Mexican is la vida for young merchant |

Mexican is la vida for young merchant

Amy Hamilton

Jenny LeBlanc thinks it’s funny when schoolteachers from Craig Middle School cross the street to eat at her restaurant and remember the 22-year-old as if she still were a student in their class.

“They say I make them feel old,” LeBlanc said, laughing.

Indeed, it wasn’t too terribly long ago that LeBlanc attended the school across from the street of La Plaza Mexican Restaurant, an establishment where she now is a co-owner.

Although LeBlanc grew up with her mother, Deb Sanders heading restaurant operations for 15 years, running the place was the last thing the twenty- something thought she wanted to do. But after her Sanders suffered an injury and could no longer work the restaurant, LeBlanc and her husband, Chris, took the helm about two years ago and since have been giving it their all.

“At least one person gives us a compliment about this place everyday,” Jenny said. “More than anything, it’s worth it that people notice.”

That’s a long way from the advice the LeBlancs heard when they proposed making sizeable renovations to the restaurant. Enclosing the restaurant’s large outdoor patio didn’t seem like a good idea to some diners, Jenny said, and they were vocal about it.

After months of construction, the restaurant’s year-round dining area has at least doubled in size. Rock walls and soft lighting now add a comfortable feel to the restaurant’s cheerful decor.

An added bonus, the restaurant’s new look received October’s Community Improvement Award from Craig’s Association of Realtors.

“It was quite a surprise,” Chris said.

If someone had asked her six months ago if she would stick with the restaurant gig, Jenny would have emphatically answered “no.”

But after a successful remodel and a recent record sales day, things are looking up.

Jenny started bussing tables after school at the restaurant while in fifth-grade and enjoyed its social aspects. By high school, though, Jenny wanted to have little to do with the place in defiance of working too near to family. After graduating, Jenny attended college in Utah for a year, chasing a dream to become a doctor. A year later, she moved to Colorado Springs, where she met her future husband.

Moving back to Craig to run the family restaurant wasn’t supposed to be permanent.

“Lately, I’ve been thinking, ‘I’ve got a good thing going,'” she said.

Most important to the business’ success is putting “love” into it, Jenny said.

The restaurant’s popular deep fried tortillas that come with every meal are one example of that, she said. And, all the food is homemade, she added.

“A restaurant doesn’t do good unless you put love in it,” Jenny said. “My mom says she’s proud of me. She never comes down because she knows it’s in good hands.”

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