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Published April 26, 2013, 11:30 PM

Juano’s owners put restaurants up for sale

FARGO – After 16 years in the Fargo-Moorhead restaurant scene, Juan and Annele Mondragon are starting to think about the next chapter of their lives.

By: Angie Wieck, INFORUM

FARGO – After 16 years in the Fargo-Moorhead restaurant scene, Juan and Annele Mondragon are starting to think about the next chapter of their lives.

The couple own and operate two full-service restaurants – Juano’s Authentic Mexican Cuisine in downtown Fargo and John Alexander’s American Classics Restaurant and Martini Bar in downtown Moorhead – and three Juano’s Express stores.

To allow them more mobility and time for new opportunities, the Mondragons recently listed their full-service restaurants for sale.

“If it happens and the right situation arises, then that’s what we’re hoping to do,” said Annele Mondragon. “We’re just putting feelers out.”

Running a successful full-service restaurant is a demanding job that requires an owner to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Juan Mondragon.

“It’s like being a parent because you don’t have control of your own time,” Annele added.

While Juan and Annele are ready for a little freedom, neither has any interest in retiring. If the right buyers come along, each has other projects in mind.

Juan Mondragon would like to concentrate on developing the Juano’s Express franchise.

The couple already have received inquiries from people in places such as Grand Forks, and Fergus Falls and Alexandria, Minn.

Franchise relationships would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Some may choose to buy the recipes and do the cooking themselves, while others would purchase the food directly from Juano’s.

All Juano’s food is made from scratch at the downtown restaurant and delivered to the Express locations.

Mondragon thinks setting the business on the franchise path also will allow more time to enjoy his other passion: tennis.

Mondragon worked as a tennis instructor in Riverside, Calif., before crime and gang activity prompted the couple to move to Annele’s hometown of Fargo in 1996. He would love the freedom to spend more time on the courts.

Annele Mondragon hopes to do restaurant consulting.

She said most restaurants fail because owners are not prepared for the business aspect. A restaurant cannot succeed on good food alone, and that is where her 25 years of experience could prove beneficial to those just starting out.

She would deal with every detail, from the restaurant décor and menu, to the plate presentation and beyond.

“A lot of times people have a great product, but it gets left at the kitchen door,” she said.

One of her specialties will be server training. When she receives poor service at a restaurant, she thinks of owners who have worked so hard to prepare a great meal only to have it ruined by the server.

She plans to write a book about her experiences in the restaurant business that she hopes to finish once things slow down. One of the chapters is tentatively titled, “Your server might be serving your head on a plate.”

Ultimately, what the Mondragons want customers to know is that they remain fully invested in all of their restaurants.

Even as they are contemplating a sale, they are busy celebrating John Alexander’s six years in business.

A special anniversary menu featuring $6 appetizers, entrees, martinis and desserts will be available through the spring.

They have been very hands-on at their restaurants over the years and admit it will be difficult to step back.

Listing the properties and getting the word out will give them and their loyal customers time to adjust to the idea.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501

Timeline of restaurants

• 1996: Juano’s Authentic Mexican Cuisine at 402 Broadway in Fargo.

• 2004: Juano’s Express, 1100 19th Ave. N., Fargo.

• 2005: Juano’s Express, 1620 32nd Ave. S., Fargo. The location closed last summer when the couple was asked to sign a long-term lease.

• 2006: Juano’s Express, 3402 13th Ave. S., Fargo.

• 2006: Juano’s Express, 315 Main Ave. S., Moorhead.

• 2008: John Alexander’s American Classics Restaurant and Martini Bar, 315 Main Ave. S., Moorhead.