Last Thursday, Elizabeth Guerrero and David Doyle finalized their purchase of the historic Taylor Court Grocery property. The pair own the La Osita PDX food cart located on 122nd Avenue near Market street. After renovating their newly acquired storefront at 1135 SE 80th Avenue, they will sell the cart and relocate their Mexican restaurant and coffee house to the Montavilla location.
La Osita PDX opened in a small food cart in January of 2018 after Guerrero and Doyle noticed a lack of a good breakfast location near their home in east Portland. The partners bought the cart from a friend and found space on 122nd in the parking lot of the Plaza 122 building. Combining a shared food service background and recipes inspired by Elizabeth Guerrero’s Mexican heritage, the partners brought Coffee and their unique brunch/lunch menu to an underserved area.
At first, the parking lot space was ill-equipped for carts, and they had to run their operation from a generator secured in a nearby cage. The location received strong community support, and business picked up throughout the year. However, before making their first anniversary, someone stole the generator and shut down the business. Fortunately, the building owners saw the value in the cart’s continued operation and allowed the installation of a dedicated electrical hookup.
Business continued to grow, and they eventually upgraded to a larger cart. Unfortunately, the theft of critical equipment continued, prompting the group to consider a more permanent solution and give up the cart life. “Being a cart in Portland is kind of a bummer. You’re really exposed, and people think nothing of just stealing whatever they can off your cart that’s critical to opening up your store each day,” explained David Doyle.
Doyle expressed that remaining in their current community was a primary goal for the move. “A lot of the businesses on [122nd Avenue] come for lunch, and that’s a big part of the business.” However, searching for a suitable small brick-and-mortar location near the cart proved challenging for Guerrero and Doyle. An expanded search surfaced the Taylor Court Grocery, and they instantly saw the potential in the 100-year-old retail space. Although three miles from the original location, they hope customers will follow them to SE 80th Avenue.
In December, Guerrero and Doyle applied for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan and worked through the challenging process of acquiring the Montavilla property. The deal includes both the storefront and single-family home on a shared lot. To make the finances work, the new owners will need to rent out the house on the property. They are considering many options, including a childcare facility.
The grocery store building will require substantial renovations to transition into a restaurant. It will start with some sizeable deferred maintenance projects. “The storefront, we just wanna get it stable,” said Doyle. “We don’t know the extent of damage, but it looks like the roof needs a repair or replacement.” Once crews repair the outer shell, work will focus on the inside of the building. Contractors will add a commercial kitchen to the back of the building and an ADA-compliant bathroom. The new owners expect a large number of customers will take their meals to go. Consequentially, they will use a counter-service layout for the restaurant with customer seating upfront.
Guerrero and Doyle plan to refresh the street-facing appearance of the storefront but maintain the historic appearance, including the Taylor Ct Grocery sign. “We love that sign. It almost feels like a shame to cover up the Taylor Court grocery part of it, but we’re thinking we’re going to refinish it,” said Doyle. After repairing and weatherizing the sign, they will repaint it with the restaurant’s name but maintain its original shape.
La Osita PDX offers an extensive menu from the cart, and the team does not feel they are missing many options. However, staff will grow the selection slightly after the move while keeping all of the favorite to-go friendly dishes. Guerrero plans to add Aguas Frescas and horchata to the drink offerings, with traditional Mexican pastries to balance out the savory options. Elizabeth Guerrero and her sister Maria Guerrero run the restaurant, with Maria playing a critical component in kitchen operations. They both are thrilled to move out of the cart and into the larger space. With the number of customers they serve and the size of the menu, space was always the constraining factor for La Osita PDX.
Much like the previous owners of Taylor Court Grocery, Mel Hafsos and Errol Carlson, La Osita PDX is a family business wanting to serve the community. Look for construction to begin within the next few months and check for updates on the company’s Instagram page. Until the restaurant opens later this year, Elizabeth Guerrero and David Doyle encourage you to visit the cart on 122nd Avenue to explore the menu.