Jaclynn and Joel Villanueva say the recent challenges on Marine Drive haven’t swayed them

New taste for White Rock’s Marine Drive

Third-generation restaurateur Joel Villanueva and his wife Jaclynn are planning to boost the Mexican flair on White Rock’s Marine Drive.

Third-generation restaurateur Joel Villanueva and his wife Jaclynn are planning to boost the Mexican flair on White Rock’s Marine Drive.

Primo’s Mexican Grill, which will take over the old Cielo Restaurant (15069 Marine Dr.) building, used to dish tacos and other Mexican favourites in Vancouver for more than 50 years.

Jaclynn said they have been following the discussion regarding recent Marine Drive restaurant closures, but they view the challenge as “kind of exciting.”

“Obviously, you have to be concerned a little bit,” she said. “Seasonality-wise, you really have to watch your budget. In the summertime when you get your main burst, you obviously have to conserve that throughout the year. We’re hoping to target the locals.”

There have been many theories as to why more than a dozen restaurants have closed on Marine Drive in the last four years, including parking, cost of waterfront leases and seasonality.

Early last month, the City of White Rock started a Marine Drive Business Task Force to look into the problems, but stepped back from the idea soon after, to let the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce and White Rock Business Improvement Association head the issue.

Chamber executive director, Cliff Annable said some 60 to 65 businesses were represented at a Feb. 28 task force meeting.

“In all my years in the community and everything I’ve been involved in, I’ve not seen anything quite like this,” Annable told PAN after the meeting.

Jaclynn said her family has been spending time on the beach to familiarize themselves with the community.

“We’ve met a couple of families that work on the beach and they’re awesome. We really want to work together. We’re going to start going to the community meetings… it’s breathing new life and it’s an experience. I think that if you stay true to your food and have great service and food, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to succeed,” she said.

According to the Villanuevas, Primo’s Mexican Grill has carved a spot in B.C.’s restaurant history.

The original restaurant was founded by Primo Villanueva – Joel’s grandfather – a Mexican-American football player who suited up for the BC Lions.

Jaclynn said their Granville and 12 Avenue location was the first Mexican restaurant in B.C., and possibly Canada – “but don’t quote me on that, that’s just something that’s been thrown around.”

Primo – an inductee in the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame – sold the restaurant to his son in the ’90s, who eventually turned it over to Joel.

“I worked there all my life,” Joel said Tuesday. “I remember starting off by clearing the tables, bringing chips and salsa to the tables. We also had a factory in Richmond, which my grandfather ran – chips and salsa. I remember taking fresh chips right off the conveyor-belt and eating them.”

The Villanuevas said one reason they chose White Rock was because it reminds them of North Vancouver, and “you can’t get a better view, right?” said Jaclynn.

The family plans to open the restaurant in early May.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

White Rock nixes idea of liquor in Memorial Park

Council halts proposal to allow alcohol in waterfront picnic area

Surrey council rejects motion to speed up permit process

‘More than ever cash is tight for our businesses,’ Councillor Linda Annis said

South Surrey mom frustrated by city’s response after son, 10, has severe reaction to park grass 

City of Surrey parks manager says ‘potential steps’ to address concern under review

Surrey Mounties seeking witnesses to Saturday shooting

Police say the victim isn’t providing investigators with information

Emergency funding granted to eight Delta charities

The Delta Foundation handed out a total of $181,860 through Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

RCMP searching for culprit behind needle-filled lemons left on Coquitlam-area trails

The two lemons found were thrown away leaving police with little evidence

Police watchdog investigating after Abbotsford man seriously injured during arrest

Abbotsford police used ‘less lethal firearm’ and dog in arrest of man believed to have gun

NDP wants Lower Mainland MLA removed from BC Liberal caucus for alleged homophobia

BC Liberal leader, some MLAs apologize for Christian magazine ads but Laurie Throness doubles down

B.C. health officials pleased with likely extension of Canada-U.S. border closure

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the situation is ‘very serious in the United States’

‘Perfect storm’ led to bad year for mosquitos near Fraser River

High river levels and lots of rain meant many eggs hatched this year

Thousands of dollars of stolen rice traced to Langley warehouse

Police raid seizes $75,000 in ‘commercial scale’ theft case

Children suffer swollen eyes, burns while playing at Lower Mainland spray park

Mission RCMP are investigating incident that injured several children

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Most Read

l -->