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The story behind this popular family-owned business in Citrus Heights

Father and son, Don Gill and Gill Valencia stand in front if the family carniceria and taqueria they have owned for decades as the younger Valencia prepares to take over the business. // M. Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip—
Operating since 2001, a Citrus Heights taqueria and market located inside an unassuming storefront on Greenback Lane is looking to the future, while keeping family ties with the past.

After immigrating to the United States from Michoacán, Mexico in the mid-1980s, Don Gill and Maria Valencia first opened Valencia’s Carniceria Taqueria in Orangevale. By the early 2000s the family moved and expanded the business at 8040 Greenback Ln. in Citrus Heights, their son Gill Valencia told The Sentinel.

His parents came to the United States for opportunity and education, Valencia said.

“There’s not much opportunity in Mexico, there’s not much if you don’t have an education over there,” he said. “Education really matters over there and the majority of the people over there aren’t educated. I think my dad at one point was just looking for more opportunity to make money, find some freedom, and he came over here with that in mind.”

Inside the storefront on Greenback Lane is a taqueria with table seating and a full menu of burritos, tacos and more. A small market is also located inside, and the business has earned more than 200 reviews on Yelp, with an average 4.5-out-of-5 star rating from customers.

More than two decades after opening, the younger Valencia handles most of the day-to-day operations and is preparing to take the family business further. The business continues to be a popular stop for shoppers and diners looking to experience authentic Mexican foods.

“I do pretty much everything,” he said. “Bookkeeper, manage about 25 people right now, taking care of inventory, dealing with the ups-and-downs as far as inflation costs and just so many things that just been popping up, counseling my own people because at the end of the day, when you’re a business owner you’re pretty much establishing friendships and you’re a counselor at the same time.”

Thirty-two-year-old Valencia said he learned entrepreneurial skills from his father, but also took some business and social science courses at Sierra College that prepared him to manage the business.

“He’s always had a business mind,” Valencia said of his father. “And that’s where I’m getting it from. I’ve seen the success that it’s brought and I like that, I like the flexibility of making your own time and that’s something I thoroughly enjoy.”

Valencia said one employee was shaken up after an armed robbery that occurred about four months ago when an individual tried to rob the cashier with a knife. Due to the incident being traumatizing for the employee, she was moved to a day shift.

The business has seen one other armed robbery in the past year, Valencia said, noting the crimes are an increase since the business opened.

Landlord improvements in recent months have increased the safety of the center, Valencia said, noting that the area was not well-lit when the crimes occurred. Security has also started patrolling the center.

“I told the landlord about the situation and he got on it right away,” he said. “He started putting up more can lights down the hallway, lights around the back area of the building.”

Looking forward, Valencia said he plans to expand the business and add more seating for the taqueria as well as offering more forms of money transfer such as Viamericas. He said the electronic money transfer service helps his customers pay their bills and transfer funds to family living outside the United States.

New developments nearby like the 260-home Mitchell Village have also been good for business, Valencia said. He is seeing more new customers from areas such as the Bay Area, San Jose, and Folsom.

“I feel like it’s grown a lot,” he said. “More people, you see a lot more activity here. We’ve got a brand new community behind us right now, and we got another community being built. So as far as people, there’s more traffic. That definitely helps out with business, but it’s growing.”

Plans for a K-6 charter school in the nearby 6060 Sunrise Vista office building and the Sunrise Tomorrow concept are also developments that Valencia says will help local businesses like his.

“As far as a school goes, if a school gets in there, that’d be good, that’s going to be good traffic right there, that will bring clientele. At the end of the day, that’s what makes everything go round, just customers and the economy.”

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