By Jessica Hubbard, Courtesy of Muscatine Magazine
For 31 years, Lupe and Ramiro Vazquez have watched as their children have grown into adults, raising their own children, nurturing and supporting each other all while conceptualizing and creating their local, family-owned businesses. The Vazquezs’, along with their children, Maritza and Alejandro, have found that through their family bond and love for one another, they have been able to build those businesses successfully from the ground up.
Ramiro and Lupe, both first-born immigrants from Mexico, met in 1988 and married in 1989; the beginning of their story and how North Construction, Guadalajara, and The Coffee Belt came into existence. Ramiro had been working for a local contracting company when the idea of North Construction came about. When Ramiro decided to venture out on his own, he started off taking small construction jobs, often helping out people he knew. Vazquez said, “Sometimes, I wasn’t even getting paid. I was taking the work to gain more experience.” In 2001 he was asked to help out with a basement rebuild. He imagined it would be a smaller project, similar to the ones he had been working on. When he arrived, he found that it was an entire basement that needed work. He wasn’t certain he was up for the task, but the customer assured him he trusted his work and would help support Ramiro during the process. Vazquez said while the build was taking place, the customer asked if his construction business had a name and if he had registered his business. Vazquez said he hadn’t really thought about a name or even registering to create his own company. His client said he was happy to help him through the process, but that Vazquez needed to come up with a name. He thought about this for a while. Vazquez figured since he had moved up from the south to the north, it only made sense to name his company North Construction, LLC.
While Ramiro was busy getting North Construction off the ground, Lupe was working full time for the school district in Muscatine. Busy with their jobs and raising a family, they would frequently meet for lunch at a small restaurant by the name of Guadalajara in downtown Muscatine. This was a chance for them to catch up and enjoy a meal together. Lupe said they ate there often enough that the owner of the restaurant recognized them when they would come in. One day he approached them with an offer: would they like to partner with him in the restaurant business? They could buy the restaurant, and he would stick around to help them get started. Lupe’s immediate reaction was to say no. “We had absolutely no experience in the restaurant business.” Ramiro on the other hand thought they should go for it. Lupe says of Ramiro, “He’s been the catalyst for all our businesses. He’s a very hard worker with great determination and always keeps a positive attitude.” And with that, in 2009 they became the owners of Guadalajara. Deciding to go into the restaurant business full speed, Lupe went back to college to secure a degree in culinary arts. And, while the restaurant business wasn’t easy, the Vazquezs’ found the support within their family and the community to make the restaurant a success. Eventually they were able to buy several properties across the street to expand and move into a larger space.
With the family hard at work running North Construction and Guadalajara, their daughter Maritza was finishing up her senior year of high school and planning for a mission trip to Costa Rica. This was the first of many trips that would eventually lead to the creation of The Coffee Belt. While in Costa Rica, Maritza stayed in a coffee village. She hadn’t given much thought to coffee before that, let alone the idea of running her own coffee shop someday.
Throughout her college career Maritza’s studies and travels eventually led to her degree in biblical theology with a minor in counseling. During her junior and senior years of college she acquired an internship with Calvary Baptist Church in Muscatine. Maritza and her now husband, Mario Martinez worked with at-risk youth providing support and guidance. Maritza recognized the need for a space where people could come together and talk, and with that, the idea of The Coffee Belt was born. Maritza said. “My faith has played a big role in the creation of my business.” She felt she had been called to create a safe and welcoming place for people to gather. Together with the help of her husband, and family, The Coffee Belt opened to the public in 2017.
Not only do all the family members have some role within the businesses; Ramiro and Lupe heading up North Construction, Alejandro, now owner of Guadalajara, and Maritza and Mario running The Coffee Belt, but they also strive to give back to the community. From serving on the library board, to being a Big Sister and a Big Brother, along with being a board member for the Muscatine Chamber, Trinity Hospital, and the United Way, their family continues to find ways to uplift their community. All three businesses have been born out of hard work, a sense of belonging in a town that provides unwavering support, and most of all, a love of family.