It's been a slow, steady rise in prominence and reach for the locally based Arepas & Co Colombian Comfort Food, which opened its fourth and most ambitious restaurant yet just six weeks ago at 1000 Miamisburg-Centerville Road east of the Dayton Mall.
J.P. and Lisa Perdomo, the husband-and-wife founders of Arepas & Co, opened their first location in the Second Street Market in downtown Dayton in 2012.
>> RELATED: Arepas & Co. to open its 4th Dayton-area Colombian restaurant (June 2017)
Their second location came in March 2014 at 1122 E. Dorothy Lane in Kettering, which, until Arepas moved in, was widely regarded as a “graveyard of restaurants” for the swift demise of a string of eateries that had tried to gain a foothold in the half-hidden space. The third Arepas opened in January 2016 at 416 E. Third St. in downtown Dayton — the site of the former Olive restaurant.
>> RELATED: Restaurant owners reveal plans for former Olive space (December 2015)
The Perdomos aren’t resting on their laurels — and we caught up with this week’s Daytonians of the Week to find out a bit more about the husband-and-wife restaurant owners.
What prompted you to get into the restaurant business?
As an immigrant and as an American, one is always motivated to do better in the land of opportunity, so business ownership has always been a long-term plan for me.
With Lisa and I having ample experience in the food-service industry, it was only natural to apply our determination and drive into a restaurant venture, so we put in place a business plan for a concept unique to the area that represented both a challenge and an opportunity to offer something very few people had heard of.
How have you been able to compete so effectively against national chain restaurants?
I must say that we took a calculated gamble when we decided to open Arepas & Co at the 2nd St Market in 2012; in fact, that first location was our idea incubator. We weren’t sure how our arepas, empanadas or mazorca desgranada was going to be received by the locals, since we were the first ones to introduce Colombian comfort food as a concept.
But today those dishes are what set us apart from everybody else. We banked on offering unique, fresh, flavorful dishes in a fast and affordable way, and that has helped us create a very loyal following. We are glad that others have followed our lead and are now offering arepas and other Colombian dishes as well.
What’s the latest on your new restaurant on Miamisburg-Centerville Road?
For starters, our sign will go up this Friday, Aug. 4, so people will be able to find us much easier. We also added additional decoration this weekend to make the place cozier; we have some pretty cool photos from different corners of Colombia that will show our customers how diverse and fun it is.
We are always thinking of new twists that can appeal to new customers, so we recently introduced meatless crumbles, a vegan option for our arepas and empanadas that looks and tastes like ground beef but which are totally meatless.
What’s your favorite spot in the Dayton area?
We love food with lots of flavor, and our list of favorite places is fairly long. We tend to patronize independent, family-owned restaurants, just like our own, because we understand the passion and care behind every dish served.
With that being said Lisa and I love “Las Peñas”, a little hidden gem inside a grocery store in Miamisburg where you can get the best tacos in town. If you ever go there, make sure to say hi to Doña Juana — she is a sweet lady who reminds me of my grandma.
What do you love about life in the Dayton area?
What we like most about living in the Dayton area is that people here still care for each other. We’ve been to many cities in the U.S. and abroad, and we always miss how friendly to each other we are here. Strangers say hi as they walk by, people hold doors open as you enter a building, etc. The Dayton area offers many amenities of the big cities while it still keeps the warm, welcoming spirit of a small town.
>> RELATED: 7 questions for the restaurant owners taking over the Olive space (December 2015)
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, would it be?
How about a beach? We recently went to Chicago and were amazed by how much fun one can have at the different beaches on Lake Michigan. You can swim, play volleyball, ride your divvy bicycle along the lake, lounge at one of the cabanas, get a couples massage, eat and drink and do many more things at the beach. Eastwood Lake could use an overhaul.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
Dayton is a resilient city with a strong entrepreneurial spirit that is always reinventing itself. I think it is quickly becoming a major foodie town as its diversity increases year over year.
In 15 years, I see a cool beach built as a result of this article, a fully reinvigorated downtown with people bicycling, not just to drink beer, but to commute to work and to different attractions in the area.
The work on I-75 will be finished, RTA buses will drive by themselves and several air strips will be available in the area for people to land their flying electric cars. All in all, it will be a great, exciting future for all of us!