The Peruvian couple has experienced changes in the business climate

In this file photo, owner Rosaura Pedroza, left, manager Eduardo Tineo, center, and bartender Paula Vargas, right, organize takeout orders in the kitchen of CJ Peruvian Bar and Restaurant on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Dana Jensen /Day ) Buy photo reprints

New London – Since arriving in the city in 1990, they’ve lived through the Great Recession and the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And despite some reservations about New London’s current direction, entrepreneurs Bladimir and Rosaura Pedroza and their bar and restaurant CJ Peruvian at the corner of Broad Street and Connecticut Avenue aren’t going anywhere.

“I can not move. I own the building,” Bladimir said in a recent interview at the restaurant, where he was preparing for another day.

Otherwise, he might consider moving the restaurant into New London’s burgeoning downtown scene, which he says puts businesses on the city’s fringes at a disadvantage. He is also concerned about rising property prices and what he sees as an increase in serious crime.

Things are different because of the pandemic, he said, although he is optimistic they will return to the way they were.

“We are doing well; not great, but good,” he said. “Before the pandemic, it was great.”

State-imposed COVID-19 restrictions shut down the restaurant business for about 15 months, beginning in March 2020. Before that, the Pedrozas kept CJ’s open until 10 p.m. each night to accommodate bar traffic, which they added to the restaurant on expansion time in 2018. Their workforce grew to more than a dozen employees, including bartenders.

“Now nobody comes to drink after 8 or 9 o’clock, that’s why the earlier hours,” said Bladimir.

CJ’s, which serves lunch and dinner, is open 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and has six employees, none of whom are bartenders.

Native Peruvians, the Pedrozas – Bladimir is 58, Rosaura, 60 – met in New York in 1986 and married the following year at City Hall in Manhattan. They spoke for the first time when Bladimir picked up a phone call meant for someone else. Rosaura was on the other end of the line.

“We talked for two hours,” recalls Bladimir. “I didn’t get to see her for two or three months.”

Inseparable ever since, the Pedrozas settled in New London, where Bladimir had friends. He soon began work at the Benchmark Belt Co. factory. in Madison, which is no longer there, and both got part-time jobs at Foxwoods Resort Casino before going into real estate. They bought their first multi-family residence in the city in 1991 and eventually rented 23 apartments.

Fortunately, Bladimir said, they sold all their rental properties shortly before the American economy went south in 2007. Now they only own the building that houses their restaurant and the home they bought in Waterford in 2003.

Running a restaurant had always been Bladimir’s dream, though neither he nor Rosaura knew much about what it would entail.

“My mother had a small restaurant in Peru,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to bring Peruvian to the area. When we came here, you had to go to Hartford for Peruvian food.

When the building on Broad St. 255 became vacant, the Pedrozas bought it and began a major renovation, replacing the walls, plumbing and electrical. Rosaura and Bladimir’s mother, who both knew how to cook, trained at a family establishment in Providence to learn how to cook for a restaurant.

The 2018 expansion quadrupled the size of their restaurant, which now seats 105. Before the expansion, it was called Pollos a la Brasa, which means “grilled chicken” in Spanish.

Known for such dishes as long-marinated grilled chicken and chicha morada, a “purple corn relish,” CJ’s caters to a customer mix that’s 40 percent American and 30 percent Peruvian, with the rest “diverse cultures,” according to Vladimir.

“We’re bringing some color to the city,” he said.

Although Bladimir wishes Pedroza’s grown children, Christopher and Jessica, were interested in possibly taking over CJ, they have moved to Colorado and Tampa, Florida, respectively, to pursue other goals.

The first person to arrive and the last to leave the restaurant each day, Bladimir doesn’t see retirement in his immediate future, as intriguing as the thought may be.

“I can’t stand still, though,” he said.

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