Business booms from recycling

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Photo by Sarah Jane O’Keefe"The owner of Tio’s Tacos in downtown Riverside, Martin San-chez, poses in front of his personally crafted chapel located right outside of the restaurant."
Photo by Sarah Jane O’Keefe
“The owner of Tio’s Tacos in downtown Riverside, Martin Sanchez, poses in front of his personally crafted chapel located right outside of the restaurant.”

While some people save their used bottles, cans, plastics and toys to either give away or recycle for money, there is one family that does the complete opposite.

Martin Sanchez, restaurant owner and recycling extraordinaire of Tio’s Tacos in downtown Riverside has transformed what was once a small hole-in-the-wall taco shop into a well-known and thriving business.

Located on Mission Inn Avenue, Tio’s is a full-service restaurant with outside dining and a large menu.

Raised in Mexico, Sanchez grew up in poverty, lacking even the smallest luxuries such as toys. After coming to the United States, he witnessed how some Americans used many objects only once, and then threw them away.

Instead of wasting, Sanchez began to collect all forms of recyclables, toys and objects found around their own house and began crafting them into what is now his very own creative junkyard outside both his restaurant and home.

Two of Sanchez’s three daughters, Kimberly, 17, and Stephanie, 22, have been a helping-hand alongside of their father all their lives.

“What I find most amazing about my father’s artwork is his use of beer bottles, which is what makes up the teepee outside,” Kimberly Sanchez said. “During the summer, it turns into a huge fountain where you can go inside and stay cool.”

Since starting the restaurant 22 years ago, Sanchez has used a variety of items that most people deem trash to create artwork outside the restaurant, which attracts countless people each year.

“My dad loves working with nature, fountains and gardens,” she said. “Most of his work is incorporated within those.”

The outside of the restaurant is filled with a variety of creations made by Sanchez.

These range from a chapel he built with beer bottles, or a giant mermaid whose tail is made from large can tops, to Jesus made of chicken wire.

According to Stephanie Sanchez, this all began with a simple pond that her dad tended for his gardening. He began to find interest in that and from then on began his design of the restaurant.

With different forms of artwork — all created by Sanchez and his own imagination — Tio’s Tacos has a different appeal than any other local restaurant, attracting not only customers but TV networks.

With the exposure, Tio’s has been featured on MTV Cribs, multiple Spanish-language channels and was recently filmed to be on the Food Network’s “World’s Weirdest Restaurants,” which will air sometime this spring. The restaurant is catching audiences nationally.

Aside from the recyclables they obtain at the restaurant and on their own, the Sanchez family openly accepts anything the public has to offer or would specifically like added into the artwork around the vicinity.

Without any sons, Sanchez is leaving his own legacy to his three daughters. Living in the same complex as the restaurant and artwork often times can be challenging for the family, leaving them little privacy, although they have grown to appreciate it. He emphasizes people can always use things more than once.

“Seeing my dad come up with different ideas every day is amazing. He has taught us to cherish all that we have. His favorite quote (is) ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,’” Kimberly Sanchez said.

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