Today we’d like to introduce you to Frances D’Quebec.
Hi Frances, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My name is Frances or as my family often calls me “Pancha” which I’ve grown to accept.
I was born & raised in Los Angeles, California. I am an anchor baby born in the 70’s. I am extremely proud of my parents who migrated to this country to seek the American dream. I’m the only girl in a family of all boys.
Growing up, my parents owned several businesses, ranging from factories to clothing stores. My brothers and I didn’t have much of a choice as my parents made us work day and night in the family business. We worked like horses. We did manual labor & administrative work from 6am to 10pm, weekends too. We secretly hated them for it since it left us with little time to hang out with friends and get into trouble.
Working as a family gave us a chance to be close to each other. My parents were workaholics & the only time they spent with us was when at work. And forasmuch as we thought we hated working together, we continued to work with them as adults. My parents instilled in us work ethic, honesty & integrity.
In 1998, my brothers and I grew tired of each other. We’d work together all of our lives. And though we all lived apart, the infighting at work became too much for my parents to withstand. We all wanted to quit but knew we all played integral roles. Without us, my parents would’ve had a hard time managing it all by themselves. They sold their businesses and retired. My brothers and I got jobs and grew apart.
After two years, my father bought a small restaurant in downtown Los Angeles for my mother so she wouldn’t get bored at home. My brothers & I quit our jobs and went to work at the restaurant. And just like that- we were back together again.
I was in my mid 20’s and was working with my family again. It was great the first year back but then we began fighting for control. My father, always the business-minded person, saw an opportunity to come out of retirement. He decided he would buy each of us our own restaurants. He just opened up the newspaper, went to the classifieds & circled several adds. We didn’t have much of a choice. I got the most challenging one and felt my brothers got better opportunities.
In 2002, my father bought La Fonda Of Inglewood for me. It was a small and ugly place with no established clientele. But it was my time, I’d either sink or swim. I was 28 years old. I was wife, a mother of two boys and now a restaurant owner.
It was up to me to make it work. And that is when all those tough years working in the family business, all those life lessons, paid off. I did a quick make-over. I redesigned the menu. Experimented with Mexican flavors. And tried to be as simple as possible in food presentation. I didn’t see the need to present Mexican food with a twist. Once my menu was perfected, I targeted and sought to built a local customer base. I was close to LAX and many offices. I came up with the idea to make deliveries. No one was delivering Mexican food.
I couldn’t afford fliers or anyone to distribute them. So I made copies of my menu in my personal printer; that thing got so hot it never printed again. I had 400 copies and a broken printer. That was it.
I took my ten years old son, Andrew and dropped him off at LAX departures. I instructed him to go to each ticket agent, starting from terminal 1 to terminal 6 and hand out menus; then to make his way down to arrivals. I picked him up 2 hours later. That kid circled his way through that airport like our livelihood depended on it. And it did. He passed out 100 fliers. When I picked him up, he looked tired and was hungry. And in that moment, I became the version of my parents I swore I’d never be.
The next day, I took Andrew to all the office buildings around lunchtime and told him to hand out fliers to the employees walking out to lunch. He returned to La Fonda a hot sweaty mess but he had handed out 50 flyers. Next, we went to the warehouses in the area. Andrew placed another 50 copies of the menus on windshields.
The following days was up to me. I laminated 50 menus and visited all the small motels in the area. We targeted home depot and all the big chains store.
Within a week, our business was booming. That’s my start.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It’s been a road both smooth and bumpy, but I’ve enjoyed each moment. I didn’t know if I would fail but I gave it my all.
We’ve been impressed with La Fonda Of Inglewood Restaurant and Cafe, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I make simple Mexican food. Traditional dishes. Nothing fancy but full of flavor. I offer a kid’s menu and a complete vegetarian menu. I grew up vegetarian and understand that market quite well.
We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
Yes, save for a rainy day. I took no government help.
- Website: lafondamexicanfood.com
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/la-fonda-of-inglewood-restaurant-and-cafe-inglewood-2?uid=PHJpAJUUzNOpKgsJgjzuww&utm_source=ishare