As we at WeNeedaVacation.com celebrate our 20th anniversary this year, we are celebrating other local businesses’ milestones as well. Local Mexican food favorite, Guapo’s Tortilla Shack, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its current Brewster location, and the 5th anniversary of its Orleans location. We sat down with owner Kyle Parker and asked him to share his thoughts on being a local businessman.
Q: Take us back to opening day. What were you feeling those first moments just before the door opened?
A: Fear. When you own a small business, everything you own is leveraged. You have an idea in your head of how you want things to go and how you want people to feel. On opening day you’re worried, “Did I get it right?” [The restaurant] is really an expression of who you are as a person and a vision for how you want to welcome people into your world.
Q: Why did you choose to have a Mexican food restaurant?
A: When I lived in Las Vegas I worked in a Mexican place. It was me and 20 other guys cooking all day—and I loved it. I loved the culture. I loved the guys I worked with—we were like brothers. I learned how to speak “kitchen Spanish” so we could swear at each other. And the food . . . everything spoke to me in a way that was fresh, vibrant and alive. Growing up, I worked at Chillingsworth in Brewster and I saw a lot of high precision/highly executed food and I always thought to myself, “I’m going to have a fine dining restaurant!” But it wasn’t me, I’m not that guy. When my wife and I were driving up here and thinking about moving back to Cape Cod, we were talking about what types of restaurants opened here. Truth be told, I was thinking in a total different direction and my wife reeled me and said, “Wait, what are you talking about? There’s a space in the market for [Mexican food], you know how to do it and you love it,” and it just clicked.
Q: What from your business inspires you and gives you the most satisfaction?
A: Inspiration is kind of complicated because you draw inspiration from so many places. My mentors, I didn’t want them to see me not live up to my potential or ability. I have a lot of pride in that sense. I feel like I have a lot more to offer than just completing a “task.” I feel like I can bring a big picture to the table. That, and relationships with others. The satisfaction for me is the real, long lasting relationships. There are guys here that I’ll know for the rest of my life—we did a lot together. You’re not in the restaurant business because you want people to not like you—you want to build friendships, and relationships, and be a part of the community and give high-fives and hugs. I want to make people happy. The first time I cooked a meal for someone, I did it because I wanted to make someone feel happy, it wasn’t because I was hungry. How other people feel means a lot to me.
Q: Do you have any advice for new entrepreneurs thinking of opening a restaurant on Cape Cod?
A: Don’t do it. Mark Cuban said, “It really angers me. I hear: follow your dreams, follow your dreams, and that’s b.s., . . . follow your effort.” Wherever you’re applying the most of your effort is where you need to be. Become an expert at something and THEN follow your dreams. First do what you have to do, then do what you WANT to do.
Q: What’s your favorite thing off the menu?
A: I’m a fish taco man at heart, there’s no doubt about it. But the surf and turf burrito is awesome. And I love the burger. I don’t really eat a lot of meat, but if I really need a burger, I come down and get one.
Q: What is something you want everyone to know about your establishment that they might not know already?
A: One thing we talk a lot about, and we’re really proud of, is how deeply we engage the community. From the very first day we opened in Orleans, we started our GUAPO’S GIVES program—and that wasn’t easy, because we didn’t have anything to give! Every year our goal is to raise $20,000 for local non-profits, and we beat it every year. That makes me proud because that’s money that a lot of operators wouldn’t want to part with—but to me, that’s the most important money to part with. You have to support and give back to your local community—and if one other business did it because they saw us do it, it’s a win.
Thank you for taking the time to meet with us, Kyle. We wish you and your wife, Danna, continued success in the upcoming years!