A La Mexicana opening diner in Raymond…finally

DINER SHINES WITH PROMISE — The well-known restaurant in Raymond, A La Mexicana, will be reopening in a new building sometime in October. The original building was destroyed in a fire in 2017; and a second A La Mexicana opened in Bridgton this spring. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

RAYMOND — The reopening of a local restaurant is a tale of paying it forward.

Jose Chavez lost his Raymond-based restaurant, A La Mexicana, in a fire last year, and the community rallied around him. The landowner purchased a mobile food trailer so that he could continue working while reconstruction took place. An old-fashioned diner was delivered in sections from Ohio this winter, but progress on getting that up and running was delayed. In the meantime, Chavez opened a second restaurant in the former Beef & Ski building in Bridgton and continued to work out of the food trailer in Raymond.

Now, the days are counting down until a La Mexicana reopens in Raymond. It is likely that customers will be able to walk through the door of the diner sometime this month.

Chavez is happy, excited and relieved to start working inside a full-size restaurant again. Thankful is how he feels about the community in which he lives.

“The only words I learn from everybody, they say, ‘We are here for you.’ That makes me so happy,” Chavez said.

“After all their support, when I open my restaurant, I can say I am there for them, too,” he said.

“It has been a little bit hard being patient. I am just getting excited to be inside, not outside like I am now in the food trailer,” he said. “My customers — they want to see it and enjoy it, have a drink or something.”

Before folks can order a drink, before the restaurant can reopen, the liquor license needs to be in order. The liquor license is the last thing on a long check list for Chavez.

“I am waiting pretty much on a liquor license from the Town of Raymond and the state both,” he said. “The Raymond selectmen meeting is next Tuesday. Next Tuesday is going to be the meeting and I can get the liquor license.”

“I am feeling great, happy. Now, I have a job. I have work. I’ve always got to work. This one is 100 percent. I can work now the way I used to work,” he said.

“Yes, I will have a grand opening. I am not sure what day. First, they approve the license and I can choose what day” the grand opening will be, he said.

Chavez said he plans to hire six or seven more people for a variety of positions at the Raymond location.

“Now, I will be in two towns,” he said.

His sister-in-law, Jerica Chavez works at the Bridgton location with her husband.

Opening the restaurant in the new building in Raymond will be “a big deal for our customers,” she said. “He had a lot of customers and supporters. They felt let down when it burned down. And he didn’t want to let them down (by not rebuilding.) The Raymond location was the original.”

“At least 10 customers a day ask, ‘When is Raymond going to open?’ I think it will be really great when it opens. The customers are going, ‘finally, finally,’ ” Jerica said.

“I think it is going to draw a crowd,” she said.

Jerica visited the Raymond restaurant on Sunday to see what had been done to improve it, both inside and in the courtyard.

“It has the retro feel inside with sparkly booths. He hung some gold label records as well as Mexican décor. He mixed, intertwined both themes together. They made a beautiful patio. It is a large area. They paved it. There is a ramp and steps down to the patio. There are beautiful lights; it will look great lit up at night. They put some plants in the front,” she said.

The loss of the restaurant in Raymond was an impetus for opening a second place in Bridgton — something the whole family has discovered was a godsend.

“Bridgton is incredible. I couldn’t be happier to be part of the community. We have so many customers, regulars, since we opened in May, about four months ago,” she said.

“It feels really good to be part of Bridgton. My son goes to the school, and the principal said to him, ‘You have the best Mexican food in Bridgton.’ To get those types of comments: We are doing something right,” Jerica said.

Everyone hopes that the opening date is soon.

“Jose is hoping for the 15th of October. I hope so. It should be before the end of the month,” she said.

“I am really rooting for him. He doesn’t want to let the customers down. That is really important to him,” she said. “To see my brother-in-law smile is great. For him, it has been a really long time coming. It’s been a year and a half.”

“He has a really big heart. He opened here, and he said to us, ‘Take charge of this one. This is for you,” Jerica said. “He has a big heart. He loves people. He loves what he does, and he loves making people happy with food.”

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