A Team of Two
Juan and Margaret Cruz work 12-hour days, five days a week, but in their minds, there’s nowhere else in the world they’d rather be. Together, the two own and operate Margarita’s Pizza.
Before settling in State College to be closer to family, the couple experimented with a few other locations for their business, including Altoona and Phillipsburg, NJ. Currently, their shop sits on West Beaver Ave. in State College, PA, just a short walk from Penn State University.
Juan and Margaret are somewhat famous amongst their customers for having the uncanny ability to remember students’ names and orders, despite having dozens of regulars walk through the doors every day.
“It’s getting harder as I’m getting older,” Margaret said, laughing. “But the kids keep us young.”
Looking back, both Juan and Margaret are happy with how things have turned out. They are happy doing what they love, together, in a community that adores them, and they don’t see things changing any time soon.
“After the years, it just becomes a walk in the park,” Juan said. “Why fix something that’s not broken?”
But things were not always as easy for the couple. A few years after opening their State College location, Juan and Margaret faced a disastrous setback.
“One morning before work, our employee called us and said that he thinks the pizza shop is on fire,” Margaret said. “And then we got here, and it was.”
“It was in the summertime, the weekend after Art’s Fest, and it was really hot,” Juan said. “We had a spontaneous combustion of the rags, it was a tragedy.”
The experience devastated the two young business owners, and forced them to shut Margarita’s Pizza’s doors for three and a half months while the shop was rebuilt. During that time, Juan and Margaret both had to take temporary jobs apart from each other, making an already difficult experience that much harder.
“At the time we were separated from each other, so that was rough because we always work together.” Margaret said. “That’s when we’re most happy.”
“I really didn’t want to do anything, I was just devastated,” Juan said. “But where I worked before, they kicked me in my ass, they said ‘get up, go to work,’ so I realized I had a very good group of friends around [me].”
Despite the hardship, the couple was determined to bounce back.
“We weren’t going to be down forever. It was our goal to have this shop,” Juan said. “So we were going to rebuild. There was no doubt about that.”
After the construction was complete, Margarita’s opened its doors once again, and the shop was welcomed back into State College with open arms.
“The community helped, the Penn State people we here for us, everybody was rallying around us to get back,” Margaret said. “The first day we opened, we sold a whole batch of dough by nine o’clock, it was just amazing how many people came back.”
Looking towards the future, the only thing Juan and Margaret expect to change is age.
“We’re going to be here until the last day,” they said. “Getting older together.”