One of Wichita’s oldest and most-loved Mexican restaurants, Connie’s Mexico Café is celebrating 55 years in business this month. The founders of the restaurant, Ralph and Connie Lopez, proved that you don’t need a fancy degree to do well in life — just a commitment to work hard and a desire to chase the American dream. They passed that work ethic on to their daughter Carmen Rosales, who now owns the restaurant, and she is passing it down to her children and grandchildren.
Carmen shares her passion for her family-owned restaurant and the broader Wichita community in this Small Business Week Member Minute Profile.
Please tell us a little bit about your business.
Connie’s Mexico Cafe was started in 1963 by Connie and Ralph Lopez. After Ralph served in WW2, Connie, Ralph and their daughter Carmen moved to Wichita to truly live the American dream. Wichita is such an entrepreneurial town. Ralph also opened his own barber shop and helped Connie start the café. They worked hard at owning small businesses!
Today, we sell Tex-Mex food and are known for our King Size Burrito, and we have 21 employees.
Describe your business’ most recent success.
Being voted Best Mexican Restaurant in the Wichita Eagle Reader’s Choice Awards again and celebrating 55 years of service in 2018.
To what do you attribute your success?
Consistency of my mother Connie’s recipes, taking no shortcuts, and offering the best service and food.
What differentiates your business from your competitors?
Longevity and consistency
What is something people may not know about you or your business?
We have been around since April 1963.
Where do you see your organization in five years?
More expansion and publicity for our business and hopefully another location.
What about your business are you most passionate?
Happy customers and co-workers
Is your company involved in any community/civic activities?
We are strongly tied to the local community events in Northside. We participate in some NoMar events, and we donate what we can when any local organizations need a helping hand.
- Connie’s burritos were 25 cents back in the 1960’s.
- Our building is 112 years old.
- We found a beautiful hidden mural in our kitchen when we renovated last year.
- Connie used to make the tortillas from scratch for all the meals on the menu.
- Back in the 1970/80’s the Carney brothers, founders of Pizza Hut, tried to ask Grandma Connie if she’d ever consider franchising Connie’s food. Connie declined the opportunity to consider franchising Connie’s food. We often wonder if Connie’s could have been the next Taco Bell, but if you’ve ever eaten a Connie’s taco, you’d quickly taste the difference!
Why did you join the Chamber and what do you find most valuable about Chamber membership?
We became members to invest in our future and to join forces with other local businesses. We want to share ideas with other members and hear their goals, give encouragement and take any advice on how to thrive!
On a scale of 1 to 10, how strongly would you recommend Chamber membership to a colleague?
Highly recommend! We all want our businesses to grow not only with customers, but because of relationships with community and other businesses. This will create an awesome city for all.
What has Chamber membership brought to you and your business?
The ribbon-cutting event celebrating our 55th anniversary (scheduled for Friday, May 11) is such an honor. We can’t wait to celebrate!
What is the best thing about being a small business?
I teach my family about everything, and my grandkids get to experience growing up in the restaurant industry.
What is the most challenging thing about running a small business?
Finding employees with the same passion.
What is your best piece of advice for new small business owners/entrepreneurs?
Never lose hope and never give up!
What is something you wish you had known when your started your own business?
The hard work is never ending.
Facebook and Instagram are powerful tools we use to advertise. And, of course, our alarm system Alert 360 to always check on our restaurant when we can’t be there.
WICHITA BUSINESS COMMUNITY
What is the best thing about doing business in the Wichita area?
The best thing about doing business in the Wichita area is the cooperation other businesses bring. We love that big or small companies have their events at our restaurant or we cater at their special events. We love that we are considered an icon and a staple of Wichita.
Is there anything else you would like to include?
Please join us for our 55th Anniversary Celebration on May 11 & 12! We will be having a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Chamber of Commerce at 1 p m on Friday the 11th and other fun events all weekend!