Known as one of the few original Mexican restaurants in the city, the longevity and reputation of the restaurant is due to the genius of Ignacio and Teresa Ramirez who started the business in 1966.
The Ramirez family was one of the first Latino families in downtown Hayward to own a business that, nearly 50 years later, still remains open. Since 1966 when Los Compadres opened, Hayward has had three city hall locations while Los Compadres remains in the same area.
When the doors first opened for business there were only four or five restaurants near Los Compadres. Today in the City of Hayward there are roughly 400 Mexican food restaurants.
The Ramirez’ had eight children, five girls and three boys. Of the eight, four still maintain a constant presence in the restaurant.
The eldest son, Ignacio Ramirez, Jr., and daughter Sandra Ramirez are most recognized in the family restaurant, but any patron who visits Los Compadres frequently, can distinguish the remaining family members who also participate in the family business.
Of the many grandchildren in the family, at least eight have worked at Los Compadres to follow in the family tradition of helping with the restaurant.
The dedication of the Ramirez family over the course of 46 years is a big reason for their success.
Still, that success has not gone to their heads. They maintain an active presence in the community by donating food to various community events and have also held canned food drives for the Alameda County Food Bank.
An additional reason for their success can be attributed to their traditional home style dishes. All of them are homemade recipes that deliver food with an authentic taste.
“My mom and dad always maintained a high level of quality in our ingredients, so they dealt with sellers that offered good products even if it cost a little more,” said Sandra Ramirez. “For them, it was always important to maintain those relationships with vendors, and today it is still the same.”
Mr. Ramirez, who bought the restaurant from the original owners after just two years due to the lack of profit, recognized the opportunity to buy the location and dedicating most of his life to the restaurant while working at the General Motors plant to support his family and business.
As the original name of the restaurant was Los Compadres, Mr. Ramirez — who confided in several friends for loans to ensure the initial purchase — decided to maintain the name of Los Compadres as a simple thank you to “buddies” who helped him.
In the 1950s, Mr. Ramirez sold tamales door to door. His son Ignacio recalls his family spending night after night making tamales to fill customer orders. When Mr. Ramirez began working at General Motors, the family set out to sell burritos to the employees.
Ramirez, Jr. recalls several instances when “[his] dad would go to work and before he even punched in to start his day he had already sold all the burritos.”
At that time, the City of Hayward was very different from what it is today. In 1966, when the restaurant was taken over by Ramirez, the population was nearly half of its current population.
It was a difficult period in time because most businesses and restaurants were on Foothill, A and B Streets. Even today those businesses attract more people by the large amount of businesses present.
Even so, Los Compadres kept moving forward.
Mr. Ramirez was one of the first Latinos to begin the trend of creating smaller businesses under the same local ownership. In 1968, he opened up a tortilla factory at the end of C Street across from the bart station that was in operation until 1985. In 1973, he opened a Cafe that remained opened until 1983.
Los Compadres was forced to change locations due to some unsafe structural issues with their building in 1972. Fortunately, the business owner next door was interested in selling his store. What once was a liquor store became the new home for Los Compadres.
As Los Compadres grows, so does their clientele. With the celebration of close to 50 years, the Los Compadres family is witnessing the fourth generation of their customers continue the tradition of eating at their favorite restaurant. Even members of the city council, including the mayor, visit the restaurant frequently.
Thirty-year customers Jackie Ceremello and Lisa Oreta of Dublin consider the family restaurant home.
“I love the people, the food and every time we come here they already know what we’re going to order,” said Ceremello. “There are not many places like this, we’ve tried everywhere but nothing compares to this, to have families working together like this in the same restaurant it no longer exists.”
Ramirez’ grandaughter Elisa Márquez received her MBA in Public Administration from CSU East Bay this past December and expressed her pride while also speaking on the humility of her family.
“The restaurant has been part of my entire life. I’ve also worked here, and from time to time you have to recognize when you’ve accomplished something important,” said Marquez. “In our culture, sometimes it is difficult to express ourselves in this way, but this is one of the moments that needs to be celebrated and used to reflect on what has been accomplished.”
Several frequent customers have been known to take Los Compadres’ food to other parts of the country. A customer who visited from Tennessee made sure to bring home $400 worth of burritos, transported in nothing more than his suitcase.
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, February 16th, 2012 at 2:06 pm.