Alejandro Flores-Muñoz remembers his mother going door-to-door to sell her homemade flan and cheesecake to support her family. Today, the 31-year-old Capitol Hill resident realizes how beneficial a …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2019-2020, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
Alejandro Flores-Muñoz remembers his mother going door-to-door to sell her homemade flan and cheesecake to support her family.
Today, the 31-year-old Capitol Hill resident realizes how beneficial a smart refrigerator — like the one he recently purchased for his two restaurant concepts — would have been for his mother’s business. A smart refrigerator essentially could have allowed her to double the capacity she was preparing, and in turn, selling, Flores-Muñoz said.
“That little bit more can mean so much to a family that is struggling,” he said.
Flores-Muñoz is an immigrant from Mexico. His mother relocated him and his brother from Guadalajara to California in 1997 when Flores-Muñoz was 7. He is a 2012 recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provided him with work authorization as an undocumented immigrant in the United States.
Flores-Muñoz made his way to Denver in 2016 because of a job opportunity. A couple years later, Flores-Muñoz and his business partner purchased a food truck called Stokes Poke.
Aside from the “joy of getting to share authentic food,” Flores-Muñoz saw an opportunity in food service, he said.
In May 2019, Flores-Muñoz decided to leave the job he relocated to Colorado for so he could dedicate himself full-time to growing the food truck business. A little while later, he also started another business venture called Combi Taco, which is a ghost kitchen featuring family recipes that operates out of CloudKitchens in Denver’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
When COVID-19 hit, Flores-Muñoz, like many other restaurateurs, had to figure out a way to keep his businesses afloat through the pandemic.
It was about “pivoting in a time of crisis for the food industry,” Flores-Muñoz said. “I really dove into the virtual concept.”
He did some research and learned about the new smart refrigerator technology. With the smart refrigerator, Flores-Muñoz can expand his businesses and reach more customers. It can be set up at a stationary location — a corporate office, hospital or college campus, for some examples — and stocked daily with fresh, prepackaged meals from Flores-Muñoz’s restaurants. It works similarly to a vending machine, in that customers can swipe their credit card and choose which meal they want, Flores-Muñoz said. Proceeds from each sale goes directly to the restaurant concept, Flores-Muñoz added.
The smart refrigerator can hold about 100 meals, Flores-Muñoz said, and because it can hold such a capacity, Flores-Muñoz plans on partnering with other local micro-restaurant concepts, particularly those owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) restaurateurs, he said.
“Building community is important,” Flores-Muñoz said. “I see this refrigerator as an opportunity for us all to grow our businesses.”
To purchase the smart refrigerator, Flores-Muñoz applied for, and was awarded, a $4,000 COVID Pivot Loan from the Colorado Solidarity Fund, LLC., which is a member-managed investment club.
“Our members are interested in local businesses thriving,” said Paul Bindel, co-president of the Colorado Solidarity Fund. “We see investing in the main street economy as a way of helping more dollars circulate locally and stay local.”
Flores-Muñoz is one of two recipients who were approved in December for the COVID Pivot Loan, which was created during the pandemic specifically for businesses that had to make a significant and new pivot to their operations in order to survive the pandemic, Bindel said.
“What excited us about his (Flores-Muñoz’s) proposal,” Bindel said, “is his desire to work with other food producers.”
Flores-Muñoz is still determining the location of his first smart refrigerator, but he hopes to eventually purchase more and implement them throughout Denver-metro, partnering with even more small businesses to offer a variety of local food selections.
Flores-Muñoz believes immigrants add a lot to communities, and that their contributions should not be ignored.
“As a first-generation immigrant, I’ve come to realize there are barriers,” Flores-Muñoz said. But with the difficulties also comes some successes, he added. “And the success here is building community and generational wealth.”
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.