Frequent customers of Elkin’s celebrated La Fuente Mexican Restaurant may have noticed the hand-painted horse artwork and framed photographs of horse jockies throughout the restaurant.
What many may not know is that those are reflections of manager Sabino Reyes’ own pre-restaurant life.
Born in Mexico, Reyes said his family often went without. At age 9, he began training horses to help contribute to his family’s income. “I started working with the horses to help my father. My father used to make only $30 a day, and it was hard for me to see him working every single day for that little, and sometimes we even had to go to school with no shoes. And that’s what made me start working my at age 9,” he said.
By the mere age of 11, Reyes began racing horses as a jockey in Mexico. “Then the same people I was racing for moved me to Texas to break in horses, and I started racing horses there,” he said.
By the time Reyes was 18, he put his racing career behind him and started working in the Mexican restaurant business, which brought him to North Carolina.
He said when he quit racing he began working at La Fuente in Lexington, N.C. After working his way up at that location, his boss wanted him to move to Elkin to start up Elkin’s La Fuente location.
“Even though my English wasn’t great at that time, he said ‘It doesn’t matter, I love how you get along with your customers and your workers, and I think you are ready to be a manager on your own,” he said.
Reyes moved to Elkin and opened La Fuente on North Bridge Street on Sept. 11, 2011.
He said his favorite part of the job is his team. Many of Reyes’ employers include family members. His sister Maria and his wife are his right-hand women.
“I enjoy who I work with a lot; they are my strength,” he said.
Reyes said having a good working relationship with his staff makes a good impression on customers and keeps them coming back.
“If you don’t have a good relationship with your staff, you won’t be a success. The customers like to see us having a good time, and it lets them have a good time. We make big noise with ourselves and with our customers and we enjoy doing it,” he said.
La Fuente is located at 1627 North Bridge St. in Elkin and is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
Name: Sabino Reyes
Employer: La Fuente
Favorite pastime: Painting and playing guitar and writing songs
Favorite food: Italian
Bornin : Mexico
Lives in: Elkin