Entrepreneur makes restaurant dreams a reality in Grand Island

Small Business

Nancy Flock contributed to this blog.

There are few people in this world with the drive and energy to work full-time while also building their dream business from the ground up.

Maria Sanchez is one of those tough and tenacious few.

She has been preparing and selling food for 30 years. For most of that time, she was also working at a plant job, where she sold homemade goods to her co-workers.

Eventually, Maria quit that job and moved to Grand Island, Nebraska, with hopes of opening her own restaurant.

“I found out a location was up for rent, so I went ahead and rented it so I could get started on my dream,” said Maria. “The people I had been delivering my food to at the plant remembered me and kept supporting me at my new business site.”

For three years, Maria’s business, El Camarón Loco, has been running successfully, and gets better by the day, she says.

“Right now, many people are coming in, and I have outgrown the space,” she said. “So, it’s very popular.”

Maria credits some of her success to the valuable business knowledge she acquired from the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) training sessions she’s attended.

“I have learned a lot from attending the different trainings—they have been incredibly beneficial,” she said. “The people at the Center have showed me how to grow my business, and not be stagnant.”

Griselda Rendon, Latino loan specialist with the Center, has become acquainted with Maria over the years through the REAP trainings, and has seen her commitment as a business owner become stronger during that time.

“Maria has attended multiple trainings and has participated in one of our Latino Business Walking Tours,” said Griselda. “She has passion for what she does and is very optimistic in growing her business with the help of her son and his family.”

The business owner has attended trainings covering information on taxes, how to promote a business on Facebook, hiring employees, kitchen/restaurant training, and customer service, among many others.

“I recommend the REAP trainings and share them with anyone I know who is a business owner,” said Maria. “I let them know it is worth their time to learn things that will help them and their business.”

The entrepreneur is exploring loan options, and she has made some upgrades to her business, including remodeling a larger space that was more appropriate for her work in the food business, and getting a larger stove.

Maria now has more room, she keeps a small, simple menu at El Camarón Loco, which has been satisfying her customers since day one. Her signature, homemade dishes include caldo de res o pollo (beef or chicken stew), tortas de camarón o pollo (Mexican sandwiches, shrimp or chicken), and tostadas (shrimp and chicken).

At a Glance

El Camarón Loco (inside Supreme Laundry)
380 4th Street, Grand Island, Neb.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday

Feature photo: Gloria Rojas de Salas, Maria Sanchez's daughter-in-law, is a familiar face at El Camarón Loco and Supreme Laundry. | Photo by Rhea Landholm