Juan Mondragon is one of America’s success stories. Mondragon moved from Mexico City to attend college at UC Riverside. In 1996 Mondragon and his wife, Annele, moved to Fargo and opened Juano’s in downtown Fargo. Since their opening Mondragon has opened three other, counter service restaurants as well owning John Alexander’s and Juano’s Latin Bar in downtown Moorhead. This man has brought authentic Mexican food from the streets of Mexico City to the streets of Fargo. Spotlight sat down with him to find out how he did this.
Spotlight: What was your inspiration for opening your own restaurant?
Mondragon: My wife and I talked about it a lot. We really liked the idea, so we figured we should give it a shot. We started here in 1996. This location [downtown] used to be the Powers Hotel and Coffee Shop.
Spotlight: How does someone from Mexico end up in Fargo, ND?
Mondragon: (Laughs) Again my wife. She is originally from here and wanted to move back home. Fargo is a great city. It’s safe, a good place to raise a family and has beautiful parks.
Spotlight: How did your wife and you meet?
Mondragon: We met at UC Riverside around 1985.
Spotlight: What was your childhood like growing up in Mexico City?
Mondragon: It was fun. It was, is a much bigger city than here. 20 million people live there now. I played sports growing up. Soccer and tennis a lot of the time. I ended up getting a scholarship to UC Riverside to play tennis. I graduated with a degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management.
Spotlight: Do you enjoy owning your own business in Fargo?
Mondragon: I do, but it is challenging at times. It’s long hours and we have seen an impact from the recession. The floods didn’t help either. The economy has taken a hit and it is showing here. I think, maybe in a few more years, my wife and I may decide to go somewhere else.
Spotlight: Where do you get your inspiration for the food and recipes you use?
Mondragon: Everything is made from scratch. We like to have authentic food. We don’t cut corners here. Some of the recipes are inspired from Mexico City’s street food. We try to bring that here. With our four Juano’s locations, the one downtown is a full service restaurant, including a full bar. Our other locations are all counter service. My wife graduated with a degree in interior design, so she has an eye for that sort of thing. She is in charge of the decor inside.