A franchise grows in Albuquerque: How lease-to-own empowered a family-owned restaurant

Stu Little
cuco's kitchen albuquerque tacos
Published on July 26, 2022

For Cuco’s owner Isela Tapia, owning her local restaurant’s property means the opportunity to expand.

What’s not to love about a local restaurant like Cuco’s? Family-owned and everything made from scratch, this authentic Mexican joint started out selling food from a truck in 1992, and little by little built up their business well enough to open their own restaurant. 

“We don’t buy anything canned to make our chiles or anything, all our products are authentically our recipes,” says Isela Tapia, who runs Cuco’s with her husband and daughters. “The preparation is very involved and it takes a lot of work, but when you make it with love, it’s very satisfying.”

A true family-owned restaurant: Isela and Cuco Tapia with their daughter Uris, who manages the restaurant's social media marketing. Photo by Danielle Garciduenas.

Cuco’s just turned two years old, and though they’ve been financially successful, Tapia didn’t qualify for financing to purchase their building when it came up for sale. Their current business was too new.    

“We’ve owned Cuco’s since 1992, but we would have to start over every two or three years because our leases wouldn’t be renewed,” says Tapia. 

Luckily, the realtor that helped her find Cuco’s current location told her about withco. “My son-in-law helped me do research—we thought it was a good way to become owners of the property. We started working with withco and I don’t regret it.” 

A step-by-step guide to withco’s lease-to-own model. 

Below, we asked Tapia how she plans to grow her business—and the most important lessons she’s learned as a business owner. 

Order up: All of Cuco's food comes from old family recipes. Photo by Danielle Garciduenas.

Let’s start at the beginning: What made you want to own a business in the first place?

It’s just so much better to be independent. My father always said that when you work for a company, you’re renting yourself out for $10/hour or whatever the minimum wage is at that point. You can’t get that time back for yourself. 

Though the family had owned businesses since 1992, they struggled to qualify for a mortgage to own their commercial property. Photo by Danielle Garciduenas.

What lessons have you learned as a business owner?

Having a business is a lot of mental pressure, but consistency is what always leads you to success. We’ve of course had failures, but I’ve never given up. A lot of people go through failures and leave their business in exchange for peace and prefer to work for someone else. Especially during the pandemic, many people left their businesses and preferred to have a guaranteed check. But for me it really is about persistence. Running a business is like a marriage, in good and bad times you always have to be there.

Now, Cuco's is set to open their second location—thanks to the financial flexibility of withco's lease-to-own model. Photo by Danielle Garciduenas.

How will your business evolve due to your withco partnership? 

Our dream has always been to have many restaurants, not only one—and not only to run the business but also own the properties. I believe that with withco that is possible—we are opening up our second location in Santa Fe now, and we have high hopes that we’ll be able to own that one too down the line.  

8 Benefits of owning your business’s commercial property.

What advice would you give to someone starting a business today?

My husband says that nobody is good at giving advice, but in my own experience I would say to follow your dream and all is possible if you want it in your heart. I hope that anyone who reads this will see that it is possible, that dreams can come true, but you have to take a leap of faith.

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