Quite a number of businesses have come and gone in downtown Gainesville, but a small restaurant started by a Puerto Rican family has long endured. Last November, Emiliano’s Cafe celebrated 30 years since its opening! Owner Diego Ibanez has experienced downtown’s transformation over the years.
What began as a bakery in 1982 in the location now occupied by the Reggae Shack Cafe grew into the restaurant you see now at Southeast First Avenue. Not only are there more restaurants in downtown since Ibanez’s parents, Jorge and Wanda, founded Emiliano’s, but the area also has become a place for entertainment and culture, he said.
Ibanez co-owns the restaurant with his mother, Wanda, who still handles the accounting and bookkeeping. The business continued to grow throughout the recession because it countered it by offering live music and pushing catering and takeout services. Ibanez said he feels proud to carry on the legacy of the restaurant. “We’ve seen so many restaurants come and go,” he said. “What’s kept us going is that we care.”
And, what’s Ibanez’s ultimate goal? “The west side of Gainesville is due for an Emiliano’s.”