Sabor Latino Restaurant and Sabrosa Deli: Nick Hernandez

sabor-latino-restaurantMany immigrants are drawn to the U.S. because of its strong entrepreneurial spirit as is demonstrated by the fact that Hispanic-owned companies are among the fastest growing business segments in the nation, generating more than $400 billion a year (Hispanic Trend). Yet, when Nick and his brother’s restaurant Sabor Latino and the Sabrosa deli in New Rochelle needed structural upgrades, charm and a good existing business got the thirty-something brothers from the Dominican Republic no farther than wishful thinking.

Nick maxed out his credit cards and available cash to remodel the restaurant. A loan from Community Capital enabled him to actually open. Four years later, Nick’s success led him and his brother to borrow again to open the Sabrosa deli, grossing more than $4000 a week from week one. The two businesses provide 11 good jobs, hire Hispanic teens, patronize more than a dozen local suppliers and inject tax revenue and vitality into the city of New Rochelle. Behind the clear acrylic counter, jam packed with Mary Janes and Skittles, Mr. Hernandez mans the deli till and explains how he went from truck driver to restauranteur between serving customers like the New Rochelle policeman who rides his bicycle in for a blueberry Smoothie.

How did you get into cooking?
I don’t even like to eat. Running a restaurant was something I got into in the 90s. Instead of being a truck driver, I opened a hamburger place in downtown New Rochelle.

How did you get your business off the ground?
I sold my first restaurant, the hamburger place, and someone told me about this great corner space, a restaurant going out of business across the street. I took it over and gutted it, putting in large windows for a better street presence, making it into Sabor Latino, a Dominican restaurant. I used up my cash and maxed out my credit cards. It took a loan from Community Capital of $25,000 and my brother to co-sign for me to actually operate. Four years later, my brother and I got another loan from Community Capital of $20,000 to open the Sabrosa deli. For the deli, I needed Con Edison to upgrade the gas to 230,000 BTUs for the kitchen and needed to renovate the store front (now floor to ceiling glass). It was one year of construction and one year of paying the landlord rent without opening.

And the names Sabor Latino and Sabrosa’s?
Sabor Latino means Latin flavor and Sabroso means something that tastes good.

How did your business evolve?
We make rice and beans–Dominican food. At first I was concerned because there aren’t a lot of Dominicans in New Rochelle, but the food caught on.

What’s your advice?
Believe in yourself. No one thought I would do well with the deli. There were already two delis on the block. But Sabrosa is next door to a 24-hour gym and is the only place offering Smoothies made with real fruit, as opposed to artificial fruit syrup. Don’t be afraid to ignore negative advice.

What’s the best advice you got along the way?
Open the doors. Don’t wait for the beer license: The deli has been open four months and it will probably take another nine to get it, and we’re already profitable.

When did you know when you’d arrived?
With the restaurant, when our nine tables were full most nights and the books were in the black. With the deli, after the first week when we grossed $4300, and the second week when we grossed over $5000.

What’s next?
Perhaps a job change. Sell and open a lounge. There is money in bars right now.