CILANTRO’S

Public News (Houston) - - FRONT PAGE - by Matt Vernon

Some of us learn to dream later in life.

Clau­dia Castillo was born in war torn El Sal­vador. As a kid, it is hard to have big dreams when your coun­try is in tur­moil and is un­safe to live. Clau­dia did re­ceive an As­so­ciates in jour­nal­ism and worked for her lo­cal ra­dio sta­tion be­fore chas­ing the Amer­i­can dream. She said there was no fu­ture there for her or for so many oth­ers. She tells me she loves writ­ing sto­ries about peo­ple, the chal­lenges they face and the ob­sta­cles they can over­come. What a coincidence! Hers is that kind of story!

Clau­dia moved to Texas in 1993 and went to the univer­sity to learn to speak English. In 1994 she started work­ing as a bus girl in a French restau­rant and be­gan prac­tic­ing her English there. In 1995 she got a job at Marco’s on 1960. It was her sec­ond job in The States and at the same lo­ca­tion she would wind up tak­ing over as an owner 9 short years later.

She told me her in­cred­i­ble story of re­silience and pas­sion. She moved here with­out know­ing the lan­guage and as she be­came fa­mil­iar with it she loved talk­ing to oth­ers. She loved en­gag­ing her cus­tomers and loved build­ing re­la­tion­ships. She started at Marco’s Mex­i­can restau­rant as a host­ess, writ­ing the daily script on her hand of what to say to guests that en­tered the restau­rant. As she be­came more con­fi­dent, they moved her to bar­tender and then cashier. It was that po­si­tion that she learned she was great at sales. As her con­fi­dence grew so did her ti­tle. She was pro­moted to as­sis­tant man­ager, then gen­eral man­ager. In 2000, she was pro­moted to mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor for the en­tire com­pany.

In 2003, The com­pany she ded­i­cated al­most a decade of her life with filed for Chap­ter 11 bank­ruptcy and closed all their lo­ca­tions.

That’s when Clau­dia and her hus­band started dream­ing big! They rented the lo­ca­tion and spent sev­eral months chang­ing the name and work­ing on new recipes. They maxed their credit cards do­ing a com­plete re­model and ren­o­va­tion and brought on a new staff. Clau­dia fi­nally opened her own restau­rant with her own brand. She takes care of ev­ery guest and treats them like fam­ily. She has a com­mit­ment to qual­ity and to­tal guest sat­is­fac­tion.

Her restau­rant name be­came pop­u­lar and a few years later, her hus­band and some part­ners took on the name and spread the brand. The food is top notch and the ser­vice is su­perb. How­ever, Clau­dia’s store, the orig­i­nal, re­mains fam­ily run and is filed as a dif­fer­ent cor­po­ra­tion than the oth­ers. I have en­joyed sup­port­ing Clau­dia and her won­der­ful restau­rant for many years now. I have also en­joyed her de­li­cious mar­gar­i­tas and home-made Mex­i­can food. I know when I sup­port a small fam­ily busi­ness I am sup­port­ing some­one’s dream and that makes me just as happy as the strong drinks!

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