The Herrera Family of El Ranchito, from left to right: Maria, Rogelio, Alejandra, and Miriam.
Sometimes the best way to make a dream come true is to tell it to the world. El Ranchito, a new family-owned taqueria at 1275 Brown Road in Columbus, knows this well. The family dream, with a little help from some custom signs by Identity Systems (and some great support from our friends at Laird Plastics), has come true in big ways this year.
El Ranchito caught my eye from the road one midday last fall. Formerly the The Breakfast Barn, the familiar red building (and tired Breakfast Barn sign) sat there, unmarked yet beckoning customers with an "OPEN" sign blazing in the window. What had the building become? A retired yellow taco truck at the rear suggested something hopeful; had my workplace neighborhood hatched an authentic taqueria?
It sure had. As I got to know the Herrera family, I learned a few things. El Ranchito is the result of hard work by founder Rogelio Herrera, his wife Maria, and their daughters Miriam and Alejandra. Rogelio, a kindly man who bustles tirelessly over his grill, came from Michoacán, Mexico many years ago. He spent time working at restaurants in both countries and carried authentic family and regional recipes with him through all of his kitcken experiences. After starting a family in California, Rogelio transplanted to Columbus, Ohio about 13 years ago for work. As time passed, the Herreras saved diligently and planned. And planned. Miriam, the cheery spokesperson of the family, explained the plan. "Our family is all partners. We have worked together to create El Ranchito as a restaurant that delivers authentic taqueria-style food at a good price, offering delicious, home-made Mexican food essentials like tacos, burritos, tortas, that kind of thing, plus traditional specialties. Soups like menudo, pozole, and birria [a stew]. We want to make the sort of food that we eat ourselves, authentic stuff."
El Ranchito opened on November 10th, 2014. On a given day, Rogelio can be found cranking out surprisingly elegant Mexican food creations from El Ranchito’s shiny new kitchen. His wife Maria makes her rounds through the cozy, colorful and distinctly West-Coast influenced dining area while sisters Miriam and Alejandra handle the counter and much of the service. There's a fresh sense of pride in this family operation; they worked hard, and they work hard. Decor is light, the business is young, but the spirit and food deliver as well as any established Columbus favorite. The flavors, easy on the heat, hold their own against the quality and taqueria soul I crave from San Francisco spots like El Farolito and Cancun. But food and service aside, this place still needed something: Signs.
To be fair, The Herrera family was already on the ball; signs were an upcoming move in their strategy but the family hadn’t decided yet how to proceed. What size, what colors? Logo? What statement? Between bites of a burrito with lime, it hit me. Identity Systems, my employer, is a world class sign manufacturer. Granted, we typical serve international retailers with high-volume name tags and custom signage, but both organizations are family businesses, both work hard at what they do, and one of us serves delicious tacos. Back to Identity Systems I went. A quick meeting with our founders and it was decided; Identity Systems would first produce a logo that embodies the family and food spirit of the El Ranchito. We would then construct a custom two-sided, backlit sign to replace the dilapidated Breakfast Barn roadside sign installation. For the sake of time, resource conservation, and cost savings we would reuse what we could of the existing signs and get a quality unit up and running as quickly as possible.
The duct tape says it's time to make a change.
While the existing Breakfast Barn sign's steel pole and backlighting were deemed functional (with some fast repairs by some friends of the Herreras), the large plastic sign inserts themselves were too faded and worn for re-use. Our purchasing agent Les Burchett quickly reached out to Columbus, Ohio plastics distributor Laird Plastics with the material request. As a longtime partner of Identity Systems, Laird generously contributed materials to the project by providing two ~6 x 8 foot sheets of high-quality white acrylic, suitable for years of backlit outdoor application. I designed the El Ranchito logo, and our art director Terry Davidson plotted the UV-resistant vinyl art, then painstakingly applied it to the acrylic. This resulted in four separate panels for El Ranchito's single two-sided sign.
The El Ranchito staff with their new backlit sign, listing standard taqueria fare and house specialties.
More good news was on the way. Local Columbus awning manufacturer Capital City Awning had already been commissioned by El Ranchito to produce a canvas awning and was more than happy to integrate our newly designed El Ranchito logo into their product. Great timing. The Identity Systems sign and Capital City awning were coincidentally delivered and installed within a day of each other, and the effort was a very effective combination of commercial work and goodwill offering by Columbus businesses. How effective?
"Our business has grown by 50% since the Identity Systems signs were installed," said Miriam Herrera. "It's so great. We are so happy with you guys, we don't know what to say. Thank you so much for everything; the sign has really helped our business and made such a difference." Now one might suggest that any signage is an improvement over no signs at all (true), or that spring thaw made a difference (also true), but that's not the point. The real point is this- Teamwork is amazing, especially when it's spontaneous, unexpected, and supports something fresh and cultural in your community. Our team at Identity Systems was thrilled to help this neighborhood startup. It gave us this article, but more importantly, it made a difference in [another] family business in Columbus. The success of quality custom signage isn't shocking, but the value of this collaboration remains all the same. For Identity Systems, extending our hand to this family taqueria was a fun and friendly experience, just like a lunch-time visit to El Ranchito.
Visit El Ranchito on Facebook at http://ow.ly/LIiVK and at 1275 Brown Road in Columbus (near the I-71 @ Greenlawn).
You can see why we wanted to help El Ranchito build their brand.