The simple slogan “Go West, young man” sums up some of the oldest and most enduring tips for achieving the American dream. But when you’ve already successfully started your west coast business like Modesto’s Mango Crazy, the only place to go next is the east.
This is exactly what childhood friends and the founding owners of Mexican street food-inspired restaurants are doing with a planned expansion in Arizona. Indeed, the chain of sweet and savory snacks and treats has grown exponentially amid and despite the pandemic.
The owners of Mango Crazy are set to open their first restaurant outside of California, Arizona, in early to mid-November. The first out-of-state spot will be in Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix. Rivera and Lopez are teaming up with a partner in Arizona and hope to grow quickly with 10 to 15 new stores opening in the state within a year or two.
âArizona is booming. It is hot there and our product is refreshing. (The State) is dynamic and fluid with business. We think we would be fine there, âRivera said.
The Mango Crazy concept lends itself to rapid development, Rivera said. Shops sell a colorful assortment of sweet and savory street food-inspired snacks, like tostilocos, ceviche, fruit cups and agua fresca. Since their offerings don’t require a full kitchen, renovating older properties is easier and faster.
Rivera said they have also been fortunate enough to retain and attract a loyal workforce, which has helped them thrive throughout the pandemic as other companies continue to struggle to find employees.
âWe’re really lucky to have all of our employees and most of them have stayed with us which is really important because of what’s going on in the workforce,â he said. . âWe cannot develop without them. That’s the special ingredient, the help we got from people.
Since launching their first store in Modesto’s Village One Plaza shopping center in 2014, Downey High graduates have opened new stores in just 20 days. But since the pandemic, most have taken around 60 days. As someone who covers restaurant developments and openings for a living, it always exceeds lightning speed in every way.
When the pandemic started 19 months ago, Rivera and Lopez’s brains were already growing. The men opened a new Ceres location in the former Rita’s Italian Ice in early March 2020. It was one of five former Rita’s in the region to convert to Mango Crazys, after the Valley of the Franchise owner frozen treat stores has closed all of its locations.
Then things really started to move for the company which previously had two stores and a food truck in Modesto and a new flagship store in the Fisherman’s Wharf district of San Francisco which opened in late 2018. Since the start of the year pandemic in March 2020, they opened additional locations in Turlock, Atwater, Lathrop, Elk Grove, San Jose and more.
Their last store to open was in June, in the San Jose suburb of Campbell. Expect a few more Mango Crazy site openings in November. The first will be in Visalia near Fresno, the chain’s most southerly location to date in the state. They are also completing work on the second Turlock site, on Geer Road in the Raley’s supermarket center. And then there’s the Chandler Arizona site.
If things go as planned, expect a lot more openings and locations in the future of Mango Crazy. Rivera and Lopez are in the process of completing the necessary legal documents to be able to franchise. They expect a big push in Southern California once they start franchising, which should be sometime in 2022.
And they haven’t finished conquering the sweet and savory food market. Besides Arizona, Rivera said he has received interest from Las Vegas and Florida. After that? Who knows. Mango Crazy in space? I mean if Elon and Jeff can do it, guys. Go up, young men, go up.
This story was originally published October 31, 2021 6:00 a.m.