Was there a person named Poppo? What was his story and how did you know him?
Yes… well, sort of. Before we opened Poppo’s, we weren’t really sure what to call it. The idea of opening a San Francisco style taqueria had been batted around a lot over the years, but it never really had a name. There were some ideas, mostly non-starters – Isla, Quixote, Anna Maria, and some others. I don’t recall specifically who did it, but when someone blurted out Poppo’s at a family dinner it was like we all had the idea at the same time. It just fit, even more than we could have known. Poppo was our nickname for my grandpa. His real name was Frank P. Harris. Even though he passed on in August of 2001, he remains an inspiration for our family, a singular example of love and unity. Poppo was not a cook, and he didn’t care much for spicy foods. The name was to honor him in our family business. Even though he couldn’t be there, he would be with us.
Poppo grew up in Boston and was the youngest of several children who was mostly left to his own devices. He made money selling newspapers and playing pool. Poppo was a bright guy, and though he never went to college, through talent and a lot of hard work, he was able to get a job as a reporter for the Boston Globe. He worked there for 30 years and accomplished a lot in his career, but he was never too busy for family. Poppo was one of those people who makes you feel great when you’re around them. He was playful and charismatic and took personal interest in everyone he met. We held up more than one grocery store line while he solicited the life story of the clerk.
My relationship with him was very close. When my family was living in California, he and my Grandma, Jean, would travel from Boston to visit us and look after us while my parents were busy getting their own business going. When they were away, he would always take time to chat with us on the phone. He taught me how to drive, how to play ball, and always took interest in my passions. As I grew older, his wife Jean became my example of wisdom, but he remains the example of love.
As the founders of Poppo’s, myself, my brother, and my wife, put that love into everything we do. Running this business and running it in our way can be challenging and trying. You have to be patient and resilient which sometimes tests your principles, your care and love. What we didn’t realize when we named our taqueria Poppo’s, is that it wasn’t just a commemoration, it was a promise, and a call to action. In large part because of a simple name, running a taco shop is not only more difficult that we thought, it is more rewarding than we imagined.