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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 26, 202205:00 AM EST

You Should Know: 1928 Cuban Bistro founder Rebecca Gonzalez

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The restaurant, which honors her grandparents, is expanding.

Rebecca Gonzalez owned a gourmet salad chain franchise in Miami for eight years before she and her family relocated to St. Johns County in 2015 to set up the Always Caring Home Health agency, which her husband, Adrian Gonzalez, runs. In 2019, she created the 1928 Cuban Bistro restaurant at 3928 Baymeadows Road and has added locations in St. Johns County and Ortega, hiring about 25 people. The restaurant honors her grandparents, Mario and Pura Alvarado. Her grandfather, a Cuban immigrant born in 1928, left Cuba in 1961 to escape communism.

When I moved here from Miami, I was missing the food and the culture. I do have a background in the food industry. After a few years, I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it.’ I saw this little spot. It was an instinct, and then I just did it. 

I created the menu, the look, everything. It’s a tribute to my grandparents, but mostly my grandfather because he was my father figure growing up. Pink was his favorite color, so you’ll see pops of pink in here. The menu has little names that were nicknames my grandfather gave family members. We opened in 2019.

The community really came out and supported us from the beginning. We have people who would come in and share their Cuban exile stories with me. It’s touching. We have people who just love the culture and they remember going to Miami and Tampa. Now, there’s a place for them to feel at home.

I love food, and cooking comes easily to me. Everything you see here were recipes that I’ve made at home for my three kids. I’m Cuban American, so is my husband. My mom came from Cuba when she was 3.  My husband’s parents came over when they were older. His grandmother is 93 and still cooks every day.

Rebecca Gonzalez is expanding 1928 Cuban Bistro,

We typically stick to a 1,300- to 1,400-square-foot concept that is made to be quaint, cozy and fast-casual. On average we can seat 25 to 30 people comfortably. It captures that concept of engaging with our customers. Our customers know us, we know them.

There is one more restaurant planned in Jacksonville, toward the Beaches area. It will be our largest location. I’m envisioning a private room for private parties. I have a vision of putting it under my grandmother’s name, Purita’s Room. My grandfather passed in 2015 and my grandmother passed last year. She would tell me, even in her last few months, ‘Your grandfather is so proud of you and I’m proud of you.’

This is a stepping stone. I eventually want to have a sit-down restaurant. That room is going to be what that eventually will look like. After that, the future is definitely a franchise. I want to thank Jacksonville for welcoming us with open arms. It’s been an amazing ride and this is just the beginning.

I have a younger sister, Sarah Hernandez, who is my partner on the creative side. She gets my vision. I could ramble and she knows everything. She understands me completely. She handles all of our social media.

I’m constantly thinking of what’s next. I’m always jotting down ideas that come my way. I never stop.

My advice to people who want to start a business is to do your research. Plan it out. Have a positive mindset. Make sure that what you’re thinking is something that’s realistic and attainable, and then go from there. But definitely plan it, think it, believe it.

 

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