One man’s ambition + Boulder’s community resources = delicious pupusas
By Sara Bruskin
Franklin Escobar moved to the U.S. from El Salvador in 2007, determined to work hard and earn enough money to put two of his sisters through college and help his parents take care of his brother with special needs. He spent two years in Houston before moving to Boulder, where he’s worked in various restaurants and practiced his English along the way.
Learning a second language can be a slow, frustrating process without a good teacher. So when Escobar heard about the BoulderReads program through the Boulder Public Library, he signed up to work with a volunteer tutor to help him improve his reading and writing. After a short stint with one tutor who wasn’t a good match for him, Escobar was paired with Marcia Kahn, a retired dancer and shop owner who lives in Boulder.
“She is patient with me and has definitely helped me,” Escobar says. “You have to feel good with your tutor like they’re your friend. With Marcia, I’ve seen huge progress, and I feel confident talking to her.” Kahn helped Escobar prepare for the written exam for his driver’s license and even picked him up to take him to the driving test. They have been working together for seven years now.
For many of those years, Escobar and several of his family members worked at the Tres Pupusas stand at the Boulder Farmers Market. Owner Cindy English says, “Franklin and his family were key to our story and success at the market.” After the 2018 market season, however, Tres Pupusas couldn’t return to the farmers market, so Escobar asked English if he could take on the mantle of farmers market pupusa seller, using a similar business model. With her blessing, he set to work.
Escobar says, “It was really hard because I knew how the pupusa business operated, but I didn’t know anything about all the paperwork you have to do, and that was challenging.” Kahn walked him through the paperwork, and they also explored another community resource to help Escobar navigate the ins and outs of entrepreneurship: The Boulder Small Business Development Center. The center connected Escobar with Jesse Esparza, a bilingual consultant who helped him find funding, apply for licenses and figure out the taxes for his new business.
After a lot of preparation, Pupusas Familia made its debut at the Boulder Farmers Market in 2019. As any new business owner will tell you, the first season is nerve-wracking, exciting, stressful and exhilarating. Escobar says, “It was hard because I was a first-time manager and owner, but customers gave us really good reviews of our food.”
Kahn is immensely proud of her student. She says, “Because of Franklin’s willingness and determination to continually challenge himself, I am inspired to grow along with him.” Escobar’s determination also brought both of his college-bound sisters successfully through their degree programs, and his family members back in El Salvador are doing well.
BoulderReads is a free resource for local adults who struggle with literacy. If you’re interested in participating as a learner or volunteer tutor, visit www.boulderlibrary.org/boulderreads.
The Boulder Small Business Development Center provides free business consulting, practical workshops, events and financial connections for all types of small businesses. Visit www.bouldersbdc.com.
Pupusas Familia can be found at the Boulder and Longmont farmers markets on alternating Saturdays this year. Visit pupusas-familia.square.site.