SAN JOSE – For five years the truck was a lifeline.
Long-time residents of San Jose, Juana Quiroz Ayala and Francisco Ayala, opened Adelita back in 2015, selling fresh quesadillas, tostadas and burritos from the lorry’s purple doors to hungry office workers and private customers. It was a huge investment – about $ 70,000 – that they hoped would eventually help get their two children ready for college.
But last Sunday the truck was stolen from a parking lot in East San Jose. The Ayala family was devastated and did not have a single source of income during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We don’t know what to do now,” Ayala said in Spanish. “We hope to God that people will have the courage to help us – that we can still have our dream, that we can get our business back.”
At around 9 p.m. on Sunday, video footage from a gas station on Berryessa Road and Capitol Avenue showed a white van rolling next to the truck, according to Ayalas. The couple often refilled the truck at the train station and sometimes arranged with the owner to park it there overnight.
Two men hopped out of the white van; While one served as a lookout, the other set up Adelitas trucks to drive away. It was gone within a few minutes.
When Ayala received a call from a gas station worker later that night, he was shocked. Ayala called the police and tried to track down surveillance cameras, but it took them hours to tap the report, he said. A spokesman for the San Jose Police Department confirmed that the truck was entered into the stolen vehicle system and that “if it is, we will contact the owners”.
The Ayalas are now in a difficult position. As the pandemic began, Adelita sales plummeted as events canceled, popular bars closed, and customers stayed at home. Because of the loss of income, the duo let the insurance for the vehicle lapse.
But then the customers trickled back. And by September the Ayalas were only two months away from paying the truck in full.
“It was a blessing – we had really nice customers who were very happy with the food,” said Quiroz Ayala. “It’s not fair for people to do things like that.”
The duo met at their church in East San Jose after immigrating to the United States. he from Honduras and she from Mexico. Both of them cleaned their homes for years to make a living. Opening up Adelita was a way to move up, Ayala said – to get more economic base for her teenagers.
They painted the truck purple to honor their favorite niece who passed away at the age of 5. And they quickly built strong numbers of clients, from Americans raving about the burritos to schools hiring Adelita for event catering, Quiroz Ayala said.
Now it feels like all the momentum has been lost. The couple set up a GoFundMe and are looking for information about the theft.
“The truth is we are looking for doors to open up and help us,” Ayala said, as if relying on family, friends and the Church. “But at the same time we have no idea what to do.”