Espo’s is run by Leon Espinoza, Olga and David’s son. Leon began working at the restaurant when he was 13 or 14, he said, and took over operations nearly 40 years ago.
“I was cleaning grease traps and picking up trash in the parking lot and helping my mom cook,” he said. “My father said to me that he wanted me to know everything about every aspect of the business.”
Leon said he would not change any of the work he did as a kid; he said it made him who he is today.
“I am my parents’ child,” he said.
Espo’s Mexican Food is best known for its green chili, and Leon said patrons of the restaurant who do not live locally will ask him to ship it to them. He said they are shipping their green chili across the U.S., but the restaurant thrives off of regulars.
“I’ve seen generations of customers and employees; I’ve seen four generations of a family come through here,” he said. “My mother and father always said we have to give back to our community, and they really wanted a place where we were able to give back to our community. They were all about supporting the barrio.”
Leon said he has grown with the restaurant as time has passed and learned to appreciate the lessons his parents taught over the many years they worked together.
“Everything Espo’s is today is because of them,” he said. “I am lucky enough to carry on their legacy.”
David and Olga have both died, but Leon said he knows they are with him whenever he is in the restaurant alone.
“My favorite time of the day is when I am in here all by myself and everything is quiet,” Leon said. “I’ll feel them here with me. Like a tap on my shoulder saying, ‘You’re doing good, kid.’”