When I lived by the California-Mexico border, it was common for my family to regularly find our way to the nearest taco truck and indulge in a California burrito, carnitas taco, or the classic carne asada burrito – depending on our mood. My three siblings, two cousins, and I ate tacos and burritos once a week usually after a night out. We’d enjoy the tacos and burritos at the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego, the tacos and Corona deal at a bar on Garnett Street in Pacific Beach, and after winning our softball games at the Santee Sportsplex.
After being away from our CNMI home for nearly a decade, we all moved back after obtaining our degrees. Enjoying authentic Mexican cuisine and street food is a priceless experience that we hoped to introduce to the CNMI. When we returned, we had a plan to give back to the community and help out in the engineering, education, culinary, and medical fields. Moving back also meant longing for our Mexican food fix late at night. As we searched for something authentic, we were unsuccessful. This propelled us to make them for ourselves and for those who had similar cravings for authentic burritos or tacos.
In February 2016, we began introducing our products to our family and friends through taste tests to get their feedback on the flavors and how we could improve our dishes. It eventually got to the point where we didn’t need to change anything, and a couple of months later, we found ourselves selling tacos and burritos during the 2016 CNMI Liberation Day. We could not do it without the support from our community and local businesses that helped to bring in the ingredients that we needed to make our authentic Mexican street-style burritos and tacos.
We started as a true grassroots business. We used our funds and household equipment and invested our time into our dreams of owning a taco and burrito shop. My siblings, cousins, and I founded The Hill LLC in 2020. We signed a contract immediately before the CNMI's islandwide shutdown at the start of the pandemic.
We had no choice but to proceed and did not anticipate the hardships we’d face. Still, we were determined to move forward and applied for our permit under The Hut. We put on our construction hats and got to work on the little space we had and what would ultimately represent what The Hut is to us.
We are grateful for the community’s support of our business, and in return, we do all we can to support the community and the CNMI’s economic growth. We have given out gift certificates to various nonprofit organizations and secondary schools, and we have given sponsorships where we were financially able to. We have also participated in some of the beach cleanups spearheaded by other companies and have given sponsorships to two candidates who competed for Miss Marianas 2021. As our business grows, we would also like to grow our participation and contributions to the community.
In addition to contributing through monthly taxes, we continue to do our best to hire locally. We believe in training our staff to ensure that we provide the best service and a welcoming experience to our customers so they can feel the Håfa Adai and Tirow spirit. At The Hut, we greet our customers with a smile, and we hope that our international customers will recommend us and the CNMI to their friends and family when they return to their countries. We believe that our contribution to the CNMI economy is the combined value of The Hut -- ensuring a friendly staff, extending an unforgettable welcome experience, and serving up mouthwatering Mexican food as a great dining option on our diverse island.
We didn't have a business mentor, let alone one in the food industry, who could advise us on how to run a successful restaurant. This made things even more difficult because we had to learn the hard way when we made mistakes. Back then, the only thing we knew how to do was make an authentic burrito. We've learned and grown a lot since then, and we still have a lot more to discover. Looking back on how far we've come from having a dream of being able to invite anyone and everyone to our restaurant is a proud achievement.
To the people of the CNMI, we thank you and humbly ask for your continued support for all local businesses. We love to see our community promote local businesses by using social media or even traditional news media to spread positive messages. The same positive messages will be seen by our visitors such as tourists, foreign delegates, and so on; this makes you a contributor to the CNMI’s economic growth as well. The cumulative effect of circulating positive support for every one of us will hopefully bring us all together as one CNMI and attract more visitors from the rest of the world to the Marianas.
To my siblings and cousins, Monique Deleon Guerrero, Larry Deleon Guerrero, Pedro Deleon Guerrero, Inas Hocog, and Joshua Villagomez, I am so proud of us! We made this dream of ours a reality.
From providing us with a place to test and refine our recipes to selling the finished goods, our community has been tremendously helpful. We owe this success to you all and hope that you continue to stick with us through this journey.
Lastly, to the people of the CNMI, si yu’us ma’åse, ghilisow, maraming salamat po, and thank you! We have been resilient through these tough times to keep our operations going but without the support of the people of the CNMI, we would not be here today. Together, We Can!
By Weston Deleon Guerrero