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Contreras earns his ‘Mr. Taco’ title

BY ROGER LI

Intern

Alfredo Contreras, owner of local Mexican restaurant Mr. Taco, has a lot to say about how he eventually came to be a burgeoning entrepreneur.

He believes that his success has only come through “working very hard, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. for a year, trying to learn everything about the restaurant (business).”

He jokingly adds that this hard work was mainly as a result of his unpreparedness. But in reality, his efforts were preceded only by a positive attitude that Contreras feels has brought him to where he is. “If there is something that I feel really proud of, it’s my attitude with the people,” he said.

After emigrating from Guatemala in 1988, Contreras worked as a dishwasher and busboy for several years before being offered a wait staffing position at the Catamaran Restaurant. Debilitating injuries and the physical rehabilitation that followed diverted him to a job as a parking attendant for 16 years. There, he firmly established himself as a jack-of-all-trades, fixing plumbing problems and taking on janitorial duties in addition to regulating parking.

Later, he became friends with the now ex-owner of Mr. Taco and realized that he could buy the restaurant with some saved funds and the help of a partner. Just recently, Contreras celebrated his one-year anniversary as a successful La Jolla business owner.

“Making it,” however, has not come without some dynamic thinking. Mr. Taco came into the hands of Contreras as it was struggling from lackluster profits and diminishing customers. In the year since he took over, Contreras says that he has made a concerted effort to “organize (his) employees to serve orders within 15 to 20 minutes” and make sure that “not just the food is good, but the service, too.”

With local restaurants being hit hard by the tough economy, Contreras urges La Jollans to help them stay afloat. “That way, we can keep all these restaurants as a part of our community.”

When asked what advice he could give to aspiring La Jolla business owners, Contreras said that he abided by three simple maxims: believe whatever you want to achieve is going to come true; work hard for whatever success you’re expecting; trust in the fact that the good energy you get from whatever you do right in life is going to support you to reach absolutely anything.