It all began with a simple burrito stand at the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. Hector Contreras, John Garlock and Contreras’s two nieces would fry tater tots and sausage at 5 a.m. and place their burritos into a wagon to pull two blocks to The Square. With demand for burritos and Kirksville community support high, Contreras came up with an idea: turn the burrito stand into a restaurant.
Contreras and his nieces would walk two blocks to The Square and load several burritos in a wagon. Contreras spoke to the previous El Vaquero owner in search of a food truck. Instead of bargaining for a single truck, the owner offered him the entire restaurant. After talking with Garlock for over a month, the duo took the deal and named their restaurant Cancún Mexican Cuisine.
“That’s how innocent and effortless this whole restaurant manifestation has been,” Contreras said. “It really has been effortless, you know. There was no real seeking of opening a restaurant. I was just open to the opportunity.”
With over three months of planning, Contreras and Garlock have been receiving love from the community. Letters of encouragement from friends, family and even complete strangers keep them motivated. Contreras said everyone was supportive of their decision to open another business.
Contreras said the restaurant is Cancún-themed because it’s where he’d rather be than in the freezing Midwest. The restaurant gives a warm and cozy feeling from the lighting all the way down to the dishware.
“I don’t want to say we’re a fine dining or high-end restaurant, but we’re not cutting any corners,” Contreras said. “If you were a guest in my home, I would bring out the fine china, and that’s what I want to do at my restaurant.”
Contreras said he’s most looking forward to introducing new food to the community. Cancún will serve authentic entrees like chicken mole, carnitas and — of course — their breakfast burritos.
Contreras has been working in public relations and has a love for communication because of digital marketing. Contreras said sharing food and recipes is what family is all about, and having a restaurant will make sharing all the better.
Contreras and Garlock were the previous owners of a local photography business that fell to flooding about six years ago. Though the rain soiled countless electronics and memories, the couple let their loss anchor them down.
“I think that it’s important for all of us to sometimes just take a breath and realize that sometimes the universe is guiding you away in ways you can’t even expect,” Contreras said. “You may think that your dreams are big, but what the universe has in store for you is always bigger.”
What began with a small burrito stand became an entire business within a few months. Contreras said to always be open to change and to always be on the lookout. Opportunity is always out there.
Garlock and Contreras opened the restaurant on Black Friday, Nov. 23. With an enthusiastic vision for the future, Cancún Mexican Cuisine’s owners are looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces around the community and welcoming everyone with open arms.
“Hector and I are very excited about our new adventure,” Garlock said. “We hope everyone in the area will come out and try this new dining option in Kirksville.”