The Wigglin’ Pig: Where the Food Tells Its Story

After years of working in various restaurants, Ernie Padilla decided he was ready to open his own business.

Food trucks were fairly new to Cortez, and he knew they would be a hit. So, in 2018, he opened The Wigglin’ Pig.

After finding success, he was ready to grow and added a brick and mortar establishment to the mix. Both the truck and restaurant serve American BBQ food with a variety of delicious favorites ranging from gourmet mac and cheese to specialty hamburgers. The restaurant prides itself on making just about everything fresh and from scratch.

Although he had always been in management positions, Ernie faced a huge learning curve as he transitioned to the role of “the boss.” But with time, he grew to love it, and he developed a great appreciation for his staff—the ones who make the restaurant possible.

In 2022, he heard that Shiloh’s Steakhouse, a Cortez classic, was for sale. He knew his business was ready to grow again, but he needed some assistance in preparing for the loan application.

The loan officer at his bank referred him to the SBDC. He started working with Joe Keck, who proved to be a great help. “Joe helped me draw up a business plan, create a balance sheet, and get everything ready for the loan application,” Ernie says.

By summer, Ernie had been approved for the loan, and the purchase was completed in July 2022.

Ernie is thrilled to be the new owner of the steakhouse. “I was the head chef there for six years, and it’s where I met my wife. We had our wedding reception there! I want to modernize it by bringing in fresh seafood, prime cuts of meat, and some new flavors.” He’s also looking forward to making use of its beautiful patio by bringing in live music.

Included in the purchase is a location behind the steakhouse, where Ernie plans to create a food truck area with diverse food, music, games, and a patio. “I’ve traveled all over Western Colorado and have seen food truck areas going up everywhere; it’s time to bring the trend to Cortez.”

Ernie is grateful for the Cortez community, his workers, and all those who have sacrificed their time for the restaurants. “I can’t do it without them; I might be the owner and operator, but without a full staff, we wouldn’t be here.”

If you’ve been thinking of starting or growing your business, Ernie offers this encouragement: “Stick with it. Be consistent and put in all the hard work and love you have for it. I’ve seen my business grow because I’ve sacrificed and tried to be consistent with everything. Also, don’t give up. There were times I felt like I had to give up . . . especially during the pandemic. But, I kept my eyes on the bigger picture and didn’t quit.”

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