The Where I Work series explores San Antonio’s evolving workplaces. It takes readers behind the scenes to learn from the people who work at companies large and small, nonprofits, family-owned enterprises, and in other nontraditional workplaces. Get in touch to share your story.

When people learn I run a corn bar, many assume it’s something that’s been passed down in my family for generations. But I didn’t grow up loving corn. I grew up watching my immigrant parents working tirelessly to provide for our family. I also saw how everything changed when my father was able to start his own business.

He went from always being unavailable because he had to work to being able to take days off to spend with our family and planning family vacations. When he was working for someone else, he didn’t have that flexibility because someone else was calling the shots. From him, I learned to not be a conformist and to strive to be my own boss.

I worked in the restaurant industry for several years, starting off as a server, then bartender, then management for the Barrios family restaurants. More than the culinary and management skills I learned, the attention to customer service was what really stuck with me. I knew that providing an experience for customers that makes them want to come back is key to building a loyal customer base. So when I decided to set off on my own, that was at the front of my mind.

I had always wanted to start a coffee shop because I’m the kind of person who can spend hours in a coffee shop. But espresso machines are expensive, and I just couldn’t afford it. Still, I was really stuck on the idea of creating a coffee shop-like atmosphere, where people feel comfortable hanging out for a while. The idea for a corn bar came to me during quarantine.

Elotitos Corn Bar owner Jesus Arreaga prepares a chipotle elote cup on Saturday.
Elotitos Corn Bar owner Jesus Arreaga prepares a chipotle elote cup on Saturday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

Elote is such a staple street food in Mexico and San Antonio, but you typically get it from a stand or cart as an on-the-go snack. At Elotitos, you can choose from several dressing and topping options for your corn, pair a refreshing agua fresca with it, and sit down to enjoy it in a relaxing atmosphere. We have the classics, like corn topped with crema Mexicana, queso fresco and chili powder. For the more adventurous, we offer chip toppings and specialty cremas. The Deco crema, named for our Deco District location, is the latest addition to our menu. It’s super flavorful and inspired by my mother’s kitchen.

We’re also the first, to my knowledge, to offer a corn flight — an idea that came to me in prayer. Similar to a beer flight at a brewery, our corn flight lets customers get a taste of five flavors in mini cups. It’s great for sharing or for people who can’t make up their minds.

For my three-person staff, our days are full of trips to H‑E‑B, the San Antonio Marketplace and coffee trips to keep our energy up. Most of our vendors don’t know we use them, as we are still small. But we work with a lot of local places. We work with Roger’s Produce at the local produce terminal and local ice cream makers for our shaved ice and ice cream. Now that I’m a small business owner, I feel more compelled to support other local businesses. When a chain restaurant has a slow day, it’s still making so much money. But when we have a slow day, we really feel it.

Mondays are the heaviest as we prepare for the rest of the week. We have to peel and cut our corn, as well as prepare our aguas frescas, mix all of our cremas and grate all of our queso fresco. It’s a long process to grate 10-15 pounds of queso fresco. 

A chipotle elote cup at Elotitos Corn Bar on Saturday.
A chipotle elote cup at Elotitos Corn Bar on Saturday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

While it’s definitely hard work, I love that I get to spend time with my mom every day. She comes in every day at 4 p.m. to help with the back of the house and absolutely kills it every time. As I get older I realize how important it is to spend time with my parents. We missed out on a lot of time together when I was young, so I want to make the most of our time together now.

I also love serving the city of San Antonio. You might think that only a certain demographic of people would walk through my doors, but San Antonio is so diverse, and we get all types of customers with different backgrounds who enjoy elote. 

I hope to continue to offer unique menu items in an inviting atmosphere and to eventually expand to several stores across the city, as well as expand into snacks. Our name is Elotitos Mexican Snacks and Elotitos Corn Bar is just one part of it.

Elotitos is located at 1933 Fredericksburg Rd. in the Deco District.