- Felicia Matlosz
FRESNO, CA – Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) has selected the El Premio Mayor as the 2022 Small Business of the Year in the 31st Assembly District.
The California Small Business Association will celebrate El Premio Mayor today, August 17, and all the other state honorees at an event at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento as part of California Small Business Day.
The restaurant, founded by Belen Melendrez Ramirez in 1996, has grown from a family food operation in a small food trailer to expand to two brick-and-mortar locations in the city of Fresno. The business – with a name that translates to “The Grand Prize” or “First Place” – not only is a beloved eatery but makes it a priority to give back to the community. Today, Belen’s daughter, Bianca Loza, manages El Premio Mayor, and the family continues the business’s success.
Belen’s eldest child, Adrian Loza, who passed away in 2016, was instrumental in gaining the food truck operation broader recognition by entering the Second Annual Taco Truck Throwdown, a highly popular event in Fresno, and winning the People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice awards. El Premio Mayor has since won even more awards at the annual Throwdown. (Adrian’s image is incorporated into a commemorative logo that now is the face of the business.)
Melendrez Ramirez also believes in giving back and uplifting others through fundraising events and more. In the winter, for example, her family hands out warm burritos to people in need in downtown Fresno. When the devastating Creek Fire erupted in 2020, El Premio Mayor volunteered to feed dinner to firefighters, and, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, they donated lunches to frontline workers at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno.
Assemblymember Arambula said: “Belen’s story is one of grit, determination and inspiration. She was a single mother raising three children in Fresno, working as a caretaker, in the fields and at packing houses. But she always wanted a business of her own selling food. She made her dream a reality, withstanding challenges along the way. Her family has helped her build upon that dream and show what can be achieved through hard work, talent, and ingenuity. Their generosity to community is just as impressive and part of what makes Belen and her family special.”
Belen Melendrez Ramirez said she will “forever be thankful” to Assemblymember Arambula for “giving us this opportunity” and for supporting them throughout the years.
“To my clientele throughout the years, to our regulars and to the people who try our food for the first time, ‘thank you,’” Belen Melendrez Ramirez said. “From the bottom of my heart, ‘thank you.’ Without you, I wouldn’t be here today.
“When I first started my business, 26 years ago, never would I have imagined being where I am now -- what started as a way of making ends meet to now. I would truly love to thank God first for giving me strength through all the hardships and struggles. I feel truly blessed.”
Today’s CSBA occasion will be the 20th event, sponsored by small business organizations and chambers of commerce. The annual celebration was initiated through the California Assembly passing a resolution in 2000 to highlight and commend small businesses because they are the backbone of the State’s economy.