Norma Barrera and Claudia Navarro at Nino's Mexican Grill

Norma Barrera and her mother, Claudia Navarro, cook in 2017 at Nino’s Mexican Grill in Union Gap. The family opened the restaurant in 2013 and will be opening a second location in Yakima.

Claudia Navarro and the rest of her family spent several years developing what would become Nino’s Mexican Grill. She saved money from various jobs, held yard sales and made furniture for the restaurant before opening the business in Union Gap in 2013.

After six years of developing the business there, the family will open a second Nino’s Mexican Grill at the Westpark Shopping Center at 40th and Summitview avenues by the end of May, said Norma Barrera, the oldest daughter of Claudia Navarro. She works alongside her in the kitchen and on other matters related to the business.

“We wanted to grow,” Norma Barrera said in an interview last week. “From the beginning that was the goal.”

For Navarro, who spoke in Spanish — Barrera translated — a second location was yet another big dream she wanted to obtain. “I grew up poor,” she said. “I knew I wanted more (for my life).”

It took some time for this latest dream to come together. Navarro and the rest of the family had been looking at different locations in the Yakima area and even flirted with opening one in Seattle. Ultimately, when Claudia Navarro and husband, Joel, drove by the Westpark space one night in November, she knew that was the right spot.

The family took over the space for the second location in January and has been remodeling it. Joel Navarro, who balances helping at his wife’s restaurant and running a second business in California, is coordinating the remodel.

There won’t be much change to the restaurant’s basic concept. Customers will continue to customize a variety of Mexican items, including tacos, tortas and burritos, with their meat and toppings of choice. Barrera said the space in Westpark is larger than the one in Union Gap, which will enable them to add a work station for special menu items, such as mole.

But the main goal is to maintain the speed and consistency that has helped them gain a loyal following in Union Gap. “We want to make sure where it’s fast food, but it doesn’t taste like fast food,” she said.

The family is eager to open additional locations, but the focus is to get the second one up and running. Barrera said she’s keen to continue to learn about business from her mother and father.

“The third one, I’m doing it,” she said with a smile.

‘Papa’ Baird dies at 87

Warren V. “Papa” Baird died on April 21, Easter, after a fight with cancer. He was well-known in the Terrace Heights community. He was 87.

Baird and his wife opened his namesake restaurant, Papa Baird’s, in January 1985. He would sell the restaurant three years later to daughter Shawna Hahn but continued to help out with the business when needed.

“Even when he was older, he’d still get supplies for me,” said Hahn, now 56. “Everyone knew him. Everyone came in and talked BS with him.”

Brandon Hahn Papa Baird's

Brandon Hahn prepares bacon during a 2017 shift at Papa Baird’s Restaurant on Terrace Heights Drive.

Hahn has continued the family aspect of the restaurant business. Son Brandon Hahn, 36, has worked at the restaurant for 20 years. Brandon and his wife, Jennifer, will be taking ownership of the restaurant at year’s end, Hahn said. Once that happens, the couple plan to add dinner service — the restaurant currently is open for breakfast and lunch.

Baird, who often requested Brandon Hahn cook his favorite dish — fried chicken — would have been delighted.

“My dad loved him,” Shawna Hahn said.

New businesses

  • Empowered Communi-cation recently opened in Yakima. Co-owners Felicia Staub and Gabriel Muñoz offer a variety of mediation, training, facilitation and coaching services aimed at helping clients improve communication skills, resolve conflicts and achieve self-actualization to succeed in work and home environments. Services are available in English and Spanish. More information on the business can be found at empoweredcommunication.org.
  • Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic recently opened a family medicine clinic in Yakima. The 11th Avenue Family Medicine Clinic at 314 S. 11th Ave., Suite A, opened April 17. The clinic can be reached at 509-902-8585 and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

The Current runs Sundays in The Bottom Line. Got a business news tip? Reach Mai Hoang at maihoang@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter @maiphoang