A Family Affair - Fonseca Factory Restaurant
L-R, Chino, Lupe, Ivan
In 1999, Ivan (pronounced Ē-von) Croess Fonseca set out from his
home in Venezuela for a short visit with his aunt and uncle
who lived in Guntersville. After a few weeks, Ivan
found himself with a little cash flow problem. He had
enjoyed his stay so much that he suddenly found himself
without money for the return trip. Not wanting to call
his mother and ask for money, Ivan decided that he needed to
get a job to pay his way home. His uncle was a partner
in the Buena Vista Mexican Restaurants scattered across
North Alabama. With his pride in hand, Ivan asked his
uncle for a job busing tables and washing dishes in the
Guntersville restaurant. After a while he was able to
move up to a waiter position. "It was a good feeling
to earn my own money", Ivan says, "and I fell in love with
the United States". It wasn't long before Ivan decided
that America was going to be his permanent home and he set
out to develop a career for himself.
and father thought I was crazy when I told
them that I wanted to stay in America", Ivan
admits. But it wasn't long before he
had convinced his younger brother, Chino and
his mother, Lupe to make the journey to
America to share in his excitement about the
that he had never worked before coming to
America. In Venezuela his father was
in the oil business and Lupe was a petroleum
engineer. "In Venezuela your only real
opportunity is if you are in the oil
business", Ivan explains. "The oil
people own almost all of the businesses and
those not born into the oil business have
little hope of ever being able to improve
their life." "In America anything is
possible. It is just a matter of time
and hard work," Ivan says emphatically.
no English when I came to America and I felt
that it was a real challenge to see if I
could make it here," Ivan says with some
pride. "I learned to speak English by
trying to read the closed captioning on the
first earnings, Ivan says that he bought a
1985 Ford Mustang for $800. With his
ever present smile, Ivan confides that,
"Everyone in America loves the Ford
Mustang". "There was no radio or air
conditioning but it was a good feeling to
earn the money for my own car".
uncle decided to close the Buena Vista
Restaurant in Arab, Alex Sierra bought the
restaurant, changing the name to Sierra's
Mexicanissimo. Ivan decided to stay with
Sierra and took a leading role in the day to
day operations. By this time Chino and
Lupe were also working at Sierra's.
recently turned 25 was reminded, by his
mother, of a statement that he had made a
few years ago. "Maybe I will own my own
restaurant by the time I an 25," he had
said. "I have been so busy that I
forgot saying that," Ivan says. "Mom
has always told me to dream big," he grins.
family spent several months transforming the
former bank building into an attractive
restaurant. Oversight of equipment
installation and construction was handled by
Ivan and Chino. "We did the heavy
lifting," Ivan says, "but mom was
responsible for the decor".
the dining area, it is evident that Lupe
could have a successful future in the
interior decorating business. The warm
brown walls in the main dining area are
tastefully appointed with a decorative chair
rail. The black and white photographs
and wall accessories compliment the black
ceiling and floor. Carefully placed
plants, a center table with floral
arrangements and subdued lighting, combine
to provide a feeling of privacy. "It would
have been less expensive to just use the
fluorescent lighting that was in the
building," Ivan said, "but we wanted to
provide a different atmosphere for our
customers". "We decided to take the
extra time and expense to get the feeling
that we wanted".
their first visit to the restaurant, Wayne
and Norma Burgett were impressed with the
decor and menu choices. Norma said,
"You feel as if you have gone to
Huntsville to a nice place, but it is right
here in Arab".
dining room is also available for meetings
and private parties and is decorated with a
slightly brighter color scheme.
Furniture, plants and wall accessories make
it seem more like a home dining room.
to categorize the type of restaurant, Ivan
explained that there was no dominant theme
to the menu. Instead, they decided
to offer a wide variety of items from pasta
to steaks and burgers. "That is why we
chose Fonseca Factory as the name,"
Ivan explained. "It doesn't tie
us to a particular type of menu." "If
you name a restaurant Joe's Barbecue, then
everyone expects barbecue, but with a name
like Fonseca Factory, we can change the menu
if we need to."
restaurant is open seven days per week, with
a lunch menu each day from 11 a.m. to 2
p.m.. Monday through Thursday, dinner
is served from 5 to 8 p.m. and from 5 p.m.
until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Sunday hours are from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
only. The restaurant is closed on Sunday
evenings to allow for family time and
relaxation. According to Ivan, "The
response has been great". "Much better
than we expected," he added.
credits a lot of people for the early
success. "Kathy and Dr. Mike Freeman
have been big supporters," he noted. He
on to thank his brother Chino for his
tremendous support also. "Chino and I
do most of the cooking," he said.
Chino, age 23, wants to become a doctor.
He is currently enrolled at Gadsden State
Community College and hopes to go to UAB
after completing his studies in Gadsden.
lives in Arab and has become a part of the
community. "I love Arab, it is a nice
quiet town and I wouldn't want to live
anywhere else," Ivan said. Ivan and
family are not yet American citizens, but
they are working toward that goal.
Ivan says that 911 has made it more
difficult to gain citizenship. "What
used to take seven years can now take about
eleven years," he said, "but we intend to
become citizens as soon as possible".
"I feel like America is more my home than
Venezuela," Ivan concludes.
Click here to view lunch menu.
Click here to view dinner menu.
1082 N. Brindlee Mtn.
Parkway, Arab, AL 35016
Tel.: (256) 931-7687 Fax: (256)