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Casa Rodriguez owner says they have 'maybe 3 months left'

Casa Rodriguez
Posted at 3:20 PM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 18:54:05-04

JACKSON, Mich. — Jessica Rodriguez and her husband, Rommel, opened Casa Rodriguez 11 years ago. It was their lifelong dream to bring authentic Mexican food to Jackson.

Jessica is from Jackson. Her husband is from Mexico and had a previous restaurant in the Detroit area.

“We met and things just kicked off. We opened a restaurant and, from day one, it’s just been absolutely wonderful," she said. "Jackson has been so welcoming to us."

People loved coming to Casa Rodriguez, but Jessica knew, if they wanted to grow, they would have to obtain a liquor license. That wasn’t possible at their former location on Wildwood Avenue because it was near Jackson High School.

“We got a really great offer that got put on the table that somebody wanted to buy my property. I struggled for about eight months to find a new location,” Rodriguez said.

They finally found one, the site of the former Giglio’s Italian Restaurant at 2241 Brooklyn Road. They got a liquor license in February 2020. Business was booming.

“My sales shot up by like $17,000. One month of pure profit. It was golden. That was the best we have ever done. I was like, ‘Finally all my hard work, my blood, sweat and tears are paying off like, it’s finally happening,'” Rodriguez said.

Casa Rodriguez

She was able to enjoy her successes for a month.

After COVID hit, “the whole world shut down," she said. "I was home with a newborn baby. I was so worried about work and about the illness going around. It was truly scary. I thought I was going to lose absolutely everything."

They remained optimistic between shutdowns in 2020.

“I was like, ‘you know, hopefully this is just going to be something brief. You know, this is going to get figured out shortly. I was very optimistic,’” Rodriguez said.

They were able to re-open. Then came the second shut down.

“That’s when I lost all my staff," she said. "As of right now I stand with three staff members and myself. My lunch used to be, I would say maybe 150 to 200 people for lunch. Now we get probably 50 to 75 people for lunch. Dinners are still pretty good but only for about an hour a day.”

Casa Rodriguez

With bills and rising food costs, it’s getting harder to hang on.

“There’s a string and we’re just barely surviving,” she said.

She has had to go about it alone. Her husband went to Mexico in 2017 to care for his ill mother in her dying days. He hasn’t been able to get back to the United States since.

“I’ve actually been running this business alone for the past four and a half years,” she said. “His visa expired a year after he went there. His mom was still ill when his visa expired. We had to renew it. Unfortunately immigration is late with some people."

She has 6 children at home. She is optimistic that her husband will be home soon.

Even so, she opened up a GoFundMe to raise $10,000 for Casa Rodriguez to stay afloat. She has applied for several grants to keep them going. She was approved for one which she said didn’t last very long. She estimates she has about three months left before they will have to make the decision to close.

“It was kind of one of my last resorts. I just recently went to my bank and tried to get some funding,” she said. “I didn’t qualify.”

Her message to the community: We’re still open.

“It’s really important for people to, if they want us to survive, for them to come in and support us and to remember to support all small businesses because everyone is struggling so bad right now. We survive on our regulars,” she said.

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