Popular campus take-out spot to shut doors this month
THE SANTA CLARA
October 22, 2015
Alocal Mexican restaurant will serve its last burrito on Oct. 30, closing its doors after 18 years of serving the Santa Clara community.
“We were Chipotle 15 years before Chipotle was Chipotle,” Mondo Burrito owner and operator Steve Dutra said.
The closing of Mondo Burrito, which first opened its doors on Jan. 13, 1997, comes as a result of an impending redevelopment north of campus. A 3-block parcel bordered by Benton Street, The Alameda and El Camino Real will be redeveloped by Irvine Company to create the new Mission Town Center, which includes a mix of retail and residential in its proposals. According to Mondo Burrito’s press release announcing the closing of the restaurant, the development is slated to begin construction this summer.
Dutra said that Mondo’s situation is not unique. He says that many small businesses find themselves in similar positions when their leases expire and landlords either increase the rent or decide to make a deal with a developer.
“What’s happening to us is not special, it happens all the time,” he said, “It’s kind of a fact of life for the business.”
Dutra said that some of the best years for Mondo were in 2006 and 2007 leading up to the Great Recession, which he said made late 2008 through 2010 some very tough years for the business. After surviving the turbulent economic conditions of those years by cutting costs wherever they could, Dutra said that the business was never quite the same.
“Especially in Santa Clara County, I think the future is cloudy for small businesses,” Dutra said, noting how the climate for small businesses has been affected by both the growing push to raise minimum wage to a higher “working wage,” and the proliferation and popularity of chain restaurants.
Patricia Cameron-Loyd, an adjunct lecturer in the economics department said that while an increase in the minimum wage would heavily impact a small businesses like Mondo, the biggest challenge lies in the real estate.
“The real issue for businesses like Mondo is that the value of the land they are on has increased in our booming times and landowners will either raise rents, hurting businesses like Mondo, or redevelop the land for higher profit businesses or housing,” she said.
Dutra said that Mondo has been working with the Irvine Company to look at other potential locations for the restaurant, and considered transitioning to a food truck or leasing a space in the Mission Town Center.
However, they have not been able to find an alternative location.
Commenting on the relationship between Mondo and Irvine Company, Dutra does not express any ill will towards the developer.
“They’ve tried to be as helpful as they can be, but in the end, whatever this progress is, we’re just kind of collateral damage to it,” he said.
Contact Jenni Sigl at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.