The Romero family has always been entrepreneurs, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, Michelle Romero decided it was time to start something new.
She had been working on her nonprofit, Unfiltered, which provides shoes and other aid to foster children in Greene County when the idea came to raise funds for the nonprofit by selling homemade salsa. The family started selling it out of the trunk of a car in 2018.
“We were able to get an abundance of tomatoes, cases of jalapenos and cilantro, and we were canning salsa,” Michelle says. “There were pots all over our kitchen.”
She is of Italian descent, and her husband, Javier, is from Mexico, so authentic Mexican food has been a large part of their lives. The demand grew for the salsa and people started asking for them to sell tamales, a dish they’d always made around the holidays.
“It just created this frenzy, and we made a good chunk of money selling tamales and salsa,” Michelle says. “I told my husband, I need a location.”
Michelle says they raised $10,000 for shoes for foster children through Unfiltered. While selling authentic salsa, tamales and burritos was booming, so Michelle says she realized it could turn into a business of its own.
“We rolled out 500 breakfast burritos before we even opened our doors, for people to pick up in private orders,” she says.
A family venture
The family then opened PKD Venue Cafe & Catering, which they recently renamed Marigold Cafe Catering & Venue, as their business, and purchased a 1,500-square-foot building in Republic to serve as an event venue, kitchen for catering prep and a cafe.
Michelle declined to disclose the business’ annual revenue but as the cafe and catering has grown over the past three years, she says about 90% of customers return and about 35% of her customers that come in the door each day to the restaurant are new customers.
The whole family works in and out of the cafe as well as with employees that are considered family, Michelle says.
“We’re a very loud, boisterous family,” she says. “We just, we just love each other, loud. We get in trouble for laughing too much.”
The Romeros’ daughters, Josie, 13, and Jaylenn, 12, even help in the kitchen, in between doing their homeschool work at the tables in the cafe during the day. Josie says it’s overall been a great experience for her, although not always easy.
“We’re not learning what other kids are learning,” she says. “We’re learning business skills and everything about this. I’m a barista, and I work the register, and Jaylenn sometimes works the grill in the back.”
All day long, it’s just a family affair, Michelle says.
“My husband will be somewhere on the computer working with clients and real estate, and I’m in and out of the kitchen with my girls in the kitchen and we’re just all making it work,” she says.
Rebranding and growth
The family is always juggling working between their business ventures and the nonprofit, Romero says. Javier runs a construction company called Perfect Kitchen Design LLC, which is what inspired the name PKD for the catering cafe and venue, and he is also a real estate agent through Murney Associates, Realtors. They also own Marigold Farms LLC, a sheep farm in Republic. The farm was the inspiration for the recent business name change from PKD Venue Cafe & Catering to Marigold Cafe Catering & Venue LLC, which was established in September.
The rebranding is a process. Michelle says the sign on the door will read PKD through 2025, but changing the signage on their catering van is underway and other rebranding is ongoing immediately. But it takes time as they grow with profits and aim to stay debt free, she says.
Michelle is also now 51% owner, Javier 39% and their 20-year-old son, Juan, 10%. Michelle says becoming a majority woman-owned business was another big part of the rebranding.
“Being a woman in business has its benefits,” she says. “I also want to be able to teach my daughters about being a woman in business.”
The Romeros are expanding their venue space, as they purchased a building next door, an additional 3,000 square feet. In their current space, they can serve up to 40, and now they can serve nearly 100.
Bringing culture to the community
The Romeros also offer cooking classes, teaching attendees to make authentic foods like tamales and homemade flour tortillas. Michelle says classes typically sell out quickly, and they help bring Hispanic culture to the Ozarks.
“We want our children to be with culture,” she says. “We want them to be with their heritage and their Latino community, and their Italian background.”
This year, the catering company participated in a Hispanic Carnival in September, put on by the Hispanic Networking Group in the Ozarks, a networking group established in May.
Rafael Vite, vice president of the networking group, says it was established to bring together Hispanic owned as well as other businesses that support the growth of the Latino community, while bringing awareness of the culture to the Ozarks.
“We’re a resource for a bunch of Latino businesses in the area. We’re hard-working people, and we’re trying to make an impact,” he says of the group and the Latino community. “It’s also about sharing different things with the community. It serves as inspiration for other businesses to also come up with other ideas out of the box to help them grow.”
The cafe and catering venue served free tacos at the carnival, which Michelle says was an honor to be a part of.
“The culture is not something people in the area are used to, but it’s good for our kids,” she says. “It’s good for people who’ve lived in the area their whole life; it’s good for all of us.”
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