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This Immigrant Mom From Jalisco Inspired Her Youngest of Seven to Turn Their Old Banquet Hall Into a Fashion Boutique

10:16 AM PDT on May 3, 2022

Behind every successful child of immigrants are parents who put in years of hard work so that their children could make their dreams a reality. And in a few cases, both the parent and the child get to live out their dreams. 

Such was the case for Jasmine Maldonado, the Latina-led fashion boutique Persona The Shop owner, and her mother, Maria Cuevas.

Their story is about how her mother’s hustle and journey as an immigrant single mom of seven navigating life in Los Ángeles inspired and guided Maldonado through her journey to success. At least that’s how she sees it when she reflects on how she realized her dream of opening a boutique next to her mother’s long-standing restaurant, Mariscos Marias. 

“I grew up in a family that was always business-oriented. I have four brothers and two sisters, and each of us grew up working in the restaurant, so we've always been around business and always had our mom to look up to,” said Maldonado.

But to understand Maldonado’s story, hustle, and immense drive, we need to go back to 1997, the year she was born and a year that gave her mom both a blessing and, at the same time, handed her one of the biggest challenges of her life.

“The year I was born was when my dad left. He left my mom with nothing, just seven kids and a lunch truck,” she said as she sat outside her boutique on West Adams Boulevard. “It's crazy to think that all of this turmoil was happening in my first year of life and all my mom's hardships during that time.”

Maldonado was just a newborn, but as she grew older, her mother often sat down with her siblings to share her life’s journey and “cuentos” (stories). That is how she learned about the hardships, like the accumulated debt and stress that came from tickets the lunch truck received before her dad left. Or the time when their home was foreclosed and Cuevas feared about what would happen to her seven kids if they lost the house. “We were going to be homeless,” said Maldonado. 

But giving up was never an option for Cuevas, especially not with seven mouths to feed and a dream of turning that food truck into a brick and mortar establishment that she could call her own. So she worked every day in the food truck, selling her famous mariscos until she saved enough money to purchase her dream restaurant in 2000, which she named Mariscos Marias. 

Mariscos Maria's the food truck that kick-started one of Maria Cuevas biggest challenges.
Mariscos Maria's the food truck that kick-started one of Maria Cuevas biggest challenges. Photo via Jasmine Maldonado.

“It's funny because the lunch truck was just like where she could start, but she got the idea of owning a restaurant and naming it after herself one day,” Maldonado said proudly. “So I thought that was beautiful, and she's been there for over 20 years now and has opened a second location on Vermont and Adams.”

However, Maldonado shared that her madrecita’s (mother’s) venture into the restaurant world was not easy. She remembers vividly going with her mother into the tax buildings and seeing the piercing stares and treatment her Spanish-speaking mother would get. 

“They would get annoyed at how many questions she had because everything was new to her, but thankfully she persevered. This [restaurant] is proof of what she did,” said Maldonado pointing up at her mother’s marisquería. “What makes her journey the most difficult was that she did it alone, with seven kids, barely knowing how to speak English. Being a business owner is so tough for me now, and I have a support system. I can't imagine how much harder it was for her.”

Guided By Her Mother’s Past 

Being your own boss is often easier said than done, and Maldonado knows that first hand. Although she admits not going through the same hardships as her mom, starting a clothing store during the pandemic was not an easy task for the 24-year-old. But just like Cuevas, she was not about to give up on her dream, and early on in her journey, she was reminded that if her mother could do it, she could too. 

Jasmine and her mother Maria, working at Mariscos Marias on West Adams. Growing up all of her seven children had their first jobs at this restaurant before venturing out into their businesses.
Jasmine and her mother Maria, working at Mariscos Marias on West Adams. Growing up all of her seven children had their first jobs at this restaurant before venturing out into their businesses. Photo via Jasmine Maldonado.

After graduating from fashion school (FIDM) in 2017, Maldonado was lucky enough to work at a job that inspired her to open her boutique. She distinctly remembers working on the 9th floor of a fashion building in L.A., where she learned the ins and outs of the business. It’s also where she received a significant affirmation from the universe. 

