Local man opens third business, a Mexican seafood restaurant


Out of high school, Ruben Leal wanted to be a carpenter.

He worked for a carpenters union in Indianapolis for a couple of years, but it was industrial carpentry, and that’s not what he was looking to do for the rest of his life. He was more interested in residential carpentry.

“I got in the wrong carpentry, so it was not what I wanted. It didn’t grab my attention,” he said.

His parents started Super Mercado Morales in Seymour, and they asked him to work there to help them with the language barrier since their English wasn’t very good. Leal was born in Mexico and moved to the United States with his family when he was 6.

As time went on, Leal realized he wanted to build his career around business.

“I supported them in that way, and then I started getting involved in the business,” the now 41-year-old said. “I was learning more and more and more, and it just came to a point where I was like, ‘Well, I guess I’ll just still do this and just keep going.’”

Twelve years ago, he branched out on his own and opened Morales Supermarket in Columbus. Four years ago, he opened Morales Tienda Mexicana in Taylorsville that includes a taco shop with tacos, sandwiches, quesadillas, burritos and some traditional Mexican dishes.

“It just got to the point where I wanted to be independent and have my own business,” Leal said. “I did catering for a year, year and a half, and then I started my stores. … I learned the whole process, and when I felt I was ready, I just decided to become my own owner. I grew up in the business with my parents, and I just decided that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

With the opening of Marisqueria El 7 Mares, a Mexican seafood restaurant, in Seymour on Aug. 11, Leal and his wife, Maria Bello, are now the owners of three businesses.

“Every time we travel, when we go to Florida or California, I can eat seafood all day long,” Leal said, smiling. “I’m a fan of seafood, so I just told my wife one day, ‘I want to have my own seafood restaurant.’ That was what got everything started.”

For this business, he wanted to branch out of the Columbus area and be close to his parents, who live in Seymour and still run their supermarket and restaurant there.

“We want to experience different customers, different people, so that’s where we decided to come over to Seymour because one, my parents live here and I can see them more often, and we want to experience a different town,” Leal said.

In terms of finding a location for the restaurant, Leal noticed the shopping center in the 500 block of East Tipton Street across from his parents’ business was being expanded in late 2022.

“It just got my attention, and I thought, ‘This is a perfect location for a seafood restaurant. We want to do this,’” he said.

They reached out to the owner of the building and came to an agreement to lease the portion at 500 E. Tipton St.

The expansion took place from December 2022 to May of this year, and then Leal said it took a couple of months to do interior construction.

That included having the walls painted with sea life.

“A friend that I have from Tennessee, Jose, I met him in Columbus years back,” Leal said. “I wanted it to be unique, something that no other restaurant has, so I was like, ‘I want the theme of a sea, like you’re in the sea.’ The first impression when you walk in, you’re in the sea. As soon as you walk in, you feel like you’re in another place. I wanted that kind of feeling. It took him a month without a day off (to paint).”

The tables, chairs and bar, which also follow the sea theme, were handmade and handpainted in Jalisco, Mexico.

“It took them three months to do all of the furniture,” Leal said. “It was a long process.”

The exterior windows also feature sea life that can be seen from Tipton Street, or U.S. 50.

As for naming the business, Leal said it translates to seafood restaurant of the seven seas.

“It’s a common name used in Mexico,” he said. “When you want to refer to seafood, you go with seven mares. We’ve got seven oceans in the world, so that’s where the seven comes from. It means we have one seafood from every ocean at least. … Seafood, it doesn’t just come from one ocean. It comes from all of the oceans on Earth.”

When the restaurant opened, the focus was on the unique seafood offerings. Some of the menu items include coconuts or pineapples stuffed with seafood and vegetables, Baja California tacos with shrimp or fish and street tacos. Plus, when people get chips and salsa, they also receive seafood dip, which is tilapia cooked with lime and vegetables.

“I always have liked cooking, and seafood is my favorite food,” Leal said. “We travel a lot to Florida, California, and by talking to other cooks in other states, I have learned a lot of the recipes, and we brought them home here.”

A few months in, Leal said they noticed a lot of people either weren’t familiar with seafood or didn’t like it, so the menu was expanded to include things like steak, chicken and tacos. They even sell whole grilled chickens.

“We offer a big variety of food now,” he said. “It’s a new town for us, first time doing business here, so we’ve got to adapt to the clientele. We’re just adding stuff that our clientele is asking for, and that’s what we’re putting on the table. We’ve got everything in here. We want the people to know that we’re just not a seafood restaurant. We also have traditional dishes.”

Leal said they appreciate feedback from customers on the menu items.

“We’re trying to be different than everybody else,” he said. “We want to have our unique dishes, and we want to try to be different in the way where we’re more flexible with our clients. If our clients want this dish and that, we’re willing to do it.”

So far, he said people have been happy with the food.

“We keep getting new customers to come and check it out,” Leal said. “We just want to get the word out there. We’re not only seafood. We’ve got more stuff to offer. We’ve got a lot of good specials going on, a lot of good deals. We want to bring the people in from town and visit us.”

Marisqueria El 7 Mares is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The full menu can be downloaded online at marisqueriael7mares.com, and the business also can be found on Facebook.

For now, Leal said he is good with owning three businesses and doesn’t know what the future holds with adding others. He said he just wants to be a good example for his children.

“Me and my wife, we’re still young, we still have the strength to do it,” Leal said, laughing. “But I guess when that time comes, we can’t do this anymore is when we’re probably going to call it. I tell my kids, ‘If you guys want to keep being in the business, you guys can take over, but if it’s not something you guys want to do, then you’ll do something else.’ … As long as we can make sure everything is being done right and the service is fine, we can keep going.”

No posts to display