From the beginning, there were issues. When Jesse and Samantha Fox opened Zorros, the Dominican-inspired restaurant on McFarland Road, in summer 2019, McFarland was in the middle of a road reconstruction project and customers had some trouble getting to the place, but word spread about the signature empanadas and fresh-fruit sangria, and business grew steadily. Then in 2020, we all know what happened.
“The first month, we didn’t know if we would make it,” said Samantha, “But we had four solid months of business before the pandemic, our reputation grew in the neighborhood, and the community kept us alive.”
Now that things are (we hope) starting to return to pre-COVID status, Zorros faces another challenge, one that small business owners all over the country are dealing with: finding enough help.
“We are very blessed to have our employees,” Samantha said, “but I work full time, come in when I can, and it’s just Jesse and one other person to do all the prep work.”
The Foxes’ oldest daughter, Maya, 14, watches over her little sister, 6-year-old Adeline, and Jesse’s mom, Susan, “has been phenomenal,” Samantha said.
The scramble for staff has forced some changes in the business plan. Beginning in July, Zorros will close the bar area and rent it out, while keeping the takeout side of the restaurant open, and adding a delivery option. A few tables will be available for outside dining.
Fox says they are also planning to expand their catering business. “We kept getting busier and busier every weekend, our reviews were through the roof, but we just can’t operate on the same level with such a small staff,” she said. “Customer service is something we’re proud of, and we can’t let that go.”
Fox says Zorros has done catering for Jefferson Middle School and Lincoln Elementary, as well as several local businesses.
“We’re very well known,” Fox said.
Zorros has adapted and expanded its menu, from three types of empanada to 11, including vegan and vegetarian options like apple, roasted vegetable and sweet potato, and macaroni and cheese.
They also have added more flavors of sangria, and customers can order a pitcher or flights of four, which change from week to week.
“Except for finding staff, everything’s in place for us to take off. We’re holding onto the dream. We don’t want to let this go.”