After two decades in the restaurant game, Fe Montalvo has found success with El Azteca in Fox Valley.
Montalvo was highlighted in the Entrepreneurs of Color Spotlight series, which highlights entrepreneurs of color to empower and support their businesses. It is brought to you by the Appleton Public Library, ColorBold Business Association and UW-Madison Division of Extension.
Montalvo came to the United States in 1990 to attend school. She started in El Paso, TX and eventually moved to Nashville, TN where she started to work at a Tex-mex restaurant franchise. She met her husband, who managed the chain and constantly moved around for its new openings. After they had their first two children, and with their growing interest in restaurants, the couple started El Azteca in Fox Valley in 1998.
“When we married and had our first two kids, we decided we wanted to do it on our own instead of opening restaurants for somebody else,” Montalvo said. “We were just driving, and we got into Appleton, where our first location is on Northland Avenue, and that’s how we started with the business.”
The last location the Montalvos worked for the chain was in Davenport, IA. Inspiration to start their own restaurant found them in Appleton. They found difficulties in starting out, but after six years, the Montalvos were able to open another location. The success continued and now they own three restaurants in the Fox Valley area.
From the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey, Montalvo enjoys the customers the most. The overall atmosphere of restaurants drives her, but her pride is the kitchen. She and her husband craft a new menu every year inspired by the food they grew up eating, but perfecting it is a family venture.
“When we began, my mom helped me a lot and my sisters too. They helped me with some salsas, recipes, to try and do it a little more Mexico, because the restaurant we used to work at was more Tex-Mex,” Montalvo said. “My son, all of them help me, they have their own careers, but when they have some free time… they come and help us. It’s a family restaurant.”
Like many entrepreneurs, Montalvo tells people that the most difficult thing is to start. She found the start to be a challenge, but she credits her success to discipline and perseverance.
El Azteca has three locations in the Fox Valley area. Two in Appleton and one in Neenah. Its hours are 11:00-9:00 pm. Monday-Saturday and 11:00-8:00 pm on Sundays.