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Jesus Romero has served the Sycamore community for 25 years, not only providing home-cooked Mexican cuisine, but also giving his time to the community that has welcomed him.

At age 17, Romero, who was born in Mexico, first came to the United States and began working for his uncle at Taxco Restaurant in Chicago. He worked at several other restaurants before his uncle offered him a job at the Sycamore location in 1992.
Named after Taxco de Alarcon, a town nestled in the mountains of Guerrero state between Mexico City and Acapulco, the Taxco restaurant prides itself on providing home-cooked Mexican cuisine, including handmade tortillas and guacamole, made fresh at a diner’s table.

“It’s very important to me to show that everything is homemade,” Romero said. “Sometimes it takes a little longer to prepare the meal but it is because we make sure every dish is made with love and to provide the best food that we can.”

Romero said among the dishes they offer, many love the enchiladas. One version, the Enchilada Mexicana reminds him of home: tortillas dipped in guajillo sauce, filled with meat or cheese and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, queso fresco and avocado. Diners also enjoy the enchilada featuring a homemade mole, which requires 24 ingredients. Other popular entrees include the variety of tacos and the shrimp quesadillas. But he also is finding inspiration whether it be something he ate at a restaurant within Mexico or asking his mom or his aunt what they may be preparing at home and incorporating those flavors into the specials.

“I want to go back to my roots and bring back the regional dishes that I was eating when I was a little kid or that my family is eating at the moment,” he said.

Taxco also is known to provide Illinois’ largest selection of tequila, offering 400 varieties. Romero said providing this large selection and hosting tequila tastings and dinners gives them an opportunity to educate their diners.

“I always recommend when customers come to Taxco it’s learning what they like to drink and hopefully finding a tequila they will like without having to spend a lot of money,” he said.

When Romero first came to Sycamore, he credits so many within the community who supported him, such as providing classes to improve his English and earn his GED at Kishwaukee College, as well as those who supported his family. He said he wanted to give back to the community that embraced him and is willing to give everyone a hand.

“I realized there were many organizations that were there for me when I needed it, and I feel it is only fair to give back to the community that did so much for me and my family. I feel it’s only fair for me to do a little of my part for other people who might need a little help as well,” he said. “I always say investing in your community is the best investment you can do in your lifetime because every one of us can do our part to make our community better. We all want to live in a nice place. It takes a community, a village, to really embrace and work together to keep it that way.”

Romero has volunteered with many organizations including the Sycamore Jaycees, Sycamore Kiwanis, the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce and Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of DeKalb County among others. Possibly among his most notable work was creating a cultural staple that has raised thousands of dollars for community causes, the Cinco de Mayo festival. He recalls thinking the first event was disorganized, but he was surprised to see the positive reception as 200 to 500 people came to his restaurant that could only seat 60.

For 20 years, collaborating with local nonprofits, sponsors and volunteers, Romero has built the festival into a community event featuring Mexican music and dance, children’s activities and food. And, this year’s festival raised close to $16,000, with half the proceeds going toward an endowment fund for Kishwaukee College scholarships. The rest was donated to local nonprofit organizations that participated in the festival.

Romero said because various nonprofits host booths at the festival, the event also has become an opportunity for people to learn more about these groups that exist within their community.

“Now they can benefit, or they can learn how they can get involved to help and give back,” he said.

Marking 25 years in Sycamore and becoming a part of the community, Jesus said, has been a wonderful feeling that he is grateful for.

“I’ve seen so many customers first come in when they were little kids and now they are married and come into the restaurant. I remember one customer would come in as a teenager and I had the opportunity to cater the wedding,” he said. “It’s really a great feeling to be in Sycamore and to all the customers who have been so great to us and loyal to support our business.”

Ideal Industries

For 100 years, Ideal Industries has developed a successful formula, committing to develop new innovations and fostering relationships with customers, employees, business partners and the community.

This fourth-generation family-run company has been led by the values instilled by their founder, J. Walter Becker, who started the company in Chicago. Dave Juday, grandson of Becker who served as chairman over 40 years, said his grandfather chose the company’s name not because he thought it was an ideal company.

“What he learned was that if he was going to be successful in business, the key was going to be an ideal set of relationships, with his customers, with his suppliers and with his community. If he had those relationships, then he would be successful,” he said.

In 1924, the company made the move to Sycamore because Becker believed in the importance of building these relationships and felt a small town provided a better environment for the company to realize its vision.

Jim James, who currently serves as Ideal Industries’ chairman and CEO, said there are several factors that continue to make Sycamore an attractive location. The first is an intimate relationship with the education system. Because Ideal is such a prominent business within the community and has such a global footprint, James said Ideal is attractive to area college and high school students. Ideal works with these schools to give them opportunities, James said; last year, 31 students served internships.

When building new facilities, the company has received support from the City to complete the work in a timely manner. And, the access to recruit quality individuals, whether it’s for production positions or management has been incredible, James said. Currently, Ideal Industries employees 600 individuals in the area.
“The traits they possess, being located in that area, their work ethic is just incredible,” he said.

Juday said there are fundamentals in Sycamore, and if they can build that, they can have a symbiotic relationship between the company and the community that will be good for everyone. That led to his action to create a 238-acre business park, which has attracted additional companies to come to Sycamore and has brought 1,000 jobs to the village.

“His foresight to attract other companies to the community has brought in quality jobs,” James added.

Known as a premier manufacturer of products that serve professional tradesmen including electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics and general maintenance mechanics, Ideal’s mission is to build quality products and services for those customers. While Ideal has grown to feature operations in 27 countries, about 80 percent of products they sell are manufactured in the United States, James added.

Ideal may best be known for their wire connectors, but their innovations also can be found on nearly every commercial jet, which has been constructed using Ideal brand tools to connect and secure their electrical systems. Their products also are part of the critical equipment on NASA missions. Their Audacy advanced wireless lighting system is installed at major league ballparks, college campuses and airports. The company is now working to develop an innovation that will change the way individuals charge devices, such as tablets, phones and computers.

“We think this idea will go into the personal homes with the way they plug their lights in and they charge their devices and power their TVs and computers. These are things we see are big opportunities,” he said.

Innovation is not only about designing new products, but also developing best practices to improve efficiency, find new customers, and keep employee retention rates up. The family reinvests 90 cents of every dollar to fund innovation projects and develop programs for its employees. The company contributes to educational expenses for those who wish to pursue advanced degrees, a benefits package and more.

Operating a family-run company for 100 years is not common as less than three percent of these companies make it to the fourth generation. But Juday admits he does not think about reaching this milestone. What is important is remembering every individual generation will need to solve new problems, and there is no solution or model that will serve every time.

But what continues to serve the company well and will always be a focus among the family and its employees is living the values, such as to treat others fairly, that every generation has understood and demonstrated. This will provide them the opportunities to succeed.
“Do I think about living our values and the answer is yes, every day. The thing we have to be careful is that we don’t think 100 years is a proxy for success,” he said.

James said reaching this milestone says they’re doing a lot of things right.

“The family is doing a lot of things right, and if we see another 100 years, it means we’re doing things right. I think we’re more focused on doing things right and the milestones will come,” he said.

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