One day, Maldonado invited her mom to visit her at work. Excited to show her mom around, Maldonado walked down to the elevator to greet her. When the elevator doors opened, her mom was sobbing.

“I was like, ‘what’s wrong?’ and she's like, ‘Mija, I worked here on this floor 30 years ago,’” said Maldonado about that day, chills running through her arms. “When she came from Guadalajara, she worked in that building on that floor. I thought that was crazy and unreal. It was such a beautiful feeling. It was like I was on the right path. I feel so grateful because it feels like she is guiding my path.”

Photo via Jasmine Maldonado.
Inside Persona. Photo via Jasmine Maldonado.
Photo via Jasmine Maldonado.
Outside Persona and Mariscos Maria. Photo via Jasmine Maldonado.

The building where Maldonado worked was a fashion building that in the 90s used to be a warehouse for sewing, “kind of like a sweatshop,” she said. Never did she think she would be working in the same building and floor that her mother first worked in. It was a sign, and it wouldn't be the last time she received one.

Becoming Neighbors and the Path to Persona

In 2020 before deciding to dedicate herself full-time to Persona, Maldonado tested the waters with her carefully curated clothing line. She was selling strictly online with the occasional in-person pick-up. Her family was also on the verge of making a big decision with the banquet hall they had next to her mother’s restaurant. Due to COVID, the events planned for the year were all canceled. Parties, weddings, quinceañeras, and baptisms, were all canceled. So, the family was trying to decide whether to close the salón (banquet hall) or try and turn it into something else.

“It was just so sad because I grew up in this area. I grew up playing there, and I still have a picture of me when I graduated college, and I was there,” she said. “I would tell my mom and brothers not to get rid of it, and I said, ‘let's hold on to it’ because that's a special place in this neighborhood, and we have an opportunity to build a business. Not many have that opportunity, especially because everything is being so gentrified, so I was so adamant about holding on to it.”

And thus, Persona was born. After getting the OK from her family, she decided to dedicate herself full time to her clothing boutique. That year she officially became her mother’s vecina (neighbor), and she transformed that banquet hall into a fashion boutique. 

“After my first-day opening, after everyone left, my mom just cried, and we were just both so happy seeing that I’m doing everything she sacrificed so much for,” she said with a smile on her face. 

At Persona, she sells comfortable, fun, and colorful clothing. Along with shoes, jewelry, and other accessories. Her primary goal with Persona is to make her customers feel good about themselves, whether with a fun floral set from her spring collection or simply by complimenting them when trying on clothes or walking into her store. 

This year Maldonado will be celebrating two years since the opening of her boutique, which sits only a couple of feet away from her mom’s restaurant. With both of their journeys in hand, they also want to help other up-and-coming businesses. So every month, Maldonado and her brother Giovanny throw what they call Mid City Mercado. Hosted in the joint parking lot of her and her mother’s businesses, they invite vendors from the neighborhood to sell their goods. Being a family that has worked their entire life tirelessly and knowing how difficult things can be is why they take pride in being able to support and uplift other folks in their community.  

Now Maldonado and her siblings have been able to retire their mother, who temporarily resides in her homeland of Guadalajara, leaving her brothers in charge of the mariscos. When Maldonado looks back at her and her mother's journey, she can't help but tear up. 

After all, the American Dream is for both children of immigrants and their parents. 

“I'm so fortunate for my mother. Her journey is something I want to share with others. I want to show that no matter the amount of circumstances life can hand you, you can get through it if you have dedication and the ganas to keep going,” she said. “That is something I hold so much gratitude for, and it’s something that I will instill in my future family, and I hope we inspire other Latina moms and parents to give their children an opportunity to grow in what they love and know that it's possible because they had someone they looked up to that did the impossible.” 

Persona Boutique, Open Tuesday-Sunday, follow on Instagram @Persona.theshop

Mariscos Marias: 5640 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016, Follow on Instagram @Mariscosmarias

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