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Soda El Coco: A Story of One Soda. With a family business plan that was decidedly small to start with but sure to succeed through steadfast commitment, Soda El Coco and the Cruz family has been satisfying appetites in Brasilito Beach for more than 23 years. Initially furnished with just three wooden tables and benches, the eatery has grown and thrived from its modest beginnings on the terrace of its owners’ house by the old soccer field.
The soda was named for a coconut tree in the middle of the front patio. Instead of cutting it down, builders cut a hole in the roof so the tree could continue growing unobstructed.
Merida Cruz remembers following this simple but evidently failsafe plan to prepare for the soda’s first day of operation. She purchased one cabbage, two kilos of meat, a bag of rice and a bag of beans. Her husband, Juan, contributed shrimp and calamari that he caught diving off the beach. With these ingredients they were up and running, serving casado dishes to their inaugural customers. Their opening sales income was spent restocking for the following day … and so on, and that is how they continued moving their business forward.
Merida was in charge of the kitchen while her brother-in-law managed table service. Juan fished every day for lobster, fish, oysters and octopus. Son Javier has worked with the family business all his life. He now opens the soda every morning and sometimes helps in the kitchen when needed. He also attracts many customers through his sideline business: fishing excursions that reward participants for catching their own entree to enjoy at the soda afterwards. Jazmin, Merida and Juan’s youngest daughter, started waiting tables at age 13 but now does mostly administrative work.
Merida no longer cooks, nor does Juan go out catching fish for the daily special. Nonetheless, their presence every day is very important to ensure tasks are done properly and maintain the high quality of service and food.
Soda El Coco’s best-selling menu dishes are the whole lobster, the whole red snapper with creamy shrimp sauce and the seafood soup. The ever-popular casados are known for being delicious, affordable and served in generous portions.
Reflecting on their enterprising journey since 1995, the family members are gratified by the soda’s evolution and growth. The coconut tree is not there anymore but Soda El Coco is still flourishing.
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