Starting from scratch: local pizza shop owner builds legacy, continues Cinco de Mayo traditions with Celina event

Jimbo’s business connects employees, customers, community

The+Jimbo%27s+Pizza+sign+hangs+on+the+wall+on+the+stage.+One+of+the+owner%2C+Dago+Rodriguez%27s%2C+close+friends+made+this+sign+for+him.+%22I+came+to+Jimbo%27s+for+pizza+and+left+with+a+life+long+friend%2C%22+customer+Ben+Jones+said.+%0A%22Something+I+learned+later+was+his+pizza+was+how+he+gets+everyone+to+do+what+he+wants.+So+I+decided+to+%27hang%27+around%2C+hoping+to+find+out+his+secret+for+making+pizza.%22

Caitlyn Kennedy

The Jimbo’s Pizza sign hangs on the wall on the stage. One of the owner, Dago Rodriguez’s, close friends made this sign for him. “I came to Jimbo’s for pizza and left with a life long friend,” customer Ben Jones said. “Something I learned later was his pizza was how he gets everyone to do what he wants. So I decided to ‘hang’ around, hoping to find out his secret for making pizza.”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Have you ever tried the Dago's Pizza?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

At six in the morning, Dago Rodriguez, owner of Jimbo’s Pizza, takes his clothes to the laundromat for the first time in about two weeks. He puts them into the washer, leaves for an hour to meet with sponsors for the Celina Cinco de Mayo event. After this, Rodriguez goes back and throws his clothes in the dryer, opens Jimbo’s for the day, and works from open to close. With running this year’s celebration, which will be held May 1, combined with owning the restaurant, he rarely has time to take care of himself.

But this reality is nothing new for Rodriguez, since he moved to Celina from Mexico, he has hosted the Cinco De Mayo on the square event for years. This year, the celebration’s proceeds will go toward a scholarship fund.

“I was bullied at my school because I was darker then anyone else,” Rodriguez said.  “I was constantly outside working so that I could get money to get food for my family. Sometimes I wouldn’t have enough food, and it was very hard.”

As a kid, Rodriguez would come to the border of Mexico and the U.S. to sell candy in order to raise enough money to take care of his mother.

“I lived in Durango City with my mother,” Rodriguez said. “My father would get so angry and he would beat my mom while she was pregnant with me, tried to kill me.”

Rodriguez said he holds everyone he knows to a higher standard now and works to treat everyone he knows with the utmost respect.

“I want to protect the women in my life,” Rodriguez said. “I want to teach the men how to treat them with respect, because I want to make sure that everyone is happy.”

Throughout his high school years, Rodriguez would visit the U.S. when he got the chance.

“I watched the Michael Jackson concerts,” Rodriguez said. “Because of him, I would get a perm and bleach my hair and go back to Mexico with shoes, and everyone would love me and ask me all about it.”

When his mother moved to the U.S., Rodriguez stayed behind to attend college.

“I was the best basketball player there,” Rodriguez said. “I made lots of friends. I moved to the United States in 1987 after I finished college so I could be with my mom because I really missed her and loved her.”

After Rodriguez became a U.S. citizen, he moved to Celina in 1990 and opened Jimbo’s Pizza in 1993.

“It was just CiCi’s Pizza at first,” Rodriguez said. “I kept working for them for two years, and then one other person and I bought the business from them, and we named it Jimbo’s Pizza.”

When Jimbo’s first opened, it was located in a different building. However, it has moved to “the old church building” in downtown Celina.

“Originally, we were located where Toasted Walnut is in downtown Celina,” Rodriguez said. “We had to close down for a year because the rent tripled.”

We ended up moving from there to the basement of the old church. It took us about a year to reopen.”

— Dago Rodriguez, owner of Jimbo's Pizza

Rodriguez said relocation was a struggle, and when the pandemic hit a few years later, the busy dining area turned into a few to-go orders every 15 minutes.

“It was not easy because of COVID-19,” Rodriguez said. “We didn’t have any dine-ins. We also had to get rid of our lunch buffet, which is what always brought in a lot of customers.”

Rodriguez started off his business as a family-run restaurant, but after a while, he hired more employees.

“I was really young,” employee Anthony Torres said. “I’d say about 14 years old, and he offered me the job. I stretched (dough) and cut (pizza) at first, and made pizza boxes.”

After Jimbo’s temporary shut down, forced by the relocation,  Torres had to find other jobs until the restaurant reopened.

“The thing I love the most about working at Jimbo’s is the environment,” Torres said. “That first week back was the busiest we’ve ever been. The line was all the way outside.”

One of Jimbo’s regular customers, Ben Jones, met Rodriguez after moving to Celina.

I met Dago when I moved here and had pizza cravings. I thought he was a weirdo like me, and I liked that. But the power of his magic pizza is what kept me in his sphere of influence.”

— Ben Jones, Celina resident

Jones developed a familial relationship with Rodriguez and all of the Jimbo’s staff.

“You gain an appreciation for all of them,” Jones said. “If I was forced to choose (my type favorite pizza), because the guy from those old Saw movies was making me, it’s a tie between a classic New York style with pepperoni, green peppers and black olives, and a ‘deep dish,’ more like a Detroit style pizza, with the same toppings.”

Jones said Rodriguez is like a brother to him.

“I came to Jimbo’s for pizza and left with a lifelong friend,” Jones said. “Something I learned later was  his pizza was how he gets everyone to do what he wants. So I decided to hang around, hoping to find out his secret for making pizza.”

Rodriguez is an active member in the community of Celina after helping to host the Cinco De Mayo festival several times.

“The square is decorated in flowers and ribbons,” Rodriguez said. “There will be a parade, traditional dances, music, shopping, great food and games.”

Rodriguez works at Jimbo’s Pizza every day from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and sometimes comes in early to prep the kitchen and make dough for the day. Now, he is also putting together all of the Cinco de Mayo preparations.

“With Emilio and Julia (Rodriguez’s kids) going back to Mexico for Emilio’s wedding,” Rodriguez said, “I’ve had to work a lot more. It’s been very hard but we’re doing great. We’re so awesome.”

Torres has celebrated and worked Cinco De Mayo on and off since he was 10.

“Dago and I became close over the years of working and doing Cinco De Mayo together,” Torres said. “I enjoy watching the dances, and I am dancing this year too.”

Jones said he went to Jimbo’s for the pizza, but the relationships he has built with the owner and the employees have given him so much more. That is one of the reasons he wants to help Rodriguez with the local Cinco de Mayo celebration through advertising, photography and video during the festival.

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life,” Jones said. “That word is pizza, specifically, if it’s made by Dago at Jimbo’s Pizza.”