Phyllis and Jose Trujillo are ready to rest.
The family announced last week that they will serve the final meal in their Main Street Jose’s restaurant after 47 years of devoted care to the building, the business, the family recipes and the community.
“After a great deal of thought, it is our decision to slow down after this September,” they wrote in a letter to friends and family. “Phyllis and I, as well as our daughters, Teri and Chris, have built our business as a point of destination and a Littleton landmark. We’re proud to have fed generations of families here in the city we love.”
Behind the straightforward letter is a host of conflicting emotions for the Trujillos. They speak of a burden being lifted, of looking forward to traveling. Mrs. Trujillo would like to see the East Coast in autumn; Mr. Trujillo wants to ride the Mississippi River in a paddleboat. They both would like to see some festivals around the state other than Western Welcome Week for a change, in Palisade, perhaps.
“Other people get to retire, why can’t we?” wondered daughter Chris Slinkard, who has grown kids of her own. “The grandkids grew up here. It’s been our life. If I didn’t have Mom and Dad, there’s no way I could do it. I need the support they give.”
Still, it’s been a difficult decision for them, one made with tears and some trepidation, they admit.
“That’s the thing that will really hurt me, is if they take that mural down,” said Mr. Trujillo. Painted in 1976 by then-struggling artist Jose Zamora, Mr. Trujillo says it’s a composite of small-town Main Streets from days gone by.
“It’s really an attention-getter,” he said. “Wherever you sit, the road is leading to you.”
Their plan is to sell the building, but not the business. They hope it will remain a restaurant, a place they can enjoy visiting for a margarita themselves and perhaps continue their Wednesday-night family gatherings.
“The building is going to have to live on its own two feet like I did,” said Mr. Trujillo. “The economy, it’s hit everybody. We just want to get out of here while we’re ahead of the game.”
“I hope they make a go of it,” agreed Slinkard.
Asked to name his proudest business accomplishment, Mr. Trujillo, who twice served on city council, said it’s that he’s remained consistent and true to his family recipes.
“It means a lot to people,” said Mrs. Trujillo, slipping her hand over his. “But I think you should be so proud of going into the business not knowing anything, and you had your own place by the time you were in your 30s.”
Mr. Trujillo gives credit to Evelyn Hudson for that. While a student at Littleton High School, he worked for her at Country Kitchen, the large log building that is now the Inn at Hudson Gardens. They did everything in house, he said, which is pretty much how Jose operates — grinding meat and preparing everything fresh every day.
After some military duty and a stint at Martin Marietta, he and Phyllis, his high-school sweetheart, decided to start their own restaurant.
“Once Evelyn gave me her blessing, I said, ‘Well, that’s good,’” remembers Mr. Trujillo. “She was a great mentor.”
Mrs. Trujillo gives a lot of credit to her huband’s large family for a lot of help, and the whole family thanks its customers for years of loyal support.
“We’ve met so many people, and we’ll miss them so much,” said Mrs. Trujillo. “I’m proud that we’ve been part of the community.”