By the time Andrew Ambriz’s sister reached middle school, her school had shut down twice for gun violence. It was the final straw for the Los Angeles family. They packed up and moved to Nebraska in the dead of winter. “I think two of us owned pants,” said Ambriz.
Ambriz admits that he and his siblings initially resented the move. West Point was a far cry from Southeast Los Angeles and the amenities they were accustomed too. But before long they had made friends, even joined FFA. Ambriz would go on to become an FFA State Officer, eventually leading him to pursue a Meat Sciences Degree at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. He had become a Nebraskan through and through.
In 2016, Ambriz signed up for the Rural Futures Institute’s internship program. His assignment would take him to McCook, Nebraska where he would gain hands-on experience in economic development. Following his college graduation, he convinced his new wife, Alix, to move to McCook with him, this time for a fulltime gig at the economic development office, first as interim director and eventually, as director.
Ambriz said he and Alix were thrust into the innerworkings of McCook almost immediately. They were invited to work alongside some of the most influential people in the community and learned firsthand the importance of relationships and building trust in a small town. The birth of a new baby forced them to reevaluate everything. Like all new parents, “We felt really scared and nervous,” said Ambriz. Seeking proximity to family, he and Alix relocated to Broken Bow where he again began work as director of economic development.
Even in Broken Bow, Alix and Andrew remained in touch with friends in McCook. On a Tuesday night in February, Andrew received a text from Matt Sehnert, owner of McCook’s legendary James Beard Award-winning restaurant. It said: “Are you ready to quit your nine to five and start your entrepreneurial journey in McCook?”
Ambriz said he had no intention of actually purchasing Sehnert’s Bakery & Bieroc Café, yet he couldn’t stop himself from dreaming about the possibilities. Matt and his wife, Shelly, invited Alix and Andrew to McCook for the weekend and gave their full pitch. The Ambrizes left McCook that weekend with a pledge to become the business’ successors.
Once again, Alix, Andrew, and sons Zander and Isaiah are proud to call McCook home. Ambriz admits that he knows little about running a bakery but living in a supportive community like McCook helps dissipate any of his fears. It also helps to be in network with hundreds of young Nebraskans across the state—many of them fellow entrepreneurs—via Connecting Young Nebraskans, an affiliated fund of Nebraska Community Foundation. CYN is “connecting young Nebraskans and empowering them to lead and shape the future of our communities and state.” Ambriz serves as co-chair of the fund advisory committee.
Though Ambriz’s schedule is as demanding as it’s ever been, he continues to make time for CYN because of the generous and straightforward feedback it provides. “That’s what CYN does for aspiring young leaders,” he said. “CYN is a network of people that understand and want as much for you as you want for yourself.”