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COVID-19 final financial blow to 46-year-old Wichita restaurant

Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 10:49 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Over the last few months, COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on some local businesses. The latest feeling the effects of the pandemic is Chico’s, a family-run Mexican restaurant that’s been in Wichita for nearly 50 years.

“We’ve worked so hard for so many years and one thing after another happens with construction and finances, if we were paid off and good to go we could handle this,” said owner Lupita Cordova Fernandez. “But mom and pop’s places aren’t hitting anymore and COVID put the icing on the cake.”

Fernandez took over running the family restaurant in 1999. Chico’s has been in Wichita since her parents and grandparents opened a small shop in 1974.

“That’s all I’ve know,” said Fernandez. “This has always been grandpa and dad’s dream and I’m third generation and I wanted to keep it going.”

But after 46 years, on Saturday, a for-sale sign went up outside.

“We didn’t think we’d have to go through this,” she said.

Fernandez said even after years of financial difficulties due to decreased traffic around Towne West Mall, selling the restaurant is a decision she never thought she’d have to make.

“The pandemic happened and we were closed for a little, we were only allowed so much percentage of people in, we had to space tables and skip every other table,” said Fernandez. “Loan payments are still there and we had to borrow a big chunk of money to open here.”

The family built the maple location in 2007, after Fernandez said they were forced to close their two other restaurants due to the construction of Kellogg and I-35.

Fernandez runs the front of the restaurant, and her 74-year-old dad runs the kitchen.

“We owe a lot of money and if we didn’t we would be fine with continuing to work and doing what we need to do,” she said. “This pandemic made it so that every day we don’t know what’s going to happen or if we will be busy.”

Ultimately, Fernandez said not knowing what the future will look like forced her to sell the restaurant, but she hopes she can find another way to keep her dad’s dream alive.

“I wanted to keep it going and keep his dreams alive, if it’s something me and him can handle, we will get something smaller.”

The restaurant will continue to operate with limited hours until it sells. Chico’s is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 5 to 7 p.m. Fridays for dinner.

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