Struggling restaurant owner pleads with SE Texans to shop local
Published 12:28 am Thursday, June 8, 2023
ORANGE — When Chris Chapman took to Facebook to urge Southeast Texans to support small businesses, he wasn’t doing it for himself.
But still, as he typed, his restaurant was looking at what could possibly be a second closure.
Tacos La Shula opened in November 2019.
It was something he thought he would do. Cooking was something he enjoyed with his grandmother — the two often watching cooking shows and spending time in the kitchen. And when he met his wife Zilpa in early 2019, they learned it was a passion they both shared.
So they decided to share their passion with others.
“To be honest, we didn’t plan on it being this big,” he said. “We thought it would be something small for a little bit, but things went really good so we kept going with it.”
The two were new to the restaurant business. Chapman said they made a lot of mistakes.
“And then we were too far gone,” he said. “We couldn’t get out of anything.”
They struggled through COVID just months after opening, and later lost their roof to Hurricane Laura. In January, they were forced to close.
“I honestly didn’t think we would come back anytime soon,” he said.
Later, a fellow restaurateur who closed his business contacted Chapman and his wife and offered support, advice and equipment.
And in April, Tacos La Shula returned to 5720 16th Street.
Although he was always nervous about the location.
“It’s not in the middle of town,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s what we’re facing right now.”
The escalating cost of food didn’t help either.
They had to stop using the fryer because the cost of cooking oil had gotten too high.
And they’re still fighting debt incurred by opening the restaurant the first time.
“I know we can do this and I know we can do good, but we have to get out of this,” Chapman said. “Everybody says they want to support (local business) — and for the most part they do. But no one really shows up until it’s too late.”
The restaurant offers authentic homemade Mexican food, which now includes breakfast items too.
But Chapman’s hope isn’t just to keep his business alive, but for people to support all small businesses when possible. He’s talked with others who own restaurants in the area that are facing the same fate.
“If it does happen again,” he said of closing the restaurant, “I don’t know that I have it in me to try again.”