Mexican food from scratch: Taqueria Max embraced by community

In May 2003, Norma Avalos and her family established Taqueria Max, an authentic, premium Mexican restaurant located in Lexington, Nebraska. They offer homemade quesadillas, gorditas, sopes, and more.

Starting a business in the U.S.

The Avalos family had been in the restaurant business for more than a decade in Mexico, so they were familiar with entrepreneurship and delicious cooking from scratch.

However, there were challenges in getting into the restaurant industry in a new country. They had to obtain permits and inspections, as well as begin developing a new customer base.

Fortunately, Lexington's diverse population included people who crave fresh, authentic Mexican cuisine, which was just what they needed to start building a loyal customer following.

Becoming a carryout destination

The restaurant's first location was a small space located in downtown Lexington, which only had a seating capacity of four full-sized tables. The community quickly embraced this as a popular carryout destination.

While there are many Mexican food destinations in Lexington, Taqueria Max remains a favorite because everything is made from scratch, and people notice the difference.

The Avalos family offers a variety of menu options to keep things exciting and keep customers coming through their doors. Some items are available on a "secret" menu, which works by asking what else is available, and, they often offer items not placed on the board menu, such as chiles rellenos, mole, carnitas, and bistek a la Mexicana.

Obtaining small business help

Like many entrepreneurs, the Avalos family didn't think about the entire process or have a business plan in the beginning; they just knew they wanted to own their own business and strived to have the work ethic to make it successful. The obstacle of having a small space to work with led them to create a simple menu.

Norma and her husband, Humberto, Avalos have attended various trainings offered in Spanish through the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) Latino Business Center and Women’s Business Center. Some of the topics included business planning, computers, and bookkeeping. REAP Loan Specialist Nancy Flock has provided technical assistance and financing, when it was needed.

Norma is very pleased with the assistance REAP has offered. Our staff has been available to help, whether she had a business question, concern, or a financial need.

All of Norma’s hard work and efforts were recognized in 2011 as she was named Women's Business Center Entrepreneur of the Year.

Expanding Taqueria Max

One challenge this business has had since the beginning was the lack of seating space in their restaurant. Unfortunately, working around zoning challenges in their first location was next to impossible, so they continued serving delicious meals, and eventually an opportunity presented itself.

In 2017, expansion became a reality. Norma and Humberto were able to secure one of REAP's small business loans to purchase a new building.

Taqueria Max moved to its new, larger location, which has a spacious kitchen for food preparation, extended seating availability, and a meeting/gathering room to rent.

There is also enough space for the business to have a small market that sells craft items and fresh produce, like limes, papayas, vegetables, guavas, and more that are frequently used in Mexican cuisine.

Leaning on family

As most entrepreneurs know, it takes lots of time and hard work to have your own business. And, sometimes, life throws a curve ball into the mix, something the Avalos family became all too familiar with.

One of their daughters, Judith, has kidney disease. This means Norma spends up to three days of the week traveling with Judith to a dialysis treatment center.

Fortunately, the owner’s son, Maximino, helps out when Norma is away. Things are looking up for the family as Judith gets closer to receiving a kidney transplant.

Family is important to Norma and essential to the business. She leans on Humberto and children, Nuria, Maximino, Judith, and Rakchel, to keep things operating smoothly.

Norma is grateful for all of her family support and the assistance she has received from REAP, as they have both been there for her when she has needed it.

At a glance

Taqueria Max
731 East Pacific St., off Highway 30
Lexington, Nebraska
Phone: 308.324.5924
Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Feature photo: Norma and Humberto Avalos expanded their restaurant, Taqueria Max, into a new location in 2017, with the help of a Center for Rural Affairs Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) loan. Taqueria Max is located off Highway 30 in Lexington, Nebraska. | Photo by Nancy Flock