MuySA: El Camino owner champions San Antonio’s hustle mentality – mySA

For Ricky Ortiz, owner of El Camino, the hustle of the city’s residents is definitely a reflection of San Antonio’s culture. Creating a hub for entrepreneurship among local businesses in the popular food truck park gets even more personal for Ortiz.

“I have a little bit of a soft spot for locally-owned businesses, specifically minority-owned businesses, people who build things from the ground up,” he says. 

Ortiz is used to being around hard workers with a dream in mind.

“My grandparents started their business as a pop-up,” he says. In Chicago, they’d serve Mexican food on the weekends, long before the genre was deemed trendy by foodies. “Back then Mexican food was on the bottom of the list when it comes to fine dining. They were bringing something that wasn’t common or respected even.”

Still, the couple worked hard, instilling in Ortiz a tireless work ethic and an appreciation for those who hustle through food trucks and pop-ups. He remembers getting up in the early hours to watch his grandparents prepare for the day, seeing how the business ran and what it took to keep it going.

“When it came to my concept for El Camino, that was the inspiration of it,” he says.

El Camino is more than a food truck park. It's a hub for small businesses and food trucks looking to get their start in the industry.

El Camino is more than a food truck park. It’s a hub for small businesses and food trucks looking to get their start in the industry.

Courtesy, Ricky Ortiz

Though El Camino opened in 2021, the food truck park was in the works for some time. Ortiz says he and his brother Armando were working on the project together when Armando was killed by a wrong-way driver in 2017. Ortiz says he was trying to figure out the next steps for the eventual food truck park while mourning his brother’s death, which eventually lit a fire under him to finish out their projects.

“It was always our dream to do something here that was different from the norm,” he says, adding that they wanted a spot with more culture. “I really wanted to make a business that could be a hub for other small businesses, but specifically food trucks. That’s a life goal for the little guy.”

To Ortiz, that “little guy” often comes from working in kitchens throughout San Antonio and getting experience in the industry, prompting them to start a business of their own. Despite that experience, a number of factors make that difficult, especially lately.

“The entry point to that is almost unattainable now. Everything is crazy expensive,” Ortiz points out. “These big corporations come in and they make it so that you’re only ever going to be a renter. Not everybody can afford to go get space at a super expensive shopping center. We got to set up a pop-up and go sell corn or sell barbecue and do whatever we gotta do.”

Ortiz is happy to help residents, no matter their goals, make their dreams come into fruition at El Camino.

“It’s not just a taco truck park,” he says, clarifying that the food trucks at El Camino also include fried chicken, lobster rolls, pizza, and cuisines like Mediterranean and Filipino. “Food trucks are pretty much one of the last opportunities where an average income person could get into the food game and be successful.”

He also means that El Camino supports all types of entrepreneurial hustles that show up at the space, where anyone of any business “could do their thing and make money.” That’s why patrons will often see pop-up markets, where you can find custom-made clothing and jewelry, at El Camino on weekends.

Eisenhauer Road Flea Market is key to San Antonio's local pulga scene.

Eisenhauer Road Flea Market is key to San Antonio’s local pulga scene.

Eisenahur Road Flea Market

And it’s not just at El Camino. Drive down a popular road or stop at a major intersection and you’ll likely see someone selling water bottles out of an ice chest on summer days and San Marcos blankets during the colder months. Year-round, you can see residents prop up a tent with a mix of Spurs and Dallas Cowboys T-shirts and fan gear on display or promoting their small business on Facebook, whether it be homemade baked goods, beauty services, or even Texas-inspired takes on furniture.

Ortiz says it’s because locals are willing to adapt and overcome obstacles no matter what it takes for us to get by. It’s simply part of San Antonio’s culture.

“Poteet, Eisenhauer flea market, all those staples in the community for people to go out and sell, that’s part of our culture here,” Ortiz says. “La Cantera, North Star Mall, the Pearl are all the new stuff and the big companies that have come in, but that’s not really truly what San Antonio is. To me, it’s the pop-ups that you find at the flea markets and plate sales and all those things.”

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