Roger Zamora ran his restaurant, Los Compadres, in Valdese for just two years before deciding to open his next location.
His restaurant had taken off, drawing customers from all over — Marion, Statesville, Lenoir and Hickory. The last city is where he decided to expand.
The Los Compadres location in Hickory celebrated its grand opening in August, a year after Zamora and his wife Donna first considered opening another location.
For Roger Zamora, it was a challenge he wanted to face. “I wanted to prove myself,” he said. “Some said we weren’t ready, but we did it.”
The new restaurant has the same core menu as the Valdese restaurant, Donna Zamora said. “People love the food. They say they’ve never had anything so good,” she said.
Roger and Donna said they both gained their first work experience in restaurants. They owned a restaurant and bar in Mexico and have the drive to bring their love of restaurants to others. But what really attracts them to the restaurant business is the community they’ve created.
Their employees are like family — and often, they are family by blood and marriage. Their customers start as strangers and end up friends, Donna said.
The support of customers, employees and family pushed the new Hickory location forward as the Zamoras worked to build the restaurant from the shell of the space they moved into. The empty space in the St. Stephens Village shopping center — the same shopping center that is home to a Walmart Neighborhood Market — posed a challenge, but it also allowed the Zamoras to make it exactly what they wanted, Roger said.
“I like to go to bars and restaurants that I feel comfortable in,” he said.
So he took the aspects he enjoyed and put them in his restaurant, he said.
The ceiling is high, open and painted black, which gives it a modern, industrial look. The bar is long, with a granite top and stone siding that allows for plenty of seating. High-top tables transition to booths, then low tables filling the large room.
Orange and purple walls are bright and inviting. Two pieces of Mexican art, painted by a student, hang at each end of the restaurant.
The process of opening the restaurant took time, and was delayed by COVID-19, Roger said.
Finally having the place open and running after a year of stress was a relief, he said.
The couple still spend much of their time at the Valdese restaurant, while the Hickory location is operated by Alex Hernandez, Donna said.
The team hopes for as many hungry patrons at the new restaurant as it sees in Valdese, Donna said.
“We’re hoping to see the same thing here,” she said. “If it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen.”