OGDEN -- Last month, Javier Chavez, owner of Javier's Authentic Mexican Restaurants, celebrated 20 years of being a restaurateur and local success story.
"It seems like it was only yesterday," Chavez says. "So many things have happened."
Through that time, people always ask him, "What is the secret to your success?"
"That is the question, isn't it?" Chavez says with a smile from behind the desk in his office at his Harrison Boulevard location.
A bit of luck, prayer, hard work, trial and error, blessings from above and more hard work have allowed Chavez to be in business for two decades with six restaurants and a recently opened seventh location at 1050 Shepard Lane in Farmington. The new location is doing well so far, he says.
Chavez has several ideas on how he has managed to succeed, including providing every customer with a quality meal every time.
"It is faith and consistency," Chavez says. "We have to be confident that good things will happen."
Even through the tough economy, the community has supported him and his business, and although he feels blessed, Chavez says, there have been many obstacles along the way.
In January, a fire started in the kitchen of his Harrisville location, around the same time that he had to return to Mexico for his father's funeral. He says he plans to reopen the location on May 5.
But long before he was an entrepreneur, Chavez was just a farm boy in the poor village of Zoquite, Zacatecas, Mexico.
He says his family worked from sunup to sundown on the small ranch, but his father instilled in him and his siblings the value of education.
When Chavez got older, he studied to be a civil engineer and became a track star, earning the title of national champion of Mexico in the 1500-meter run. Despite his success on the track, the Mexican Olympic Committee did not select him to represent the country in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
He says he was hurt by the decision and accepted an athletic scholarship to Weber State University in 1977, where he studied computer science.
Chavez says he came here with no money and did not speak any English. The transition to the new country was hard at first, but he endured. Within a year, he married and soon had his first son. Although a college scholarship supported him, he had two other mouths to feed.
He worked many jobs, including picking cherries in the summer, but mostly in kitchens, first as a dishwasher, then as a cook.
After more than 10 years of kitchen duty, he saw an opportunity when the owner of Chaparro's on 29th Street decided to close.
Chavez offered to take over the restaurant and gave him a down payment of $1,000. Chavez continued to give him $1,000 a month until he bought the restaurant. Within a year of taking over, he changed the name to Javier's.
Fast forward 20 years and the single Mexican restaurant has expanded across the valley. After years serving mainly Ogden, Chavez sees expansion opportunities in Northern Utah.
Through that time, Chavez has kept many of the same employees. He maintains consistency with each restaurant by alternating employees between locations, depending on need.
He encourages the employees to bring their families to work, so parents can keep an eye on their children. Chavez's own children all have had to work at the restaurants so they could earn their own money.
The family does not limit itself to work. The family is active in their church, athletics still play a major role and, like his father, Chavez maintains a high value on education, an example he hopes other Latinos follow.
Such a schedule is hard, Chavez admits, but it can be done.
Now with the children all grown, Chavez and his wife will soon have an empty house. He is happy for all his blessings and the support he has received from the community.
"If God says, 'OK, Javier that's it, it is over,' and takes everything away, I'm fine with that."