From Mexico to Saginaw, a family of entrepreneurs thrives on built foundation

SAGINAW, MI – All the way from Mexico, one woman paved the path for her family to build a foundation in Saginaw.

Maria Gomez wanted a better life for herself and her family. She made the decision to travel to Chicago, but when those plans fell through, she met people from Saginaw who became her host family at age 23.

Gomez said she didn’t even know Saginaw was on the map before she moved and took her first job in the kitchen at Casa del Rey on Bay Road.

“It’s been a blessing for everybody,” Gomez said. “Coming from another country, you have to come with a lot of ambitions, be hungry for work, hungry for bettering yourself, and that was me.”

After her first couple of jobs, Gomez decided to open her own bakery. However, as more family members arrived from Mexico, including her sister Maria G. Jimenez and two brothers, they wanted to create more jobs and opened a restaurant, Maria’s Kitchen, on Genesee Avenue.

In 1995, they opened El Rancho Grande located at 2403 N. Michigan Avenue, which is now operated by Jimenez.

Today, each sibling has become an entrepreneur with four separate businesses open across Saginaw.

Gomez operates Maria’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant located at 6090 State Street. One brother operates La Estrella Del Norte Bakery located at 2406 N. Michigan Avenue, across the street from El Rancho Grande, while the other brother operates a heating and cooling business.

Their children have the entrepreneurial spirit too as they are running Maria’s Food Trucks out of Saginaw.

Even their 95-year-old father helps every day in the restaurants. Jimenez said he never complains and tends to have more energy than her most days.

Community Legacy

While some restaurant owners withhold their recipes, Gomez is the opposite.

Gomez says she chooses to share her recipes because of the experiences she had when she was welcomed into the community. She says she wants to be remembered through the recipes as she remembers those who shared them with her.

“The recipes that families gave me, I never forget it. I always remember them, “said Gomez. “I offer people to come to the restaurant and I’ll show them right here how to make it.”

Although it’s a lot of miles from their hometown and country, both sisters are grateful they made the decision to start their lives and families in Saginaw. They said a lot of families helped them along with their journey in a new country.

“God blessed me with a lot of good people around me and I started doing better and better and better for my family,” Gomez said.

COVID-19 Impacts

Similar to other restaurants across the state, El Rancho Grande and Maria’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant were impacted by the pandemic. Jimenez said there have been waves of good and bad days over the last two years. Without the financial help from the government, the sisters said they don’t know if they would be open today.

Overall, they said business has been improving, especially because of the regular customers dining at both locations.

El Rancho Grande is open to eat inside, but only for takeout orders due to a shortage of servers and staff in general. They are open from 9 am to 7 pm daily with any changes posted to their Facebook page.

Maria’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant is open for dine-in from 9 am to 8 pm every day except Monday. Catering is also an option for both restaurants.

Nachos, fried tacos, birria tacos, enchiladas, wet burritos and tamales are some of the favorites from both restaurants. They are hiring at both locations and those interested in a job can go inside and apply.

Through all the challenging times, the sisters said they continue to do their best and serve their customers.

“Thank you to the community for the support. Thank you Saginaw, ”Jimenez said.

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