Alba Villarreal, Gwinnett Magazine Intern
When Norma Arevalo and her family came to the United States, they dreamed of some day starting their own business. From New York, they moved down to Georgia in January of 2017 and within 8 months, Norma and her son were able to open up their own restaurant, El Imperial. Located on 2585 Highpoint Rd, Snellville, El Imperial focuses on classic Latin American foods such as tamales, enchiladas, and pupusas, all while only using natural, non-processed ingredients.
But it wasn't easy getting to where they are now. Describing it as a "frustrating dream," Norma expressed how difficult it was starting a business in a foreign country. "We didn't know where to start and when we did, we had to make so many changes. We were spending money we didn't have and it still didn't seem to be good enough. I was ready to give up." In addition to this, there was an inevitable obstacle that instead of discouraging her, it motivated her to keep going: discrimination. "Not being able to speak both languages perfectly made it especially hard. Some customers would just look at us and think they could treat us however they wanted to because they were buying our food. People like that are the reason why I didn't give up."
Her perseverance created a place in the community that enables people to work in a family-like setting and enjoy authentic food. "The best part is getting a chance to meet and get to know new people in the community. When they come back to tell me that they love my food, it reassures me that opening this place was worth it."