“We really wanted to thank all our frequent diners and loyal customers and the people who just came and ate.”
— Sandra Loya, owner of Casa Loya, on closing her business
Family is a priority for Sandra Loya, whether she’s at home or work.
Throughout the years, the local business owner and her family have been able to serve the community and remain close while doing so.
However, the desire to separate the two environments is something that has weighed heavily on her mind lately, leading her to make a change.
After 11 years as part of the Craig food scene, Casa Loya, 351 S. Ranney St., closed its doors Thursday.
The Mexican restaurant has been family-owned and operated since opening in 2001 by Sandra and her husband, Trinidad.
The Loyas’ three eldest children — sons Trini and Pablo and daughter Sylvia Perea — have each worked at the restaurant in one function or another over the last decade, allowing them to stay a tight-knit bunch.
A family portrait near the restaurant's bar displays three generations of the Loyas, as does a large, festive mural on the outside wall.
But, while Casa Loya has been a catalyst for family togetherness, Sandra has wanted to devote more time to youngest son Angel.
“I’ve got a 7-year-old who needs Mom at home, so I’m going to retire for a year,” Sandra said. “I’ve just needed a break to spend more time with family. When we opened, I thought it would last forever, but I’m just ready to retire now.”
Sandra said owning the eatery and being there all hours of the day prevented her from giving Angel the attention he needs.
“He needs to be out playing baseball or soccer or something and it’s not really fair to him that he can’t do that because we’re always here, but he loves talking to the customers,” she said.
Sandra said she has always thought of customers and employees as family.
“We really wanted to thank all our frequent diners and loyal customers and the people who just came and ate,” she said.
Another reincarnation of Casa Loya may be on the back burner within another year, if things play out right.
Sandra said Pablo, 27, hopes to own his own restaurant after finishing coursework at Johnson & Wales University, where he studies cooking and restaurant management.
“I’m not sure if he’d want to do the same thing or something different, but he can cook just about anything,” she said. “If I came back and did it again, it would probably be the same kind of food and probably the same customers.”
Sandra added that one thing she might do differently in future endeavors is to be more stringent in the hiring process.
“I don’t think I’d hire my friends’ kids because then they’re not your friends (any) more,” she said. “Some kids just don’t understand that they’re here to work and if you’re trying to teach an 18-year-old how to chop tomatoes, some of these kids have never touched a knife. That’s the sad thing.”
Though Casa Loya will no longer be serving up its trademark burritos, fajitas and salsas, among other menu favorites in its Ranney Street location, the Loyas will still own the building, renting the space to Double Barrel Steakhouse, which will move from its Hayden location later in the month.
Sandra said Double Barrel owners Ann Marie and Pat Roberts, of Craig, will lease the property for a year and may buy it depending on their success.
Ann Marie said she believes the move is a “great deal” in many ways.
“Just the gas prices alone will save us money by not having to drive back and forth to Hayden,” she said. “(Casa Loya) had such a great location, right in the middle of everything, and I hope we do as good a job with our restaurant.”
The Roberts's are scheduled to reopen Double Barrel in its new location toward the end of July after making the space their own.
Sandra said she is excited to see what her former workplace will look like, both with a new design and from the perspective of a customer.
“It’ll definitely be nice to be served for a change,” she said.
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