‘Don’t let anyone tell you you’re dreaming too big’: Former Chipotle dishwasher turned exec buys Red Bicycle Coffee in Woodbine


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Luis Cortes started his career working at a fast-food chain for minimum wage.

Decades later, after a lot of hard work, this Mexican immigrant and DACA recipient made his dreams of owning his own place come true — now the proud owner of Red Bicycle Coffee off Nolensville Pike.

He hopes to bring more diversity and awareness to Latino-owned businesses and hopes to put the area of Woodbine on the Nashville map.

Cortes moved to the U.S. with his parents when he was seven. When he was just 17, his parents were shipped back to Mexico and he was left to make a life of his own.

Cortes is now a “Dreamer.” It’s a fitting title for the man who never gave up, even after he was told several times he would do nothing other than work in construction or mow lawns.

“Why is that the ceiling?” Cortes asked. “I feel we are here to do something greater than ourselves.”

So he did.

He came to Nashville in 2009 and started working for Chipotle Mexican Grill as a dishwasher. After ten years of service, he earned the title of Director of Operations — running 26 locations and opening 48.

He recently met his wife, Cynthia, who is a math professor at Columbia State and loves baking in her spare time. They dreamed of uniting their skills and owning their own place, eventually leading to the purchase of Red Bicycle Coffee.

“This location [Red Bicycle] wasn’t even here when I moved to Nashville. It was filled with auto repair shops and tire shops,” Cortes said.

As he grew as an entrepreneur with the help of several mentors, Nashville grew too.

“It’s on the map but not on the social map and that’s come up now with the Nashville soccer stadium being built. There’s a lot of new development. So, it’s all happening really quickly, and there’s not a lot of local businesses that are I think sewing into the community to support that growth,” Cynthia said.

They both feel the Woodbine area has been left on the back burner and that it’s their opportunity to step up and put it on the map.

“I think my message is for people to not be limited because they don’t have citizenship or they come from a different background. I think America is a land of opportunities. It doesn’t matter where you come from. If you put your mind to it, this country opens the doors for anyone willing to go for it,” Cortes said.

The couple is now focusing on community outreach within the Woodbine community, hoping to make the area a better place to live.

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“A city like Nashville can inspire so much hunger and drive for our community, and how entrepreneurs like us hope to make an impact within,” Cortes said.

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