All Things Pasta for This Immigrant Business Owner

Situation:

  • Lesme Romero came to the U.S. from Venezuela to continue his education. He met Reinaldo Gonzalez in college. With similar backgrounds, they became friends and roommates. They cooked together, often making pasta. After college, they went separate ways but stayed in touch.
  • During a visit, Lesme and Reinaldo, who had become a chef, decided to launch a pasta business called EZ Foods, Inc. in Lexington, KY. The original location was a one-car garage. They quickly outgrew the space and relocated to a small street-level retail site with a tiny manufacturing center in the basement to produce pasta.
  • Their first order was for 20 pounds of pasta and took 20 hours to make. The countertop pasta machine they purchased was insufficient for the orders.

Solution: How the SBA helped: 

  • In 2013, the owners contacted the Lexington SBDC for assistance. The SBDC helped them streamline production and develop a business plan to expand into related businesses in three phases. That resulted in a small loan to purchase a 10,000 square foot warehouse and improve operations.
  • With that assistance, EZ Foods was able to increase production to 1,000 pounds of pasta weekly. Accounts now include restaurants, farmer’s markets, grocery store chains and food distributors in the region (Phase I).
  • In 2014, EZ Foods contacted the SBDC for assistance in refinancing debt and obtained a $200,000 SBA loan.
  • They again met with the SBDC in 2017 to determine long term goals. That discussion led to the decision to consolidate efforts in their current location instead of relocating to a large commercial development.

Successful Impact/Outcome:

  • Lesme, who bought out his partner Reinaldo, has since opened a bodega, a restaurant and a special events venue (Phase II). All of these businesses are co-located in the same warehouse space purchased in 2013.
  • Lesme teaches cooking classes and has developed a commercial kitchen and food incubator that houses up to 10 other small food service businesses (Phase (III). The businesses now occupy the entire warehouse space.
  • Living the American Dream, Lesme Romero is now a U.S. citizen. He owns four businesses and employees 15, up from two.
  • Lesme supports the Lexington area community, giving back by serving on numerous nonprofit social service boards. 
  • Lesme is the SBA 2018 Kentucky District Office Small Business Person of the Year.
Company Name: 
EZ Foods, Inc. D/B/A Lexington Pasta and Pasta Garage
Location: 
Lexington, KY