A SIT-DOWN WITH YORDANYS BASTARDO, OWNER OF VILLA VERDE
Yordanys Bastardo is one of the most inspiring people you will ever meet. Starting with a small food truck in Greenville, NC, Bastardo grew a community of supporters that led to the opening of his Dominican style restaurant, Villa Verde, which now has two Greenville locations. Having served hundreds of people in the community and stepped up as a volunteer during times of crisis, Bastardo is creating a legacy that is about more than just-food.
There is so much more to his business than just profit. For Bastardo, Villa Verde offers a chance to serve the community and create social change. His story and his businesses are rooted in a desire to break the cycle of poverty that so many people have not been able to escape. As the ambitious restauranteur tells us, “I come from a third world country. I came with $5 in my pocket to the United States. The best way to describe it is, out of the 300 passengers on my plane on May 26 1999 in Newark, New Jersey, I landed with an empty suitcase, but I was the wealthiest man on that plane.
“I was more hungry than anybody else on that plane. I had more desire, more willingness, more dreams, more goals than anyone at that point, and I had nowhere to go but up. Breaking the cycle of poverty, it’s a huge part of legacy for me. I’m not going to ask my son to run a restaurant. I’m not going to ask my son to do the things I do, because my goal is to have him have a better life than I did. You know what I mean? Now, I would love for him to jump on it, but I’m not gonna ask him to or tell him to. I want to give him options, that’s the whole thing about legacy.”
It is Bastardo’s positivity, commitment, and persistence that have guided him on his path to success. “I’m a servant, is the best way to put it. I like to serve because I know there’s a faith component that plays into that, and all the things that we can possibly do when we serve is incredible. Being a servant is the most selfish thing a human being can ever do, because it always works out in your favor. When you have a servant attitude, things just work out. The outcome doesn’t really matter. You’re just serving, and by serving, you gain a lot of traction on the things that matter to others.
“I enjoy serving the community. I enjoy the struggles of our community because there’s a beauty in that. When we don’t agree, the growth aspect of that just helps me understand people more and more, and the more we understand each other, the more progress we make as a community.”
Bastardo’s faith has played a big part in where his business began and how it has grown. “I was working for Perdue Farms. I was doing over $80,000 a year. I’m a high school dropout, right? So that didn’t even make sense that I was making the kind of money I was making. Then you had benefits, and you name it, and I saw a post on Craigslist about a food truck, and I told my wife, at three o’clock in the morning, ‘I think I found it. I think I know what we’re going to be doing for the rest of our lives.’ She said, ‘talk to me in the morning because I think you’re crazy.’ Our house was two weeks away from foreclosure because we put everything into our project.
A food truck in the city of Greenville? That doesn’t make sense. Especially back then. Above all, an ethnic food truck in Eastern North Carolina? That doesn’t make sense. So, there is a faith component; knowing that the best is ahead. The hope that having faith gives you, it’s unbelievable. I want to make a community-based business, and it was never intended to be a restaurant, it’s just that there was a need in the market.”
Nine months to the day after the birth of his idea, Bastardo opened the Villa Verde food truck with the help and support of Jackie James, who owned the space where the food truck first parked and helped him secure the building for his first brick and mortar restaurant. In Bastardo’s words, he owes his life to Jackie James: the man who did not turn him away did not give up on him and charged him almost no rent at all while the food truck grew its customer base. Inspired by and grateful for the community that supported him, Bastardo says he could not help but give back to it.
Although Villa Verde has always worked to encourage positive change, over the past few months, Bastardo and his restaurant team have stepped up even more as leaders for the local community, distributing free meals to many families in need and using their strong online presence as a way to support other local restaurants. For Bastardo, these small businesses are not competition; they are his friends.
Centered on their motto of ‘A Platform for Good,’ Villa Verde has used its social media popularity to point the spotlight at other local businesses who might not have the same platform or means to keep themselves afloat. The ‘We Believe in Greenville’ initiative draws local business owners together for the good of the entire community. Bastardo has also launched a web series called CommUNITY voices, featuring different small business owners and highlighting the services or products they offer through the pandemic. The series is live-streamed on Villa Verde’s Facebook page at 8:00 pm on Tuesday nights.
All in all, Bastardo has faced a huge number of ups, downs, twists, turns, and challenges on his journey, but with faith, service, and community as his guiding principles, he has conquered each one with a smile and a joyful heart. What does Bastardo think of those challenges? “Let me tell you something, I didn’t notice them!” he says, “I was on a mission.”
Well, Bastardo, mission completed.
“The more we understand each other, the more progress we make as a community.”
Article image: Hot Dish: Villa Verde Opens, reflector.com