The restaurant was one of a dozen businesses destroyed in an Oct. 27, 2013, fire, and after a year of making tortillas and working on securing loans, the owners were able to buy the former Shiki Asian Fusion restaurant and open just about a year after the fire.
Formerly at 206 Russell St., had a huge following and customers were eager for it to reopen.
The day after a fire destroyed his restaurant, Jorge Sosa said he wanted to give up. But he couldn’t.
There was a rush of compassion and support from the community, and another important factor in his resolve to bounce back: Sosa had an arrangement with Hadley farmer Al Zahowski, who was growing heirloom corn for him.
While Sosa doesn’t know how soon he’ll be able to open a new restaurant, he is honoring that commitment to Zahowski, and that means making the tortillas by hand.
So far, a fund-raising webpage has brought in $12,000, and the family made tamales for Thanksgiving and Christmas to raise some money.
The restaurant’s former building was damaged in a fire over a year ago and with the aide of Samuel Adams Brewing and the American Dream Program in conjunction with the Holyoke-based Common Capital the new restaurant opened at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
“The interior of the restaurant is very spacious – and there is a separate lounge in the front for special events and live music. We will be having all of your favorite entrees and food you remember so well, as well as some new things, such as a selection of tamales, and a ‘make your own’ empanadas and sopes menu.”
Almost a year ago, Mi Tierra in Hadley burned to the ground, a blow to a community that had embraced the Mexican eatery’s simple, flavorful food and its husband-wife owners, Jorge Sosa and Dora Saravia. After the fire, friends, town residents, business associates, and local officials moved quickly from mourning to recovery.
In September, their efforts will culminate with the opening of a new 180-seat Mi Tierra, 1½ miles west of the original in Hadley, more than twice the seating capacity of the first spot.
The couple were no strangers to hard luck. Sosa, 37, grew up poor in Mexico City. He arrived in Western Massachusetts in 1992, staying with family and working odd jobs. It took him nine years to save the $6,000 he needed to open a grocery store in Springfield. Saravia, 43, was raised in war-torn El Salvador, and came to the United States in 1989. By 2007, Sosa and Saravia had met and married, added a small taqueria to the Springfield store, and started the Mexican restaurant Mi Tierra in Hadley.
On that fateful Sunday on Oct. 27, “everything was going perfect,” says Sosa. Mi Tierra was thriving, its food a hit with students and faculty from colleges in the area. The Norwottuck Shoppes plaza also housed a banh mi shop, a Middle Eastern grocery, and a Southeast Asian grocery. Sosa, Saravia, and other shopkeepers dubbed themselves the “United Nations of Good Food.”
On a recent day in the Springfield kitchen, Sosa and an assistant, Miguel Ixcuna, are kneading ground corn with oil and spices into a moist masa for tamales; the dough is a perfect foil for spiced pork or shredded chicken and chiles. While the tamales steam, Sosa, Saravia, and Ixcuna prepare taco fillings for tortillas made that morning. The fresh rounds are delicately crisp when warmed on the griddle, giving tacos the nubbled texture and lingering flavor distinctive to minimally processed corn. The tortillas are sold locally, something Docter helped set up; sales are growing at a rate of 5 percent a week.
“I believe in this community,” says Sosa. “I think everything is possible here. You just have to try and try.”
As ethnic cuisines achieve widespread popularity, they too often have their authenticity compromised. Cooking techniques get altered and flavors are recast.
After visiting Mi Tierra Restaurant on Route 9 in Hadley, we certainly realized that was the case with Mexican food. Serving traditional dishes prepared with authentic ingredients, Mia Tierra offers an education in what home-style, South-of-the border fare ought to taste like.
The restaurant, which is located a small shopping center, was originally operated as in conjunction with a Mexican grocery. The “served ready-to-eat” eventually supplanted the “packaged,” however, and now the entire space is an eatery done up in Hacienda style.