Belen Melendez Ramirez is the owner of El Premio Mayor, the 31st District Small Business of the Year. Image contributed by Joaquin Arambula's office
Written by Ben Hensley
Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula announced Wednesday his selection of El Premio Mayor as the 2022 Small Business of the Year for the 31st Assembly District.
A celebration for El Premio Mayor and all other state honorees was held at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento, part of a California Small Business Day celebration.
Founded in 1996 by Belen Melendrez Ramirez, the business evolved from a small food trailer into two Fresno storefronts.
“Belen’s story is one of grit, determination and inspiration. She was a single mother raising three children in Fresno, working as a caretaker, in the fields and at packing houses,” Arambula said. “But she always wanted a business of her own selling food.”
El Premio Mayor gained recognition by entering the second annual Taco Truck Throwdown, winning the People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice awards. The late Adrian Loza, Melendrez Ramirez’s eldest child, was a driving force in raising the business’s profile.
In addition to growing her business’ reputation in the Fresno area, Melendrez Ramirez has given back to the community as well; during the winter, her family delivers warm burritos to those in need, and during the 2020 Creek Fire, Melendrez Ramirez volunteered to feed firefighters.
She also assisted Community Regional Medical Center by donating lunches to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She made her dream a reality, withstanding challenges along the way,” Arambula added. “Her family has helped her build upon that dream and show what can be achieved through hard work, talent, and ingenuity. Their generosity to community is just as impressive and part of what makes Belen and her family special.”
Melendrez Ramirez says that without the community, the business wouldn’t be where it is today.
“When I first started my business, 26 years ago, never would I have imagined being where I am now — what started as a way of making ends meet to now,” she said. “I would truly love to thank God first for giving me strength through all the hardships and struggles. I feel truly blessed.”