Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Rafael and Estela Tejada

El Valle Tipico

Bronx, New York

“Ascendus came at the right time…They worked really hard to show us all our options and gave us a hand when no one else did.”


When Rafael Tejada and his wife, Estela, immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic they didn’t always have a dream of opening their own restaurant. Rafael was originally a baseball coach.

After playing baseball in college, he wanted to give back to his community by showing kids, especially those from a Hispanic background, how they could leverage their baseball skills for college. He worked in that role for 13 years when he started to imagine giving back in a different way.

Rafael wanted to give something to his children and create a legacy for them that could be passed down along generations. When Estela came across the sale of a restaurant, he decided that it was too serendipitous to pass up the opportunity. They decided they would elevate Dominican cuisine in the Bronx, NY.

“The scariest part was taking the jump and the leap of faith,” he reflects. In 2017 they took the leap. Estela quit her job right away to dedicate herself completely to the restaurant. They learned a lot from the previous owners, and Rafael had worked in various roles in the restaurant industry before, but nothing prepared them for what they were about to encounter.



At their restaurant, El Valle Tipico, Rafael and Estela work as a team. “It can only work because of the both of us. It is great to have the support on the bad days, and she is my rock. I feel blessed to have such an amazing partner. She is my whole world.”

In January of 2020, Rafael took another leap. He was previously working both jobs, and he decided to quit his full-time job and dedicate himself to the restaurant completely. Then came March of 2020, and they had to close due to COVID-19 restrictions. “COVID-19 was the biggest challenge we had to face; those were dark times, and it was very stressful.”

To Rafael, the pandemic showed that nothing is secure. His biggest fear when reopening was the safety of his family, and if they would be okay with him and Estela interacting with so many people daily. Even so, it took a long time for people to realize that they could even come back to the restaurant, and when they did, he was very short on staff. “We had to do everything. My wife would cook and serve, I would clean and deliver. Everything was on us to survive.”



Running late on bills, Rafael and Estela began applying for loans, but faced constant rejection. Right when they thought things were hopeless, they found Ascendus. “Ascendus came at the right time. The process was so easy. Our representative was there the whole time, calling us multiple times a day to ensure we could do everything. I had never seen this level of diligence. They worked really hard to show us all our options and gave us a hand when no one else did.”

Rafael received a 0% interest loan through the Ascendus Restaurant Futures Loan Fund. He used his loan to meet his immediate needs, such as paying the salary for his 10 employees, remodeling, catching up on bills, buying new equipment, advertising, and creating a small cushion.

Still, he found himself challenged when it came to predictable working capital. To create more stability and consistency, he took out an additional loan with Ascendus – this time a line of credit, that he could access whenever he needed, and borrow only as much as he needed at the time. For Rafael, the biggest benefit of the line of credit is peace of mind. It gives him more freedom and security with the day-to-day aspects of his business and helps him position his business for future needs.



Even with the ups and downs, Rafael says the experience of owning his own business means a lot. It takes a lot of effort and sacrifices, but to be able to take an unconventional path and still be here is totally worth it. Being able to learn, make things better, serve, and help others is a blessing. He now has a legacy to give to his children. Now, with people coming back into the restaurant, Rafael can rest easier knowing he will be okay.

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