A restaurateur who blends his love of family with cherished recipes for burros and other Mexican staples at his popular restaurants is thrilled to serve up his latest enterprise – a children’s book that pays tribute to his grandmother.
Tim Vasquez, owner of the fast-casual Someburros restaurant family-operated chain – which has shops in Chandler, Gilbert, Queen Creek and other parts of the Valley – recently published his first book, “The Taco Stand.”
Vasquez is also the owner of Isabel’s Amor, a full-service Mexican restaurant with a bar that serves fresh margaritas and craft cocktails in a relaxed setting in Gilbert.
Story Monsters LLC of Chandler edited and produced the book, which Vasquez published through his own company, Toodaloo Publishing.
“The Taco Stand” is an animated story about a character named Isabel, a fictional representation of Vasquez’s late paternal grandmother, who cooks delicious tacos for her family that her sons sell at a stand.
One day a man in a black suit visits her house and proposes a way for her to make millions of dollars selling her tacos. But he tells her “she’ll have to sacrifice” the time she has with her family members if she wants to pursue that business. The story reveals the importance of spending time with family.
Vasquez’s aunt, Linda Kay Ost, illustrated the book.
“I’ve always just loved writing,” Vasquez said. “I wrote it as just a family legacy type thing.”
He wrote the first version of the book about eight years ago and had it printed at a local print shop, then gave it to family members to honor his late paternal grandmother, Isabel Vasquez.
The recipes used at the Someburros and Isabel’s Amor are grandmother Isabel’s and the latter restaurant is named after her.
“I think she would love it,” Tim said. “I think she’d be tickled. We hope she’s up in heaven smiling down, seeing the growth of Someburros. I think she’d be very proud.”
Tim’s parents, George and Mary Vasquez founded Someburros in 1986. His sister, Amy Vasquez, is vice-president and one of the owners of Someburros and his sister, Jennilyn Costantini, is also an owner. The same family members also own Isabel’s.
People can buy “The Taco Stand” at Someburros restaurants, except for at Sun Devil Stadium, and at Isabel’s Amor. The children’s book is also available to buy online at TheTacoStandBook.com and on Amazon.com.
The book may also be purchased at the Changing Hands bookstores in the Valley. In order to give back to the community, 5 percent of all proceeds from book sales will go to Frank Elementary School in Guadalupe.
Tim read the book to students at Frank Elementary recently and brought tacos for 500 students. He has scheduled many more visits to schools to read his book and deliver tacos from his restaurant.
“It’s fun,” Tim said. “I love kids and I love reading the book and I love the questions they ask me afterwards. It does my heart good when they follow the story.”
He said many Someburros customers have children so he believes that the restaurants are a good place to sell the book.
For a limited time, anyone who buys “The Taco Stand” at Someburros restaurants can get a free dessert. Also, “golden tickets” were placed in five, random books at the Someburros restaurants, and the children who find them will get free tacos for a year and behind-the-scenes tours of the restaurants.
“Even outside of our customers, I feel like everybody can relate to, sometimes there’s temptations for money and material things and the moral of this story is there’s no substitute for time with family because you can’t get it back,” Tim said.
Tim and his wife, Julie, a preschool teacher in Chandler, have three children: Isabel, 22, who works in operations support for Someburros; Camden, 19, a freshman baseball player at the University of San Diego; and Cody, 16, a sophomore at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert.
Cody loves to cook and participated on the “Kids Baking Championship” and the “Halloween Baking Championship” shows on Food Network. He also cooked shrimp tacos with watermelon jicama salad for former First Lady Michelle Obama as part of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge in 2014.
“It was an incredible experience,” Tim said. “He’s always loved Michelle Obama.”
Tim said his father, George, as a restaurant owner demonstrated the importance of finding a balance between work and family.
“My dad was a great example,” Tim said. “He worked really hard but he didn’t miss one of my baseball games or football games, vacations. I live the same way. I work very hard when I’m at work. When I’m home and I’m with the family, I make the time. I coached all my kids in sports and Little League.”
He also coached a youth baseball club, The Ball Club, which hosted a free camp for a few years in Guadalupe around Christmas.
Hundreds of children participated in the camp and the Club donated new and gently used sports equipment to all the youths and feed them lunch from Someburros.
A graduate of Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in communications, Tim said he took writing classes in college and his mother is a “good writer.” His maternal grandmother, Betty Ost, was “a fantastic writer.” She would always say “Toodaloo” when communicating, prompting Tim to name his company Toodaloo Publishing.
“I love having a creative outlet,” Tim said. “With my kids, when they were younger finding the time to write was always difficult.”
He said he loves to write when visiting his family’s cottage in Flagstaff.
Getting help from Story Monsters LLC was a great experience, Tim said.
“They were phenomenal,” he said. “When I went into it, I had no idea what I was doing. They’re a local company and the owner, Linda Radke, she was just so hands-on. She truly wanted my book to be successful. She went above and beyond to help.”
Radke, president of Story Monsters LLC and publisher of “Story Monsters Ink” magazine, returned the compliment.
“The thing that’s so nice is that he counted on our expertise and he listened to our advice,” she said. “I think it’s delightful. I think it’s charming and I think it’s telling kids of all ages a story, a story about the importance of family.
“There’s just something about it. The illustrations have a real strong feel for the Mexican heritage. This book speaks pride. I think that’s a wonderful message to give children about your family heritage, your pride.”
Conrad J. Storad, an editor with Story Monsters LLC, edited “The Taco Stand” and also writes a column for “Story Monsters Ink” magazine. The editing “was minor but Tim really valued Conrad’s opinion and together it made such a wonderful difference,” Radke said.
Designer and illustrator Jeff Yesh of Story Monsters LLC and “Story Monsters Ink” did “phenomenal” interior layout design and the cover design for Tim’s book, she added.
Tim said he already has ideas for a future book aimed more at adults.