FARGO - All outward signs suggested Rodolfo Romo was ready to put behind him the recent failure of Magnolia's, a downtown restaurant he opened and quickly shuttered.
In the past few weeks, the restaurateur best known for his three Romo's Tacos locations in Fargo renewed a liquor license and discussed his plans to find more workers to keep his businesses thriving.
But Romo, 43, suddenly disappeared, and his restaurants are now closed after his family reported him missing.
Kay Cameron last saw her friend Romo on Friday, May 26. She said that morning he was preparing to open Romo's Tacos on the lower level of the Black Building, 118 Broadway N., near the business Cameron co-owns, Puzzled FM.
She saw him again about 2 p.m. that day with his food truck at O'Reilly Auto Parts, 1570 32nd Ave. S. "He seemed in really good spirits," she said.
Cameron hasn't seen or heard from him since, and she's not the only one left wondering where Romo went - or why he's missing.
Romo came to Fargo after his restaurant in Omaha, Neb., failed along with much of the national economy in 2009, according to a Forum article in 2014. He started out here with a Romo's food truck, expanding to his first Romo's Tacos restaurant in 2014 and quickly opening two more locations.
On Wednesday, June 7, calls to his cellphone went straight to a full voicemail inbox that couldn't accept more messages. Attempts to contact him through Facebook were unsuccessful, and Cameron said she hasn't been able to reach him since May 26.
Fargo Police Officer Jessica Schindeldecker said Wednesday that Romo's family has reported him as a missing person. She said authorities do not believe he is in danger.
City Auditor Steve Sprague said Romo paid $300 on Thursday, May 25, to renew a liquor license for the Romo's Tacos location at 1100 19th Ave. N. Sprague said it would be unusual to renew the one-year license if the restaurateur had planned to close his businesses the following week, but that's what happened.
Sprague said Romo also discussed transferring a liquor license from his short-lived Magnolia's restaurant, 402 Broadway N., which opened Feb. 15 and closed May 12, back to Romo's Tacos at 3402 13th Ave. S.
Sprague said Romo showed up "really early" for the May 25 meeting and, at one point, showed a photo of his young daughter he said he hadn't seen in years. While discussing Magnolia's, which Romo said he closed because of the regional worker shortage, Romo told Sprague he was thinking about paying $30,000 to legally bring five or six people from Mexico to work for him.
Sprague said that in general, Romo seemed to be the same old nice guy he had known for years. "His behavior didn't seem at all abnormal," he said.