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By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter

 

Co-owner Leah Rodas says it’s not official yet but she and her husband, Osman, are hoping to open their new 3 Amigos Restaurant within the next few weeks.

“We’re not telling people any certain date we’ll be open yet, but we’re trying to open the first week of November,” said Ms. Rodas.

They’re shooting for Nov. 1, a Friday, she said, but opening may have to wait until the next week depending on how quickly the crew can pull things together. “We have all our equipment and everything that needs to go in,” said Ms. Rodas. “We just need to finish painting and do the floors. With the four partners working on it, that can all be done in a week or less.”

The Sentinel had arrived, indeed, to find Ms. Rodas with paint roller in hand, hair tied back against splashes. 

But she didn’t mind stopping for a brief chat in the interest of getting the word out efficiently. This is, after all, Dade County, where anything new to eat is such big news that sometimes the cops are called out to direct traffic, and in fact Ms. Rodas says interest has been keen. 

“Every day that we’re down here working, if they see a car people will stop and say, when are you opening, when are you opening?” she said.

The answer to that question, when, is still iffy, as detailed above. The answers to what and where are easier:  Ms. Rodas says the Trenton 3 Amigos, a Mexican restaurant in the old Jo Mama's site on Highway 11 North, across from Gross Furniture, is modeled after the one in Lookout Valley, which opened two years ago and which the Rodases have owned for a year and a half. "It'll be exactly the same menu," said Ms. Rodas. "Inside, the décor may be a little bit different."

Now for the who: The Rodases are a young couple – Leah’s 26 – who live in East Ridge with their two children aged 4 years and 6 months, respectively. To open the Trenton restaurant, the couple partnered with the head cook at their Lookout Valley store, Rafael Hernandez, and another chef they had known for years, Melchor Ramirez. 

Ms. Rodas – who is herself a Tennessee homegirl, but who speaks Spanish with an impressive accent, having learned the language well before her marriage – will work alongside her husband and the chefs in the restaurant; but next door, in the building’s other storefront, she will also work with her mother, Michelle Dyer, in the resale shop Ms. Dyer opened on Aug. 31.

Ms. Dyer had operated a resale store years before and wanted to try it again, said Ms. Rodas, while she herself wanted to diversify into some business a little easier than a restaurant. “So we leased the whole building, and she is open every day but Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Ms. Rodas. “That is subject to change after the restaurant opens.”     

Thus the whole complex is a family business, said Ms. Rodas, albeit with a well-defined division of labor. “My mom doesn’t do anything in the restaurant, though, and my husband doesn’t do anything in the store,” she said. “They’re two different worlds.”

The resale store is called “Bek’s,” named after the newest addition to the family, Ms. Rodas’ 6-month-old daughter, Rebecca.

Ms. Rodas said she and her husband decided to open a 3 Amigos in Trenton to take advantage of a perceived need.  “The thing is, over in Lookout Valley we have so many customers from here who go over there to eat,” she said. “I would say 30 or 35 percent of our customers come from this area.”

The couple hadn’t grasped at first how close they would be to Dade’s other Mexican restaurant, Lalito’s, said Ms. Rodas, but decided when they did to proceed as planned, considering their healthy customer base here. “We still wish them well,” she said. “Hopefully, there’s enough business for everybody to keep going and do well. There’s not that many restaurants in Trenton.”

The Rodases plan to keep the same hours at the Trenton restaurant as at their Lookout Valley location, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., though Ms. Rodas says if they can manage to open before the end of football season they’ll be happy to keep the doors open a little later on game nights.  

Now, having answered all the other W-questions, the Sentinel proceeds to the final one, will 3 Amigos serve cerveza along with the burritos and enchiladas? Beer and wine by the glass are OK in Trenton after a controversial city ordinance a couple of years ago, but so far only the Pizza Hut has taken advantage of the change. 

In 3 Amigos’ case, the answer to that question is: Maybe later. 

“We’ll be opening without a beer permit. If we get it, it will be sometime in the future,” said Ms. Rodas. “According to the people in City Hall, they say that we’re too close to the church. I think it has to be 200 feet and they say we’re 180-something.”

But she says she and her husband may ask for a second measuring, or request a variance.

Ms. Rodas said most probably she and her husband will leave their Lookout Valley 3 Amigos in the capable hands of the manager there, Fernando, and themselves work mostly here at the Trenton restaurant with their partners. “No one is going to run your business better than you will,” she said.

In addition to the partners, she said, 3 Amigos will hire four or five additional employees.

 


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