Founders of Mr. Empanada made their own American dream into reality

The story of a name known across Tampa had a small beginning. A young boy's dream became Tampa's own Mr. Empanada.

Al Perez got the idea to sell empanadas after buying one from a street vendor when he was a child living in West Tampa. 

"Every Saturday, I used to eat those empanadas. I thought, 'What a great idea,'" Al said.

His business had a small beginning.

"All the empanadas were made by hand, by myself, my wife cooking in a small little kitchen," said Al.

He and his wife, Audrey opened up their first shop in downtown Tampa. The business soon closed but they re-launched their dream in 2003.

PREVIOUS: 35 years of savory pastry perfection at Mr. Empanada

"You always try to remember what the mistakes the first time was and you don't repeat them," explained Al.

The couple not only has a love for the tasty stuffed pastry but also with each other.

"We actually were neighbors as children growing up and then we fell in love. Been married 53 years since," Audrey said.

The Perezs' daughter, Lisa Ferras, now runs the business. She remembers as a kid her dad making the fried treats for her birthday.

"He would make 10, 15, 20 empanadas and our friends would come over and have empanadas," she recalled.

Now they make over two million a year.

"I always had the vision that it could go very far," Audrey said. "My husband had the vision that it could be the next McDonald's."

They're living out the American dream one bite at a time.