110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Hatfield
posted Apr 29, 2010 - 6:31:11pm
An air of joyous celebration floated over Downtown DeLand's Woodland Boulevard April 22, for the grand reopening of one of the district's restaurants.
There wasn't much fanfare and hardly any advance publicity, yet people kept showing up. Members of the DeLand business community, area residents, Stetson University leaders and students all crowded into 128 N. Woodland Blvd.
They gathered to celebrate the transformation of Penachos Mexican restaurant into De La Vega Restaurante y Galeria.
The revamped restaurant features a new folk-Mexican look, modifications to the menu, and a small art gallery.
The celebration was complete with music, food, dancing and drink.
Judging from the crowd's reaction, the change will be a hit.
The change came as a result of a partnership between restaurant owner Manny De La Vega and students in the master's level Marketing Decision-Making course at Stetson University. The students worked under the direction of Dr. Becky Oliphant, associate professor of marketing.
Adjunct professor John Meyer is managing director of Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe in DeLand, and very active in the business community, Oliphant said. Meyer recommends businesses for the class.
Businesses are told they need to be open and accessible to the students. They need to be able to share financial information — something some business owners are reluctant to do, Oliphant said.
De La Vega was willing.
"Manny came in three times," Oliphant said.
Students went to his restaurant often. Some of them got to be like family. Students who had already graduated returned for the grand reopening.
De La Vega shared his concerns with the students, including spending and finances.
Students worked in teams to develop a plan. Areas of concentration included:
• Competitive analysis — Students looked at other businesses, and other Mexican restaurants in the area.
• Web-site development and advertising.
• Interior and exterior design.
• Ways to become part of the Stetson community, as well as the DeLand community. For example, De La Vega supplied food for a Stetson athletic event.
"He would never have gotten in without these students. It's highly competitive," Oliphant said.
At the end of the semester, the students made a formal presentation to De La Vega. De La Vega took copious notes.
"He was writing the entire time. He was surprised," Oliphant said.
She suspected the restaurant owner's expectations of the students' marketing ability had been low.
At the grand reopening, De La Vega choked up as he welcomed family, friends, customers, students and business acquaintances.
He thanked the students. He said they had "asked themselves, what can they do for us?"
De La Vega also thanked the customers, for supporting a new start to the restaurant that has been on the Boulevard for five years. He thanked the DeLand business and banking community for its support.
He proudly introduced his sister, "Chef Nora" De La Vega, who plans the menu. She will continue to prepare true Mexican cuisine, staying away from Tex-Mex food, Manny De La Vega said.
He also introduced his wife, Janet, who's in charge of interior décor, and his parents, Manuel De la Vega and Nora G. Valls.
The crowd sampled Chef Nora's cuisine and sipped margaritas or sangria as they listened to music by Carlos Esquivel and David Peñaflor. Or they danced. Or they examined the 26 Mexican-themed etchings in the galeria, completed by artist Alberto Gomez just in time for the grand reopening.
It was the coming together of a family business, a university and a community.
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