Behind the cash register at San Marcos Mexican restaurant Don Lorenzo is a framed picture with the words “When life gets too hard to stand … kneel.”
The picture holds special meaning for Shirley De Leon, who said she never planned to own the restaurant her mother and father started from a small house on Alamo Street in San Marcos in the 1980s.
“Sometimes you don’t know where life is going to take you,” De Leon said. “When I was young, we planned retirement. ‘At this point the kids are in college, at this point we finish paying for college, and at this point and at this point, and all of that.’ Well none of that [happened] because I ended up with cancer, and I ended up with all kinds of stuff.”
It was not until 2012, when she was nearing retirement from Hays CISD, that her father was at risk of losing the restaurant he and de Leon’s mother had built from scratch.
De Leon used her savings to keep the restaurant afloat and in the family. After stepping in with the loan, she took over management and ownership from her father.
Since then, she has worked to make the restaurant her own, she said.
One of the first changes de Leon made when she took over the restaurant was to ease the rules her father had enforced. First, the restaurant serves breakfast and lunch all day. De Leon said it was important to her that people who are getting off an all-night shift are able to order what would be their lunch or dinner in the early hours of the day.
“You come in at 5 in the morning, you want enchiladas—you know what I’m serving you?” De Leon said. “I’m serving you the enchiladas you want. If it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon and I’m about to close and you want bacon and eggs, you’re going to get bacon and eggs.”
The second rule de Leon said she happily breaks now is a prohibition on allowing customers who come in alone to sit at one of the restaurant’s large tables rather than a two-seater. Instead, De Leon said customers should be able to choose where to sit.
“When you walk in, I want you to feel like you’re walking into your grandma’s house,” she said.