Twenty five years ago, a 22-year-old man opened a small Mexican food restaurant at 549 W. Valley Boulevard in the city of Colton with the encouragement of his former employer.
Leno’s Rico Taco founder and owner Magdaleno Moreno, known to residents as ‘Leno’, remembers his establishment’s first business day back on Ash Wednesday February 20, 1991.
“I made about $218 that day,” he chuckled. “Twenty-five years of service is a huge deal.”
Now 47-years-old, Moreno, who is also known for his philanthropic contributions around the Inland region, is setting his sights on expansion. He plans on adding a drive-thru service, as well as expanding parking for better quality service and adding a preparation area, and office space. He is waiting for city approval on a number of items before moving forward with construction.
“I still believe we could have a drive thru by the end of the year,” Moreno said.
His career in the restaurant business began ten years earlier in 1981 with Amapola Rico Taco on Mt. Vernon Avenue in San Bernardino. In the decade he worked there, he learned the essentials of the business from the location’s owner, David Gallardo.
“I worked there on my last Tuesday (Feb. 19, 1991) and opened here the next day,” Moreno said. “I couldn’t leave. [David] was a big inspiration to me. Talk about swimming. He literally threw me off the deck. He was my backer and big supporter.”
Moreno supports many of the city’s programs and organizations such as the Cops 4 Kids community boxing program, youth baseball leagues, and the Seeds of Hope charity.
“David always taught me to give and you shall receive. It’s true,” Moreno said. “We’ve gave and we’ve received. It’s the community that has kept us in business. Just the fact that you acknowledge the community makes them feel validated,” he said. “It makes them want to come back here.”
Moreno’s son, Chris, 19, has dedicated himself to the family business. The former is proud that his eldest has ‘stepped up’ to continuing his legacy.
“My oldest said he’s determined to take it over,” he said. “He’s serious about the business. Some of the small things he does, such as stay late to close up or working voluntarily reflects his commitment.”
Last week former Colton City Clerk Eileen Gomez congratulated Moreno on his anniversary. “Congratulations to Leno and the Moreno Family for all your years of success. Thank you for all you do for your community and for the best food in Colton.”