La Rondalla owner Carlos Barrios was in his early 30s when he took over his parents’ restaurant in the late 1980s to run it for 20 years. If things go as planned this fall, he’ll hand the management over to his two daughters. Already, he’s transferred the ownership to their names.
“I’m not going to be around forever,” said Barrios who recently suffered a seizure. Although he wants to be involved in the restaurant as much as possible, doctors have told him to take it easy so it will be Betty Barrios, 25, and her 23-year-old sister Luna who take over. They hope to have the restaurant open by late November or early December.
Between now and then, there’s plenty to do.
The restaurant, which closed in 2007 after a health inspection revealed several violations including rodent droppings and cockroaches, looks far from reopening any time soon. Apart from an old jukebox in the back, a table with a few chairs, a few plastic cups and some shot glasses, it’s empty.
“He’s really trustworthy. He believed what he said. He thought he knew what he was doing but he didn’t,” his daughter Betty said referring to the contractor.
Several Mission residents have also approached the owner about leasing the space. A sports bar even came close to replacing the Mexican restaurant. But someone involved with the project told Mission Loc@l in July 2010 that Barrios eventually refused to sell.
“I tried to keep things going,” said Barrios. “I thought that was best for my daughters. My dad did it for me and I wanted to return the favor.”
Renovations are moving along now, Betty said.
Her father recently hired a new contractor and according to the city’s Department of Building Inspection, he installed a $15,000 sprinkler system in the basement and a $3,000 fire suppression system in the kitchen. He is also spending $35,000 on a new storefront.
“We’re back on the right track now,” Betty said as she walked through the restaurant where renovations have already eaten up more than $500,000, the sisters said.
Although both sisters have had a few retail and restaurant jobs, their primary experience was growing up in the family business.
“When we were little, our grandparents would tell us ‘you will run this place one day.’ We didn’t know then whether we would or not,” Betty said.
When we were eight or nine, we played waitresses, Luna said. “We would pick up people’s plates and get tips.”
When they got older, their father hired them as waitresses.
“When they were little, I had them be waitresses there. They had their shifts and everything. I had it made out for them,” he said.
In the last few years, Betty has been raising her two-years old daughter and her five-year-old son. On September 1, she gave birth to another little girl, Aliyah.
Luna, her sister, says that she feels the pressure because she doesn’t have children. Her mother and the restaurant’s co-owner, Esperanza Barrios, and her brother-in-law who works as a security guard will be helping out with Betty’s kids. Luna worked at a retirement home in the Marina but quit about a year ago to help her father with the renovations. She plans to take business and culinary classes at San Francisco City College.
In a sense, their taking over the restaurant resembles what happened to their father. He too took over La Rondalla from his parents when they got sick. He immediately started making all the decisions for the business but made sure to run them by his parents first. His daughters say they expect things to be similar when they re-open.
The new version of La Rondalla will feature traditional Mexican cuisine in a Hacienda-like atmosphere. They will keep the popular margaritas, but they also want to modernize the menu a little.
Luna and Betty are in the process of hiring staff, they said. The daughters hope that Mario Hernandez who has been a cook at the family restaurant for more than 20 years, will come back and work with them but Luna said she hasn’t asked him yet.
“We’re excited. We’ve been dealing with this stuff for so long, it’s been a long process,” said Betty.
“We’re pretty excited but nervous,” Luna added.