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Humble beginnings 


Steel, N. and Larsen, K., 2006. Long Road To "Las Americas." Times Record Todays woman, p.14.

For the effervescent Mercedes, the road to success was long, difficult, and beset with Obstacles.  Mercedes paid her way with had work and doing without.  The encouragement of her husband {Domingo} and her own overwhelming love for their two children kept her focused.  Mercedes, Domingo, and her children moved to Arkansas in 1998 with nothing to their name.  Fortunately, Mercedes’ sister provided them with a place to stay while they looked for a place.  Domingo was working the day shift in a chicken processing plant in Van Buren and Mercedes applied there as well.  At home by day, she slept on the bare floor then spent what time she could with the kids before she had to return to work.  Mercedes recalls “My husband told me to be patient, to believe in God”.  Slowly things began to change.  Mercedes moved to the day shift, their landlady found them furniture, the children did well in school.  The Lopez family settled into a comfortable routine of school, work, and church. 


In 2000, they learned that the owner of a restaurant on Midland Boulevard was willing to sell.  “My husband said, Let’s try it. You’ll be OK, you’ll be out of the chicken plant and you’ll have a seat beside the cash register.”  They signed the papers and began cleaning and painting the restaurant, developed a menu, and prepared for customers.  “we were so excited when it opened,” she said.  That initial excitement soon evaporated.  The refrigeration failed the first week. Their savings had been spent on start-up. Unable to advertise, customers were slow to appear.  Mercedes was devastated.  Somehow, they got the necessary repairs done.  Mercedes’ brother and sister-in-law volunteered to help on weekends without pay and Domingo continued to encourage his wife to have patience and rely on God.  One day Chuck Raney and Peggy Weidman ate at their restaurant who loved the food and next time they brought friends, who also liked the food, and they brought their friends.”  With this, word of mouth spread to other citizens of Fort Smith and Van Buren which gave Mercedes and Domingo a much needed boost in sales.   


With continued success the couple opened a second location on the south side of town, eventually closing the original.  Mercedes had learned to cook from her husband and how shares kitchen duty as her duties as hostess/wait staff allow.  She works had but it is for a purpose.  “I Expect my children to graduate from college and have a good job, and not have to work so had as their father and I have”.  For Mercedes, the American dream has become a reality.  “When I was a little girl sometimes when I went to bed it was with only one meal in my stomach.  I thank the Lord every day.  To have a restaurant for me is a beautiful dream.”  An impish smile creeps across her face.  “I’m still waiting for that chair by the cash register.” 


Now Mercedes and Domingo are opening a new location in Barling, Arkansas and hope to deliver the same quality food, love, and attention to their customers that they are known for. 

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