwide shut down forced La Cocina and every business to rethink not only their celebration, but also how they do business.  

La Cocina had tough choices to make.  Javier was in contact with Julianna Barbee Director of the SBDC to help guide him through the sea of change and find new opportunities and move quickly. Javier utilized the SBDC and SBA services and applied for grants and loans. 

“The most important thing the SBDC has done for me is it has provided a single source for information,” said Sanchez.   “While trying to keep track of a changing business, I didn’t have time to keep track of all of the information coming in.  The SBDC had all of the information in one place.  But more importantly, it also had the deadlines for me to follow so I wouldn’t miss anything.”   

The options were to wait for the storm to pass or to make the changes essential to strengthen their business and provide a stronger opportunity for their employees and their customers. So they chose to expand!

What gives hope to La Cocina is the recognition that when you think about the happiest moments in your life, they always include family and friends.  And invariably, they surround food. The human spirit may bend, but it will not break.   Javier sees that resilience in the great people they serve.  Fighting to survive and thrive becomes second nature when doing it for a worthy community.  

Javier says to recognize that you are not alone!

“Reach out to the SBDC”, Sanchez said. “Reach out to other business owners and bankers. They are there to help and they have the answers.  But most importantly, call Julianna or someone like her because she won’t let you quit and the SBDC has all the information and resources you need in one place. She will give you the strength to reimagine the fears you currently have into a business you can create for the next generation. “