Tribune Tribute: Tirzo Ortiz

Anthony Gonzalez Staff Reporter

August 31, 2013

A Hispanic “tienda” (grocery store) at 1019 N. Bridge St. in Elkin is taking aggressive steps to expand into a Mexican restaurant.

The owner of ‘El Ahorro’ expects the restaurant to be fully operational in November.

Proprietor Tirzo Ortiz invited The Tribune for a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to install a restaurant and shared his story on how it all developed.

“The most expensive part of this vision I have is the hood and all the kitchen equipment. Of course it’s expensive, but we’re working hard. We’re putting a lot of sweat equity in this. In the end, I’ll be able to serve up dishes that are authentic and with fresh ingredients,” said Ortiz.

Ortiz stated that he has applied for a small business loan with the government, but he has not received any assistance, a barrier common for start-up small businesses.

“It’s harder to get things situated without immediate revenue. In the end, it’s better to do it yourself with hard earned money and without loans,” said Ortiz. “The economy can move faster if banks can shift and embrace business.”

Married to Reyna Ortiz, who is also a familiar face for customers on the convenience store side of the “tienda,” the couple made a decision that serving items such as groceries, fresh vegetables, meats and dairy products was the way to start.

“I worked for a company for 24 years in Santa Ana, Calif. The company made office furniture. The company relocated to Salisbury, N.C. So I took the opportunity and made the move,” said Ortiz. “Then they moved again to Iowa. I wasn’t going to do that. I hate moving.”

Ortiz took a year to figure things out and process what he needed to do. Ortiz said he would never go to work for someone else again.

“We stepped into the convenience store market by purchasing another Mexican store across the street on Bridge Street. We moved to this location because its a better fit,” he said.

Cooking is a passion for Ortiz. He revealed that consumers need to eat fresh ingredients when they go out and eat at Mexican restaurants. He’s promising to deliver a “fresh taste.”

“Nothing is going to come from a can,” he said. “Those days are over in culinary.”

Running a business isn’t the only thing Ortiz is proud of.

“Years ago I became a citizen of this country. I love the United States. Don’t get me wrong. I love Mexico too, but I love this country and have never felt less than welcomed here,” said Ortiz.

Ortiz said that he believes the next wave of people who originated from Mexico (first generation, or second generation) are becoming the fabric of America. According to Ortiz, Mexican-Americans are investing in the local economy and becoming strong movers and shakers.

Ortiz said that in his future restaurant you will not find any images that portray a Mexican leaning on a cactus wearing a sombrero along with a bottle of tequila.

“I hate to see such negative portrayals. I have people who ask me if I am going to get drunk on Cinco de Mayo. I am not going to get drunk at all. I’d rather have math questions and educational items in my restaurant for kids.

“Changing the stigma that about Mexicans requires more responsibilities from Mexicans too,” said Ortiz.

“So you’ll find many different approaches and strategies in this restaurant. We can’t wait to open,” he said.

Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or email at agonzalez@civitasmedia.com.