Exeter Awards: Frosting on the Cake
The corner of Pine and D streets in Exeter has been a restaurant since 1967, but it’s never looked as good as it does now. That’s because the restaurant-savvy owner Duval Espinoza knows a downtown is only as good as it businesses.
Espinoza purchased the former Jolly Kone restaurant in March 2004 at the age of 21. Even at such a young age, Espinoza was already a 10-year veteran of the restaurant business. At the age of 13, Espinoza began working with his father Fabian Espinoza, owner of Los Arbolitos restaurant in Farmersville and many of his family has worked for years in the restaurant business. His uncle, Antonio Espinoza, owns Vallarta Mexican Restaurant in Exeter.
“The business came easy to me because I like to cook, clean and work,” Espinoza said. “But it’s hard work with a lot of hours. I spend more time here than at my own house. So it’s important to like what you do.”
After getting married to wife Erika, Espinoza decided it was time to become independent. And while he knew the business, Espinoza also knew it was going to be hard to convince someone he was ready to buy their business at the age of 21.
“I was worried if the owner saw a kid come and ask to buy the property who wouldn’t take me seriously,” Espinoza said. “So I grabbed one of the menus and called the phone number to see if he was interested in selling. We talked for awhile and then worked out a deal.”
Espinoza said the business was doing well, but he knew it could be doing better if it was renovated into a newer, cleaner business to match the rest of Exeter’s re-emerging downtown.
“Exeter is a clean, small town and everyone knows each other,” said Espinoza, who lives in Exeter with his wife and two sons – Duval, Jr. and Erik. “It’s a family town so I moved my family here.”
In 2010, Espinoza knew the only way to attract more customers was to create an atmosphere that was cleaner and more inviting. So he took out a $100,000 loan to demolish the original Pipenburg Assocation gas station at Pine and D streets and rebuild it from the foundation up. He built a new, larger cooking area, larger patio dining area and added a landscaped lawn area for children to play while parents enjoyed lunch on a warm day.
It was a huge expense, considering Espinoza doesn’t even own the land on which the restaurant was built upon.
“It’s a risk to pay so much from someone else’s property, but I think it has been worth it,” Espinoza. “I wanted this to be something my family and the community could be proud of, and, I think it is.”
Espinoza works hard to keep the business running well and keep the customers coming back. He has changed and tweaked the menu over the years, keeping traditional favorites but adding some Mexican flare and non-traditional fare. He said Exeter works so hard to keep downtown clean, he feels he has to work even harder to keep up his scoop of homemade ice cream.
“We are here to help make downtown the best it can be,” Espinoza said. “I feel like I have to work harder than everyone else so they will believe in me.”
The Exeter Chamber of Commerce’s beleives, which is why Espinoza’s Frosty King has been named the 2012 Beautification Award winner.