SELMA – Looking forward to Sept. 16, 26-year-old Salvador Salazar says he feels blessed.
As the grandson and namesake of his grandfather, who first built a humble shed made from scrap wood to start his own restaurant, Salazar says he’s only now realizing all the hard work it took for the business to achieve what it has as the restaurant approaches its 75th anniversary.
“We were celebrating 50 years when we were kids," he said. "Looking back, it was a big celebration but we didn’t think much of it. But now, after seeing all that hard work that my father and my aunt’s put in, and all the stories we hear all the time, it’s just the cherry on top. It’s awesome and we feel blessed.”
Sal’s Mexican Restaurant is celebrating nearly a century in business with a day’s worth of mariachi music, folklorico dancers and, of course, traditional Mexican food.
“We’ve been here for 75 years. I feel like Sal’s is very important to Selma. I’ve always felt like that,” Salazar said.
Plans for the celebration include closing down Skelton and Park streets. There will be live entertainment provided by Trio Sensacion from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Centro de Folklorico from 1 to 2 p.m. and Mariachi De La Tierra from 3 to 5 p.m. Family games and activities will be provided by local nonprofits. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.
Salazar invites newcomers, visitors and long-time Selmans to the event.
“Everyone that’s new to Selma, or if you’ve been living in Selma forever, come and be a part of our town’s history," he said. "This is going to go down in the books. When you look at the City of Selma, I hope Sal’s is always brought up. We’ll be cooking street tacos on the side and then we’ll be getting ready for that Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez fight for all the other customers, so it’ll be a very busy day.”
Sal’s Mexican Restaurant first started when Sal Salazar decided to quit being a peach picker. With $25 worth of wood for a planned chicken coup, Salazar instead decided to build his own taco shed, named Sal's Place.
On their company’s website, Sal Salazar is quoted to contribute his success to quality cooking.
“I make Mexican food like Mexican families cook at home,” he said.
Since then, Sal's has burgeoned into a local empire, with restaurants in Fresno and Madera besides just Selma.
Sal and his wife Eleanor grew the business and today, his adult children Karl and Lorraine run the company. And now, the grandchildren are starting to contribute to the restaurants’ success.
Salazar has been working at the family restaurant for 11 years and is now the Selma location’s kitchen manager. While he said that he and his brother Roman were born with advantages, he's also grateful they were brought up with a strict work ethic.
“Were we born with a silver spoon? Yes, we were," Salazar said. "We got to enjoy a good life, but our father has that old-school Mexican mentality that my grandfather had. You want this new toy or video game? You’re going to go work for it and peel chilis."
He’s already looking forward to when the restaurant reaches its 100th anniversary, too.
“When it’s the 100-year anniversary, my plan is to do a celebration in the morning, close in the evening and invite every past and current employee and have a big party for them," Salazar said. "They’re part of it, too. That’s my plan.”