When Eric Guzman’s brother Jesús asked him to move from Chicago to Maine to open a restaurant, Eric responded, “Where’s Maine?” After researching online and seeing images of Acadia National Park, he agreed to take a chance on the new restaurant. Today, Las Palapas Mexican Restaurant in Bangor is a true family affair. Eric’s wife, Anaberta, his cousin, and his brother are among the staff of twenty-five family and friends, most of whom come from the same small town in Jalisco, Mexico. After four successful years in business, the family is opening a new location in Brewer this summer.
Even after all his accomplishments in the United States, Eric still reminisces about life in Mexico. He was born in California but his family longed to return home. They moved to Mexico when Eric was a kid, and as a teenager he worked with his father’s heavy machinery business. His parents are still happily rooted in Mexico, visiting their children in the U.S. a few times a year. Eric’s mother even puts in a few shifts at the restaurant when she’s in Maine. Thanks to the success at Las Palapas, Eric and Anaberta take a few weeks off each year to visit family in Mexico.
“Everybody wishes they could be there, but realistically it’s hard,”
Eric described his relationship with Mexico. To ease the homesickness, he stockpiles Mexican sweets and breads whenever he visits big cities like Boston. While there is a small Hispanic community in the Bangor area, it can be hard to make connections when working long hours at the restaurant. Eric explained that many new employees find it challenging to feel disconnected from their culture and community, while others relish in the simplicity and quietness of Maine.
For Eric, the key to success in Bangor simply lies in your attitude and work ethic, which was instilled in him by his father. Now, Eric tries to pass on the same lessons to his own employees. His advice? Work hard, do your best, and try to help others, because one day you’ll need help too.
Visit Las Palapas at 8 Bangor Mall Blvd in Bangor.