Mesa restaurateurs persevere in pandemic The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Mesa restaurateurs persevere in pandemic

December 27th, 2020 Mesa Tribune Staff
Mesa restaurateurs persevere in pandemic

By Melody Birkett
Tribune Contributor

While many businesses have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Mesa couple’s Boca Taqueria is thriving.

Mesa natives Jewelia and Clay Eagar are opening a third location at Eastmark near Signal Butte and Warner roads in February. They also have restaurants at Mountainview Plaza in Mesa and Higley Marketplace in Gilbert.

They almost didn’t go through with adding a third but now are glad they did.   

“It has been rough,” said Jewelia. “Definitely challenging times for everybody. We have learned how to pivot quickly during this time. We’ve had to adapt and make changes. It kept us alive.”

One of those changes was getting online ordering up and running.

“We didn’t have that going into this,” said Jewelia. “Within two days, we switched to a point of sale system and set up online ordering and rolled it out because we knew people were going to want to prepay and carry out more than ever before.”

In addition, the owners had to cut items from their menu. 

“We’ve had to streamline our kitchen because when you’re doing a 100 percent carry-out, it takes more time than throwing a taco on a plate,” explained Jewelia. “When you have to wrap it in foil or box it up, bag it up and double-check it, triple check it and send it out the door it takes a lot longer.

“So, we’ve had to take menu items off that take too long, that was slowing the kitchen down, that wasn’t selling, that was slowing our prep down.”

Carry-out still remains a strong part of the business even though the dining rooms have reopened at both the Greenfield and Brown roads location in Mesa, which opened in 2016, and the Higley and Baseline roads restaurant in Gilbert, which opened in 2017.

“We also came up with some value-priced family kits where people can order a meal to go for dinner like a taco kit, an enchilada dinner pack, and a burrito pack where it comes with everything you need to feed your family for a night,” Jewelia said. 

The couple spent 12 years working at other restaurants before opening Boca Taqueria. 

As for the name of their business, Jewelia noted that “boca” was what her husband used while he was serving his church for two years on a mission in Santiago, Chile.

The restaurant offers counter service but makes everything to order, focusing on food that is fresh and fast, but not fast food.

“What sets us apart from the competition is that we use fresh ingredients,” Jewelia said. “We use quality meats and cheeses. All of our salsas, all of our marinades and all of our dressings are house-made. So, we’re a scratch kitchen.

“We make all of our food in-house every day. All of our tamales are made fresh every day. You can taste the quality. You can taste the difference. I think people appreciate that.”

Customers can find their favorite food items on the menu like burritos, enchiladas and tacos but also a few unusual items like salmon salad, pineapple avocado salad and pineapple shrimp tacos.

Another reason the restaurant has survived the pandemic, Jewelia said is that “we don’t give up – we persevere.

“There are so many challenges,” she said. “Running a restaurant is hard and trying to run one during COVID has made it even harder. But we just don’t give up. We just keep praying the long hours and hard work will make it successful. We have amazing employees (about 50). We couldn’t do it without them.”

“We have really good support from our community,” she added. “We try to show up with a smile and good food and good service every day. Customers come back and we’re so thankful for that.”

Down-the-road, the couple is thinking of opening a fourth location but for now, three is enough, considering they also have four young children.

In addition to the restaurants, they also have the Boca Taco Truck.

“The food truck keeps us so busy,” Eagar said. “It’s so perfect for catering for weddings, corporate events, family reunions, etc. We love bringing it out to community events which we have missed a lot this year so hopefully, we can resume with that in the near future.”


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