Daniel Mercedes Jr. started the business that would become The Dancing Empanda by selling food out of the trunk of his car.
“I was looking for a little side hustle to do and I just remember grandma making the empanadas,” Mercedes said. “So that’s what I decided to do. So we talked about it and she gave me the recipes and I started making empanadas and going to barber shops and mechanic shops out of the car and just to see how we grew and they loved it.”
At the time, Mercedes was working at a transitional home through the Department of Corrections. He was selling his empanadas on the weekends.
“Then once I got to the place where I was making the same as my check, that’s when I decided to give my two weeks’ notice and I ran with that,” he said. “I was very surprised to see that if you put into work, you know, and the product is good, you can make money off of it.”
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That was eight years ago. Since then, Mercedes has expanded his business into two food trucks — which he’s been running for four years. His wife has also become a part of the business.
“The hardest part is what my wife does, which is making the empanadas and also getting us job contracts,” Mercedes said. “I’m driving the food truck — it’s the easiest part — working it is easy because we only have empanadas.”
Now, four years into running his food trucks, Mercedes is getting ready to retire.
“Now we’re actually selling the business with the recipe, the empanada machine, everything that comes with the business — the name, the brand,” he said.
Mercedes has parlayed his success with The Dancing Empanada into purchasing property in North Carolina, which he has outfitted with some tiny homes he plans to use as vacation rentals.
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“(The Dancing Empanada is) a great business to have (it’s) just our journey’s over with it,” he said.
On the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Mercedes shares more about how he built his business. He also talks about working with his wife and children, as well as his plans for the future.
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Florida Foodie is a podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it and the impact that has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.