Diego Cervantes describes the classic American story.
Born in Mexico, Cervantes and his family immigrated when he was 10 years old.
At age 19 he started working in a Bolingbrook pizza place a few hours a week.
Now, at age 29, Cervantes and partner Luis Montes own their own place, Chicago Pizza Authority, branching out from an Elgin restaurant Montes formerly worked at to expand the brand to Hoffman Estates and, on Aug. 23, Northbrook.
The immigrant who started out washing dishes has become an entrepreneur. No longer the employee, he's now the employer.
Not bad for a kid who couldn't speak English when he arrived in this country. Now he's fluent in three languages: English, Spanish and business.
Like I said, the classic American story.
"Ten years later, here we are," he said with a lot of pride and a just hint of his native tongue in his voice.
It didn't just happen, of course. It took time and hard work. Cervantes never went to college. His education came on the job. He learned from other store owners and store managers he worked for along the way.
"It definitely takes a lot of hard work," Cervantes said. " ... Since 19, I've worked a lot of in the business, in the industry. I've always had a set goal in mind that I wanted to own one of these places and I saw the potential in the business."
He doesn't intend to stop here. He and Montes hope to continue to expand the brand.
"We for sure want to continue expanding, but for now the focus is on Northbrook and just making sure we are where we want to be there first," he said.
Cervantes and Montes also might consider expanding the Hoffman Estates and Northbrook restaurants, which without seating allow only for takeout and delivery orders.
Ironically, Cervantes said he's never considered opening a Mexican restaurant. It makes sense considering his professional experience.
"To be honest with you, I'm probably more familiar with cooking Italian food by now than I am cooking Mexican food because of the fact that that's where I worked the last 10 years," he said. "Before that I wasn't much of a cook myself. Whatever I learned as far as cooking was at the kitchen at work. I always put it on my list that I need to learn to make the dishes that my mom makes, but I never have taken the time to do that."
He and Montes did take the time, however, to think of being good neighbors in their new community. They pledged 50% of their opening-day profits to the Northbrook-based Hunger Resource Network.
Maybe one of the beneficiaries of that money will be able to work themselves to the top also.
"I always knew I had to work hard to be able to do that and spent most of my 20s doing that, working to be able to open up a business and always had that mentality in mind of one day you're going to have your own business and expand it," Cervantes said. "Obviously, it's happening now, and there's still a lot more to do and more things to accomplish, but so far I think we're headed in the right direction."
Suburban office space update
Companies looking for office space in the suburbs have a growing number of options.
According to a report from Chicago-based commercial real estate research firm Savills, "Suburban Chicago's overall market dynamics continued to exhibit weakness in the second quarter, with availability increasing by 80 basis points to 31.2%, and marking the sixth consecutive quarter in which available options have increased."
However, Savills noted, rents remained fairly steady. And Savills predicts leasing will pick up in the second half of 2021 as businesses figure out how they will return to the office.
Four of the top five leases Savills reported in the first half of 2021 were in DuPage County.
Downers Grove was particularly active, with three notable transactions: PDV Midwest Refining's 42,149-square-foot facility; Oak Street Health's 41,429-square-foot transaction; and Professional Wealth Advisors' 28,587-square-foot deal. All three leases are on Warrenville Road. Assured Partners leased 39,600 square feet in Warrenville.
Rosemont saw the biggest deal, with Lakeshore Recycling leasing 48,421 square feet.
All told Savills reported 1.1 million square feet of leases in the first half of the year, the most since the pandemic started in March 2020. Still, that's well below the long-term average.