It has been three decades since Gabino Torres and Anna Martinez opened a small Mexican seafood restaurant on Main Street, a business they launched as a way to pair their love of their native cuisine with a drive to support their family.
La Perla del Pacifico has held onto its loyal customers throughout the years, an accomplishment they say comes thanks to a combination of personalized service and a menu of recipes created in-house and bolstered by yearly trips to Mexico.
Now, with retirement possibly a few short years away, Martinez says she is proud of the fact that her business has provided her and her husband with a secure retirement.
But what brings the most pride, she says, is knowing that they realized their life goal of sending their children to college and propelling them into successful careers of their own.
Their son Carlos Torres studied Political Science at University of the Pacific, and works in a cybersecurity firm in San Francisco. Daughter Adriana Torres-Martinez earned a bachelor’s degree in human communication from CSU Monterey Bay and a master’s degree in Chicana-Chicano studies from Northwestern University. She works as a program coordinator for Cabrillo College’s Greater Opportunities Through Adult Learning program.
“We made our American dream,” Anna Martinez said.
Carlos says he and Adriana have been helping their parents since Covid-19 restrictions took hold by leveraging their knowledge of technology and social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Moreover, Perla is now offering delivery and recently signed a contract with the company DoorDash.
“We have to expand our boundaries,” Carlos said. “It’s been nice because it’s allowed us to find a different gateway.”
And while the pandemic has had its downside—the business has laid off some employees—Carlos said the slowdown has been a time for his parents to rest.
“I guess Covid has been kind of a reset for them,” he said. “It’s been a little easier on their bodies. Being a waitress and a cook is hard, and imagine doing it five to six days a week for 30 years.”
Adriana agreed, and added that coming together to keep the business afloat has had an additional benefit.
“We’ve never spent so much time as a family,” she said.
To help keep the menu fresh, Carlos says the family vacations about once a year in Mexico, including Yucatan, Puerto Vallarta and Quintana Roo, looking for culinary inspiration.
“If there is a dish that blows us away, my dad will look at it and say, ‘I can duplicate it and make it better.’ He’s done it a bunch of times. We take what we like and add a twist to it,” Carlos said.
Carlos says that, watching his parents working—and working alongside them—he learned that treating people well and giving them a smile will bring people back to your door.
“That’s a lesson you can take anywhere,” he said.
Anna Martinez says that, with her children grown and successful, she and her husband want to see the world while they are still relatively young.
“We’re still here,” she said. “We’re happy to stay alive in this situation. We have the same tenacity and willingness to keep going after 30 years. But we’re tired. We’re getting old. And we have too many plans. We don’t want to be too old.”
La Perla del Pacifico is located at 458 Main St. in Watsonville. It is open for takeout only, Tuesday–Sunday from 10am-8pm. For more information, call 831-724-0993.