“If you had met me 15 years ago, you wouldn’t have liked me.” This is the statement that caused me to sit back down after a solid hour of good conversation learning about Mauricio back in December when we had our Good Pour.
Kori Langford, owner of Myers’ Front Porch, recommended Mauricio for a Good Pour conversation because of his kindness in creating the Eat Hendersonville Facebook group during COVID. If you live in Sumner County, you probably belong to or at least know of this group, but do you know much about its founder? I’m happy to tell you more if not. And yes, I’ll tell you why he thinks I would not have liked him.
Originally from Colombia in South America, Mauricio moved to the states when he was 12. After living in Michigan until he was 26, he moved back to Colombia for three years, where he met his wife, Monica. When they wanted to move back to the United States but didn’t want to move to Michigan, they chose a location literally by pointing to the middle of a map of the United States. And the rest is history; they have been in Sumner County for 37 years, and both of their daughters were born and raised here.
After moving to Tennessee, Mauricio started in the restaurant business at an old Nashville favorite, Cooker Bar and Grills. They told him he would never make it to a manager position, but two years later, Mauricio was managing his Cooker. After 12 years, he moved on to restaurant business development and distribution, where he learned to help small restaurants sell more. He now works as a consultant in the restaurant industry with a primary focus on family-owned Mexican restaurants. In addition, Mauricio loves to teach restaurant employees subjects like customer service, liquor awareness, and health.
In late 2019, Mauricio watched the owners at Lyncoya Cafe put their savings and tears into saving the building and opening the restaurant. Then COVID hit, and he saw the new Lyncoya suffering and thought he could help. So he took $600 and bought $25 gift cards. Then, he asked friends to do the same, and he quickly ended up with over $2000 from people who wanted to help. So he created Eat Hendersonville as a way to distribute the cards. By May 12, 2020, the group had blown up in size and participation.
Eat Hendersonville quickly became a way for all of us to support and encourage local restaurants when they needed it the most. These places now had a locally based, virtual opportunity to list new items, state hours, and advertise specials … all for free. This group was a reminder, at least for me, that despite COVID, our local businesses were continuing and needed our support. The efforts of this group got my family placing to-go orders and trying new places. In the Eat Hendersonville group during the COVID days, it somehow felt that life went on; it was a virtual place where people could brag about good eats, praise restaurant employees, and encourage small businesses. It felt kind, exciting, and normal when we all needed those things the most.
And it worked. When restaurants were going under nationally, Hendersonville gained seven new ones. Now the group has over 19,000 members and grows every day. It features small, local, independent, non-franchise, non-chain eateries located in Hendersonville. If my family tries any new restaurant in Hville, I search the group first to see fan favorites. And that’s all I find because negativity is not allowed in the group. While Mauricio knows that no restaurant can be perfect all the time, he encourages people to take it up with the owners rather than voicing complaints on social media.
Mauricio was the creator of this group, and he has loved the positive response from the community, but he does not benefit from its success. There is a ton of work in managing a Facebook group of this size, and he does it out of his love for local, small businesses.
Ok, back to the part about him telling me that I probably would not have liked him not 15 years ago. It turns out just a decade and a half ago, Mauricio was going through a hard spot in life. He was in tremendous back pain and very angry. Mauricio says he wasn’t a nice person. He had back surgery that didn’t help and only made him more unhappy and angry. When they recommended a second surgery, he decided to change his lifestyle instead and exercise. For 13 years now, he has been an avid runner, running 50 miles per week. While he still has some back pain, he knows how to add yoga and stretching to get things back in order. He knows running saved his life and now says that “no matter where you are, there is hope.”
Running helped Mauricio find gratitude, and gratitude made him want to give back, and giving back helped him start Hendersonville Running Club and Eat Hendersonville. I don’t like to run, but I’m glad Mauricio picked it up because he is healthier, and we’ve all benefited.
One last word from my new friend Mauricio, “We all go through things. If we don’t learn from them, what was the point?” So what is something you’ve been through, and can you say what you’ve learned from it? I think this is a good exercise for us all.
What is helping him right now?
What is an organization or cause near and dear to his heart?
Hendersonville Running Club
What is a movie, television show, podcast, writer, song, etc., to add The Good List?
The Inner Runner by Jason Karp
Quiet by Susan Kain
(Read more from The Good List.)