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"Park City needs tacos" – and this brother-sister team has them

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KPCW
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From left, Greylin Leonardo, her aunt Nery and father Hugo Leonardo in their new market and taqueria.

Leonardo’s Market and Taqueria in Kimball Junction isn’t just the latest place to grab authentic tacos and burritos – it’s also the first business venture of longtime Park City chef Hugo Leonardo and his sister Nery Leonardo.

Nery Leonardo came to the United States from her native Mexico over two decades ago with her then-husband. They moved to Utah because they had family in the area, and planned to stay only a short while to earn money before returning home.

But the safety and economic opportunities were too appealing. Instead of going back to Guerrero, in southern Mexico, she called her younger brother and suggested he move to the U.S. as well. Hugo Leonardo decided to give it a try, and he too decided to stay.

The two have lived and worked in the Park City area ever since, with Hugo making a name for himself working as a chef in Bill White kitchens like Chimayo as well as the Glenwild Golf Club.

Nery worked for 12 years at The Radisson, now Peaks hotel, in housekeeping. She eventually spent four years managing the housekeeping operations. They both became U.S. citizens a decade ago.

All their experience came together about two years ago, when they learned the much-loved Anaya’s Market in downtown Park City’s Prospector neighborhood was closing. They saw a community need for an authentic market closer than Salt Lake City, especially with gas prices, and decided to take the big leap to becoming business owners. They knew the market business peripherally from growing up around their mother’s market.

At first, Hugo said they were turned away from every rental space they tried to pursue, because they lacked business experience.

“We started like looking for places you know we call many places to many landlords and they asked the first question was ‘are you in business before?’ and we say ‘no, but we’re really hungry, you know?’ and they say ‘no, I'm sorry’ and they shut the door.”

But when a dialed-in friend intervened on their behalf, they were able to rent a storefront in Kimball Junction, between Full House and the UPS store.

After that, the two said they worked for two years on all aspects of starting their business. Their efforts came to fruition in October with the opening of Leonardo’s Market and Taqueria, a bright, cheerful space where shelves are stocked with Mexican products not available elsewhere in Park City. Herbs, spices, chips, candy and pantry staples, Mexican Coca Cola, which a quick taste test reveals is different from American Coke.

Leonardo’s also has a butcher counter supplied by a Salt Lake City butchery, where Hugo’s marinades, sauces and handmade chorizo are for sale alongside meats and seafood.

Nery runs the front of the market, keeping it sparkling clean and meticulously organized.

“I’m the back, taking care of the kitchen, taking care of the butchery,  she takes care of the front, she smiles for the people all the time. I think we make a good team.”

And then there’s the taqueria, at the back of the store, with a dozen or so small tables and a fragrant kitchen pumping out staples like tortillas handmade daily, tacos al pastor and specials such as menudo and roast goat.

The tables are often all filled, with order numbers called out first in Spanish, then in English. Customers arrive in everything from large work trucks to Teslas.

Hugo’s daughter Greylin Leonardo, who graduated from Park City High School in 2021 and is now studying marketing at Arizona State University, said the community response to the store has been more than the family expected - and a wonderful surprise.

“In Anaya’s we never saw that. It was always just us, you know, we never saw other people coming in but here it’s constant, it’s like every day. Everyone is welcome here but it's just we didn't expect that much support from other non Mexican people.”

They attribute their popularity to the quality of their wares, the interior design and their location – and the universal love of tacos.

“Park City needs…tacos! Authentic Mexican food.”

Leonardo’s is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Michelle, who joined KPCW in 2021, arrived in Utah in 2018 by way of Massachusetts, where the skiing was icy and the mosquitoes formidable. A former daily newspaper reporter and editor (at the Visalia Times-Delta in CA) and columnist (at The Cohasset Mariner in MA), Michelle has been a writer and editor for decades. She holds a journalism degree from CSU Fresno and has worked as a journalist, freelance writer and web content creator, reporting extensively on education and youth along with general assignment and breaking news.