After 15 years of doing business in Lompoc, Floriano's Mexican Food & Fresh Cuts has found a permanent home — right across the street.
Currently located at 1129 North H Street in the old Carrows building, Floriano's by June will relocate its operations to a newly purchased 43,995-square-foot lot across the street, previously occupied by Mexican restaurant Taco Roco.
In addition to its signature homestyle Mexican cuisine, co-owner and manager Antonio Rodriguez said the family is excited to resurrect its wild game processing center, onsite meat-smoking capabilities, as well as feature — for the first time — outdoor seating.
"Everything is going to stay the same as far as the concept," said Rodriguez, pointing to the gutted eatery being worked on by contractors, which soon will have new kitchen equipment, flooring and booths. "You order up front and take a seat — hopefully, as long as COVID-19 is done. But if it's not, we'll be able to have outside dining, which is something we haven't been able to offer."
Standing in the front yard of the new restaurant his family purchased last year in September, Rodriguez glanced across the street to watch customers enter their current location.
"We were hoping to buy that building," he said, explaining that the purchase price was out of their reach after the property was rezoned to accommodate cannabis sales. "But it didn't work out."
Since relocating from a smaller footprint location on Ocean Avenue to the old Carrows building six years ago, Rodriguez said business has steadily grown thanks to the support of a tight-knit community, however, the family was forced to forgo some specialty services that originally defined their brand.
Rodriguez's father, co-owner and restaurant namesake, Floriano Rodriguez, is the butcher of the family. However, due to the layout of the current restaurant, which is situated in the high-traffic Flower Valley Plaza, family members haven't been able to process as much wild game as they once did, and they stopped smoking meat.
"Now that we were able to purchase this [building], we're going to do it right and do the wild game processing," said Rodriguez, touring the emptied back portion of their new building. "We're going to convert this storage garage area into a third walk-in [refrigerator] with a railing system that's going to roll out to this cutting room."
With a mechanized railing system, the restaurant will be able to process and age 15 to 20 slaughtered animals at a time, a vast difference from the four- to five-animal maximum they now are able to process and stack on shelving units due to lack of space.
With the push of a button, the railing system will be designed to deliver the aged game, days after being gutted, skinned and quartered, to the processing room for butchering.
"Customers usually like to age [wild game] two to three weeks, depending on their liking," Rodriguez said. "But since we don't have the ability to hang them now, [customers] are just aging them on their own or they just slaughter them and then we butcher them."
In addition to pigs and deer, the streamlined system will enable Floriano's restaurant to process steer, a service they are currently unable to offer in their rental space.
Returning to its early days, the eatery again will offer meat smoking through an onsite, specially designed indoor smoking room, according to Rodriguez.
"It's something we used to do six years ago at our old location," he said, noting that bacon, ham and turkey are some customer favorites. "We'll be able to smoke 200 to 330 pounds of meat at a time."
Now that things are falling into place and a grand opening is in sight, Rodriguez recalls when purchasing the building last year became a concern.
"It took eight to nine months longer than it should have," Rodriguez explained. "We were supposed to close in April or May, but COVID hit in March and canceled everything. The [Small Business Administration] stopped funding, and we didn't start re-working the loan until July."
Rodriguez said they had even given their landlord Richard Sacco notice that they would vacate in May since escrow was due to close on their new building.
"We were kind of worried for a little bit if were going to be able to do anything, but we were finally able to get it done," Rodriguez said, adding that Sacco was supportive and offered them a month-to-month lease to get them through a time of uncertainty.
Rodriguez also credits Lompoc city officials for working diligently to get plans approved to meet the new September 2020 escrow deadline.
"The city, within 30 to 45 days, was able to approve the plans. They worked quickly," Rodriguez said. "They stepped up and helped us push those plans through."
Rodriguez said he expects the transition to the new building to be an easy one and shouldn't require more than a few days of closure since most everything will be brand-new.
Once moved in, not too much will change, he added.
Rodriguez's mom, Maria Rodriguez, a co-owner, will resume her role as head cook; Rodriguez's wife, Katie, will continue middle-of-the-house duties, and his father will get back to butchering.
But one thing will certainly be different, he said.
"It's like renting a house for 15 years, then you finally own it, and you'll be able to do whatever you want to it," Rodriguez said. "It's a family affair. We're all just excited to get this opportunity."
The Lompoc City Council has joined an effort appealing to Gov. Gavin Newsom to grant the Central Coast an exit from its designated Southern California region, which remains under a stay-at-home order due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
More than 22 restaurants and 20 wineries throughout the valley will participate in the 2021 Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Weeks, and will create menus that will work for locals to enjoy at home, and come in a variety of price points.