CORAL SPRINGS, FL – The owner of El Mariachi restaurants in Coral Springs has died of complications related to Covid-19 – a family man who built his business by going out of his way to support the community during good and bad times, his family and friends said.  

Marco Molano, 68, died on Dec. 29 at Holy Cross Health hospital in Fort Lauderdale where he battled the virus for nearly two months, his daughter, Erika Molano said.

“He was a fighter who fought it to the end,” she said Thursday.

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Known for being charismatic, caring, and generous, Marco often worked six days a week at his Mexican-Cuban restaurants, both on University Drive, usually conducting business from the same seat at one of the locations, where some knew him as the "Spanish mayor" of Coral Springs, said his son, Marko Molano Jr.

His three children and wife were involved in the business which, at one point, included four other restaurant locations in Weston, Pembroke Pines, Boca Raton, and Hollywood.

After opening in Coral Springs close to 29 years ago, Marco was a constant presence in all the locations, designing the menus, cooking in the kitchen, hiring the staff, and giving back to his customers and local organizations.

Erika Molano remembers her younger brother sitting in the playpen next to the kitchen at one of the restaurants while her father and mother cooked meals.

“This was his life,” she said. “He loved the business. He wanted his customers to know they were a part of life.”

Jorge Correa, the general manager for the restaurants, said the Molano family restaurants employ roughly 30 people.

“He always gave people a chance to provide for their families,” he said. “To me, he was like a second dad. People loved him. He reached out to everybody.”

Born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, Marco came to New York City at age 18 on his own. He hustled in the streets selling everything he could from travel bags to scarves.

He eventually earned enough money to move to Fort Lauderdale, get married to Marcia, and open a small pizza place in Davie. From there, he opened his first restaurant in Coconut Creek and soon expanded his brand to Coral Springs and other cities.

It was in Coral Springs where the family made their home, with his children attending local schools and Marco and his family supporting local groups and causes from sports leagues to police and fire departments.

During Hurricane Wilma, El Mariachi had gas so Marco and his family cooked free rice and beans meals for days for anyone who was hungry.

After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, they donated food for families, police officers and firefighters, and others who suffered in the tragedy.

And there were many other instances when the family offered meals and gift certificates to those in need, Coral Springs Mayor Scott Brook said.

“I don’t remember him saying no to any request to give back,” Brook said.

His wife, Marcia, said she wants her husband to be remembered as a hard worker, compassionate, and humble who truly loved to serve others.

“Night after night for the last 27 years, he has made sure to meet and greet every single customer,” she said. “He wanted to make sure that your experience for dinner was great. But what makes him different from many is, he got to know all of our customers. He asked how their kids were, their family.”

Marco’s family will honor him by closing El Mariachi at 2153 North University Drive on Jan. 24 and keeping the other location at 4625 North University Drive open so his friends, customers, and others can celebrate his life. 

His family will continue operating restaurants. 

"He left a big imprint. He was a legend in Coral Springs," Marko Molano Jr. said.

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