By Lluvia Chavez
UW News Lab

TJ’s Street Tacos owner Pablo Vazquez went viral on TikTok and has been using his new social media platform to take his followers along his journey to growing his local business.

Vazquez moved to Washington in July 2020 to restart his taco business after he was forced to close down during the COVID-19 pandemic. After a year of research and spending a significant portion of his savings, he established TJ’s Street Tacos in Capitol Hill.

Vazquez soon realized that the space he was renting was not allowing his business to get the exposure it needed resulting in an eviction notice. In hopes of gaining public attention, Vazquez made a TikTok video sharing his challenges and invited locals to try his food. He describes posting the TikTok as his last resort, “I didn’t expect it to go viral… the next day I woke up in the morning and I just checked TikTok and it had hundreds of millions of views” Vazquez shares.

Currently, TJ’s Street Tacos has relocated under Captain Blacks Bar and has been receiving a tremendous amount of support from the public, including local influencers. Travel, food, and culture influencer, Ben Keenan, gave his review on the spicy pork and chicken tacos claiming they were “really flavorful” with “tons of meat.” Another Local food TikToker, Teena Thach rated TJ’s Street Tacos as a delicious spot to keep an eye out for!

Originally from Southern California and having family from Tijuana, Vazquez says that what sets his business apart from other Mexican restaurants is the distinct Tijuana street taco flavor that comes from his family recipes.

Vazquez also talked about the importance of using fresh ingredients and making everything on the spot.“I try to keep everything pretty much housemade to get that flavor. Like your mom cooked it or your tia [aunt] cooked it or your grandma cooked it” said Vazquez.

Before his Viral TikTok video, Vazquez refrained from showing his face on the business social media account as he wanted to be more private. Now Vazquez has found the value in interacting with his customers on social media and has begun experimenting with his creativity through vlogs, allowing him to talk to the camera. His goal is that audiences get to know the person behind TJ’s Street Tacos.

“I’ve been trying to just document everything, not just for the follower but for me, you know. Where I could see my growth, where I started something I put my everything into” he shared.

Vazquez aims to tell his story authentically by documenting the behind-the-scenes. “I think everybody needs to see the real struggles of what it is to run a business.”

This journey has also taught Vazquez that it is okay to ask for help and has connected him with people who understand his struggles of being a business owner and are willing to help. Overall, TJ’s Street Tacos is a testimony of how the Seattle community comes together to support local businesses. Vazquez expressed his gratitude and plans to open his food truck to the public soon.

Lluvia Chavez is a student in the UW News Lab, which gives advanced Journalism and Public Interest Communication students an opportunity to build a dynamic clip portfolio by working with client news outlets and other organizations in the greater Seattle area.

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

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