My roots are in Utah County, but I grew up in Arizona and spent my vacations in Mexico.
When I moved to Provo in the early 90s, I found it impossible to satisfy my cravings for REALLY GOOD MEXICAN FOOD in Utah Valley. In 1999, I decided that the only solution was to open a serious Mexican restaurant myself. It was located on Bulldog Blvd. (1230 North), just west of the Provo high school football field. Rosa’s quickly became recognized as Utah Valley’s best Mexican food.
The place was packed, and the business was successful.
Unfortunately, it cost me a fortune to open Rosa’s. I needed to pay $300,000 for the culinary training and consulting from the chef/owner of the original Rosa’s in Arizona. And to cover the costs of starting the business, I ended up having to take on seven investors as partners.
Within a year, when business was booming and we were making good money, the seven cut throat partners sent me out the door. Before I returned to Provo from a meeting with them in Arizona, the locks on Rosa’s were changed, the equipment was hid in storage and my personal belongings were tossed in the dumpster. Although they promised to pay the company debt, I was left with a huge bank loan on the kitchen equipment and nothing to show for it but 3 years of payments. My stock in the restaurant was washed.
LIFE LESSON #1: “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
After feeling sorry for myself for about a month, I decided that my best option was to open my own restaurant—without partners. The first Bajio opened in the Shops at Riverwoods. We used a credit card to buy used equipment and began with five employees.
Again, I designed both the restaurant and the food, and we even made trips to Mexico to buy decorations and to collect ideas for the menu. I worked the tortilla grill, and Sarah (my sweetheart) worked the cash register while our kids watched videos and colored in the office. Within six months, the lines were literally out the door, and our dining room seating was doubled to accommodate the crowds. Meanwhile, my Arizona partners closed the doors on Rosa’s.
We expanded our business and Bajio’s grew to 20 stores. We had the opportunity to sell and turn the business over to Subway, the great sandwich company. They convinced me that they were capable of expanding the business even further than I had. And… you can see where the more “capable hands” took Bajios. However, a few months after the sell, the entrepreneurial spirit returned and we turned our faces toward a new adventure.
The opportunity to purchase the local Harley-Davidson franchise came available, and we were back to work. The old Geneva Steel plant was being demolished, and we made plans to build a new dealership out of the scrap materials from the steel mill. My grandfather had helped build Geneva Steel back in 1942. During World War II, my grandmother worked there as a crane operator—a true “Rosie the Riveter.”
The romance of resurrecting part of Geneva Steel was irresistible—to preserve a piece of Utah history, Tuomisto family history, memorialize the great industrial era of America with the “great American motorcycle,” and to do it GREEN, re-using materials and conserving resources. I designed and set out to construct what I hoped would be one of the most significant buildings in Utah.
Building a dealership from literal scrap that was headed for the landfill was not easy or cheap. Now I know why it hadn’t been done before.
My Bajio money was invested in the new building, but I soon learned that it takes a lot of “green” to build “green.” Everything about the project was challenging and difficult.
It strained me and my health, my family and friends, the city, the state, UDOT, the engineers, the subcontractors, the Harley-Davidson Corporation, and most of all THE BANK.
Timing is everything. The dealership nearly tripled in a white-hot economy, as the hot-metal riveted lattice from Geneva began to rise from the mud and the building slowly began to take shape. Unfortunately, in the middle of construction, the banking industry turned to mud.
We approached some local friends who anxiously offered to provided us with some temporary funding to help completed the dealership portion of our company. Unfortunately these “friends” had different intentions. Their “help” opened the door for them to take the dealership and everything away.
Consequently, the bank scrapped plans to finance the remaining construction of the dealership. With no bank to turn to, and feeling six months pregnant, with an unfinished building, I approached some local businessmen to provide some temporary financing needed to complete the dealership before the upcoming summer riding season.
LIFE LESSON #1: (again): “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
When the construction business and the economy collapsed, the dumpsters were filled again, and the only thing I had left to show for all the hard work and money invested was gray hair, more chest pains, millions of dollars of bank loans, and mountains of certified mail. Life had repeated itself.
Apparently the “teachable moment” that I had faced with Rosa’s was back…Big Time.
LIFE LESSON #2: “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want. You are either enhanced or diminished by your experience.”
This time it took me nearly a year to recover before Sarah had her talk with me (again) about getting up and showing people what we are made of. “Keep working hard, and be nice,” she said. I think that J. R. Ewing would have said it a bit differently: “Don’t let those bastards get you down.”
“I can blame no one for my life.”
“Good people bring me happiness.”
“Bad people bring me experience.”
“The worst people teach me a lesson.”
LIFE LESSON #3: Take heed to yourselves that your heart be not deceived… (Deuteronomy 11:16)
Milagro is a Spanish word. It is an event that can’t be explained by the laws of nature. It’s a miracle, or an act of God. We hope you will enjoy the fresh new tastes of Milagros, our newest miracle. We have enjoyed learning from our “teachable moments”, designing the restaurant, developing the menu, and we are happy to be back in the people business again.
Dave and Sarah Tuomisto