Minneapolis Taqueria La Hacienda named Small Business of the Year by NDC; St. Paul’s A-1 Vacuum, Hmong House, others also honored


Minutes after learning that she and her husband Miguel Zagal had won the most prestigious award at the Neighborhood Development Center’s 2013 Entrepreneur Awards, Maria Zagal commented, “We are very surprised and very pleased.” The Zagals own Taqueria La Hacienda and have worked with NDC since 1997. “Thanks to them we were able to open our first business. They helped us with classes about how to start a business, loans…and they still help us. About two years ago they gave a class for our employees about the duties of supervisors,” Miguel Zagal recalled.

“And the award goes to…”

  • Bonita Martin Best Business Plan Award: Denise Jarrett, Eco Hair Institute
  • Employment Impact Award: Rachele Simmons, Foundations Health Career Academy
  • Community Impact Award: PaSee and Kay Yang, Hmong House
  • Longevity and Sustained Impact Award: Russ and Mary Battisto, A1 Vacuum
  • Growth in Revenue Award: Son Do, Ha Tien Grocery
  • The Senator Paul Wellstone and Sheila Wellstone Twin Cities Small Business of the Year Award: Miguel and María Zagal, Taquería La Hacienda

The NDC’s 2013 Entrepreneur Awards were held Saturday, April 20 at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul. The NDC website stated the purpose as “celebrating outstanding entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities.” Fourteen nominated businesses included vacuum cleaner service, international cuisine and groceries, media arts, employment training, gluten free organic ice cream, and more.

Reflecting the diverse crowd of more than 200 people who packed into the auditorium of the Wellstone Center, the welcome speech was given in English, Hmong, Oromo, Somali, and Spanish. In addition to nominating entrepreneurs for having had a positive impact on their communities, Maren Misner, former Training and Communication Coordinator at NDC, who was involved in the early selection process for this year’s awards, said the committee also considers factors such as having a minimum of six months in business and being current on loan payments. Several of this year’s nominees were also commended for having made accommodations for the new Green Line light rail train on University Avenue in St. Paul. She noted that several nominees were surviving and even thriving despite this obstacle for their businesses.

Not all winners have had their businesses for long. PaSee Yang, winner of the Community Impact Award and owner of Hmong House has only been in business for 10 months. He reported having received great help from his NDC instructor, Sai Thao, who assisted him in writing a business plan and securing a small loan. He described NDC support as “ongoing- that’s one of the things I like about NDC. In the future I’m gonna grow and I look forward to NDC help.”

Profiles of winners (provided by NDC)

Eco Hair Institute • Denise Jarrett • As a licensed cosmetologist, Denise Jarrett’s Eco Hair Institute is dedicated to ‘going green’ in the salon environment. She offers a 30-hour online course to become certified in natural hair care only, in contrast to the traditional 1500-hour course to receive state licensing in cosmetology. Denise caters specifically to ‘underground’ stylists who do not incorporate harsh chemical-based hair treatments and styling products in their overall business. Denise’s aim is to develop and support salon apprentices with state recognized licensing, while promoting health, safety and chemical-free salon environments.

Foundations Health Career Academy • Rachele Simmons, 225 University Ave. W. #200
 St. Paul, MN 55104 • Foundations Health Career Academy (FHCA) provides a 4-week certified nursing assistant and home health aid training program. With over 25 years of experience as a registered nurse, Rachele Simmons, owner, fills job vacancies in the health care industry at the same time helping solve high unemployment in her community. FHCA has trained more than 150 students, with 90% job placement and 10% pursuing additional nursing education.

Hmong House • PaSee and Kay Yang, 2112 11th Avenue North, N. St. Paul, MN 55109 • PaSee and Kay Yang’s revitalization of a vacant storefront in St. Paul is now the home of Hmong House. The restaurant serves traditional Hmong, Thai and Chinese cuisine with a modern flare that has garnered great reviews. The interior contains a picturesque backdrop of murals that depict everyday life in traditional and modern-day Hmong villages, creating a welcoming place for families and community-building events.

A1 Vacuum Cleaner • Russ & Mary Battisto, 666 University Avenue, St. Paul MN 55104 • A family run business since 1952, Russ and Mary Battisto’s A-1 Vacuum Cleaner is one of the longest running businesses on University Avenue. A-1 provides vacuum sales, vacuum parts, and expert repair service. Providing convenience to customers during and after Green Line light rail construction, A-1 installed a new entrance to ensure easy drop-offs and pick-ups. Continuing in the family tradition, their daughter Gina now assists with overall business operations.

Ha Tien Grocery Store • Son Dao, 353 University Avenue West, St Paul, MN 55103 • Following in his parents’ entrepreneurial footsteps, Son Dao opened Ha Tien Grocery Store on University Avenue in 1996, now employing 22 neighborhood residents. In addition to an expansive seafood selection, fresh produce, deli and groceries, Ha Tien provides a welcoming gathering spot for the neighborhood. To counter effects of the light rail construction, Son recently invested in major renovations to his store, including facade treatments and adding energy efficient lighting to increase visibility and security for customers.

Taqueria La Hacienda • Miguel and Maria Zagal, 1515 E Lake St #104, Minneapolis, MN 55407 • Miguel and Maria Zagal opened the first taqueria in Minnesota in 1999 in the Mercado Central on Lake Street in Minneapolis. 14 years later, they own three locations in the Twin Cities, employing more than 70 people from the surrounding neighborhoods. Recognizing the current fads and trends to reinvent the taco, the Zagals remain true to their roots and style, offering traditional Mexican tacos in a community-oriented atmosphere.