Owners of El Mariachi share journey to West Virginia in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

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BEAVER, WV (WVNS) — Jose Rizo welcomes customers into El Mariachi each day with a big smile on his face. He and his family have been serving authentic Mexican cuisine to people in southern West Virginia and Virginia for decades, but that was not their original plan when moving to the United States from Mexico.

“I was born in Mexico, and we moved to the Los Angeles Area in 1986,” Rizo recalled. “My parents worked in the strawberry fields, they did construction work, factory work, but some of our friends started moving towards the east coast to work in restaurants in, probably the mid to late 80s, and eventually started opening up their own.”

That is when the Rizos decided to come to Beckley. They saw a need for not only Mexican food, but family-style restaurants in the area during the 90s.

“I think most immigrants are very entrepreneurial, so if you see a void you’re naturally going to fill it,” Rizo added.

More than 20 years, two establishments, and nearly 500 orders a day later, Rizo said operation at El Mariachi is still very much a family affair.

“My dad actually worked in the kitchen for about 25 years, my mom still works, she buses tables and brings out chips and makes tamales,” Rizo said. “My little brother Richard runs the kitchen and does a lot of the day-to-day management stuff as well, and my other brother runs our Tazewell location.”

Rizo said their menu has also grown with the taste buds of their customers.

“When we first started in the early 90s the menu was pretty simple; it was just tacos and burritos,” Rizo said. “As people started to travel to bigger cities and Mexico, they asked for certain dishes.”

While Rizo said adjusting to a place like West Virginia was not always easy, he and his family are proud to call the mountain state, and Raleigh County home.

“I was never granted the opportunities that I have now in California or Mexico,” Rizo explained. “They’ve accepted us here. We are part of this community, they support us, we have a very close bond in our area and we’re very proud to be here.”

The Rizo family credits a lot of their initial success to the Rio Grande restaurant chain in West Virginia. They were part owners the chain before branching off to start their own restaurants.

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