Latinx Flint NEWS
Meet Gregorio Leon: Somos Latinx
By Alondra Rosas Ornelas | Latinx Flint Media
“Well look, opening a business is easy. The most difficult part is being able to keep it open. That is the most difficult obstacle an entrepreneur has.” – Gregorio Leon
Where are you from?
San José de la Paz, Jalisco, Mexico.
When did you come to the United States?
My dad brought us when I was eleven years old. We came to Savannah, Georgia. After one year, we went to Nashville,Tennessee, to work with my uncles.
How did you get involved in the restaurant business?
We have always worked in the restaurants. My family has restaurants in almost every state. Ever since I was a little kid in Georgia, I was helping my uncles and that’s how I got involved in the business. I learned more when we moved to Tennessee and I started seating people when I was thirteen years old.
Did you know you wanted to work in business in the future as a kid?
Well, when I was younger I liked to work because I got paid, but I think around the age of seventeen I started to see a future in opening my own restaurant. At seventeen, I was covering for managers that left for vacations or would do whatever they needed me to do.
Where was your first business located?
We started near Dort Highway in Atherton. That was the first Mexican restaurant that we opened.
Which businesses do you currently own?
I own the restaurants El Potrero in Fenton Hill Road, Grand Blanc, Mount Morris, Swartz Creek, and Owasso.
What inspires you to continue in business?
My family. Also, I basically grew up in the restaurants, so I have always been involved. I like to serve people. It can get stressful, but I enjoy it. In fact, my favorite part is to be outside with the customers. I enjoy socializing with the customers.
Have you been treated differently as a Latino in the restaurant business?
What I have noticed is that when I was working at the Dort Highway location, it was only Mexicans working. I feel like when Americans are working with you, the people hold back with complaints and are less bothersome. When it is only Mexicans working, they seem to take advantage.
Bridging language & cultural barriers para una comunidad saludable!
Did you feel out of place when you first immigrated to the United States?
When I first arrived, yes. You know, one arrives different from Mexico and more timid. Once you start to get more familiar, things change.
What has been an obstacle you went through and overcame?
Well look, opening a business is easy. The most difficult part is being able to keep it open. That is the most difficult obstacle an entrepreneur has. If you have the funds, then you can open it, but it is more difficult to keep it open.
What has been the happiest day of your life?
The birth of my son. My wife and I lost two babies prior and when my son was born I had tears in my eyes.
How have you adjusted your business operations due to COVID-19?
We have had to change sanitary regulations. We have to take many precautions and change the way we work. It is difficult to work in a kitchen with a mask on. All the employees have to have masks on and we are at 50% capacity. We also opened the service for carry-out and have hand sanitizers available for employees and customers.
Did you attend college?
I studied up until high school. They gave me a full scholarship in a university in Tennessee, but I flew to Mexico and I did not come back in time to sign the papers. In the end, I just focused on working. I still sometimes wish I could have studied and played soccer in university.
How long have you played soccer?
I have played soccer since I was a little boy. In Mexico, you would go to school, come home to leave your bookbag, go play soccer, do your homework, and then repeat.
What do you miss most about Mexico?
The freedom. They say this country is free, but it isn’t. It is like a cage made of gold. There are rules, but they aren’t as strict compared to here. And well, in Mexico, you are more free going up and down the countryside.
What was the hardest part about moving?
The cultural change. The first month I cried a lot and wanted to go back to México. I did not like the United States, but later I got used to it.
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