The secret to business success really isn’t all that secret – be passionate about what you do while offering sensational service at a fair price, and treat your customers like family. Combine these common sense tenets with a strong marketing and advertising plan, and you are well on your way to building a long-term, sustainable business. These were the very ideas that Maria Morales and her daughter Alexa, who is currently working toward her degree in Marketing, had in mind when they opened the doors of Hostal Casa Izkun at the end of October and it seems to be paying off in spades as evidenced by their full occupancy during Fiestas in November. Getting to work with family members is a bonus.
“Izkun” means the number “9” in Kichwa. Maria and Alexa chose the name for their hostal because the number nine plays a huge role in their family including birth dates and other important life events. Maria and her family moved back to Cuenca after living in Chicago and running a jewelry business there with her husband Walter Iniguez. With the increase of competitors and big box stores selling jewelry, business was becoming more challenging, so the family decided to return to their native country.
When the building where Hostal Casa Izkun now resides came on the market, Maria purchased it. Initially, her plan was to start a mall of local craftspeople, but her idea evolved into starting a business that she felt was sorely lacking in Cuenca – an affordable hostal that was family-friendly, safe, beautifully decorated, and that would encourage people to relax just like they would at home. With the help of her mother, Alicia Vasquez, who has a tremendous amount of experience in building and remodeling, Maria put her plan into motion. She wanted to incorporate as much of the original building into the new space as she could, so with that end in mind, she recycled and repurposed many of the old materials including all the doors.
On top of that, Hostal Casa Izkun offers a menu that can best be described as a combination of traditional Ecuadorian fare (comida tipica) and United States comfort food: a culinary fusion designed to remind you of a home cooked meal. Some of the delicious menu items include a salad topped with fresh strawberries, walnuts, sweet corn and kiwi, catfish stew, and trout that is raised on their family farm, run by her brother and father Mauricio and Julio Morales. They also offer a daily almuerzo with a choice of fish, chicken or beef, served with juice and dessert for $3.50. One of the primary goals of their restaurant is to offer food that is not only delicious, but healthy as well.
When visiting Hostal Casa Izkun, the effort Maria and Alexa have made to make visitor’s experience warm and inviting becomes abundantly apparent. From the huge naturally lit lobby, to the spacious rooms, to the furniture made from recycled shipping pallets, every detail has been carefully thought out to offer the most pleasurable experience, whether you are staying there, dining, or just hanging out, working on your computer and drinking coffee, which they strongly encourage. One thing is for certain, Maria, Alexa and her family truly feel that their home is your home.