Author Archives: Ez Lara

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DECADE MAKES – McALLEN HERITAGE CENTER

McAllen has a history full of Indians, cowboys, desperadoes, border disputes, military service, cultural exchanges, ageless architecture, and people – lots and lots of people. Once upon a time that history might have been lost. Today, thanks to the McAllen Heritage Center, (MHC), the city’s and much of the Valley’s history is safe. Elva Cerda, Managing Director and a passionate McAllenite, is one of the founders of the center. First opened in June of 2008 in a third of La Placita building at 301 S. Main Street, the Center now fills the entire first floor and is busting at its seams. Where History Lives on Memories come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s a wide variety of memorabilia in the cases and on the walls of the building. Touring the museum allows one to time travel. It’s a grand adventure. Close to many hearts are seats from the recently…

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BUSINESS YOU SHOULD KNOW – LEO GUERRA, COMMERCIAL KITCHEN

Commercial Kitchen, specializing in restaurant equipment repair and maintenance, is Commercial Food Equipment Service Association (CFESA) certified. That is one of the most important aspects of this 24/7, 365 day a year service company. “To our end users, this means we’re not only trained by the manufacturers, but our own training facilities in San Antonio, as well,” Leo Guerra, Branch Manager, said. “Once hired, our technicians train three years to become master technicians, certified in electrical, gas, steam, and refrigeration. Guerra joined Commercial Kitchen 18 years ago, shortly after graduating from trade school, and has worked up through the ranks from service technician to service supervisor. “I found it fascinating to repair kitchen equipment. The next thing I knew I was Branch Manager, and have been for many years now.” A Chamber member for years, Commercial Kitchen participates yearly in the Business Expo. Using the event for more community awareness,…

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PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW – KENT SHEPARD

Kent Shepard Shepard Insurance Agency At the top of Kent Shepard’s loyalty list is being an Aggie, through and through. It all started back when Shepard, owner, Shepard Insurance Agency, was in the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets, a Ross Volunteer. “Did you know in World War II, A&M provided more military officers than anybody in the United States other than military academies?” He bragged. “Being an Aggie in the Corps has probably been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life. As a freshman you go through boot camp and it’s pretty tough. As a Corps member, you make such lasting connections. There’s still a group of us who get together a few times a year.” Raised on a farm with 1,000 head of hogs, 500 sheep, a couple hundred head of cattle, and growing wheat and oats, Kent’s ancestors had moved outside Graham, Texas, in the…

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MEET YOUR AMBASSADOR – TOM BROWNMILLER

Tom Brownmiller Director of Marketing Texas Guest Ranch Blanca Cardenas struck gold again when she suggested to Tom Brownmiller, director of marketing at Texas Guest Ranch, that he become an Ambassador. “The Chamber’s a great association with great people, and the Ambassadors are great too,” Brownmiller said. “They are terrific motivators because one can show up at an event tired, down, or sick, but they’re going to get cheered up. Augie and Blanca are always there with a smile.” Also in real estate, he’s served three and a half years on the Board of Directors for the Greater McAllen Association of Realtors as MLS chairman and then treasurer. An avid reader of books on religion and God, he’s been an active church member all his life. Coming to the Valley in ‘77 as a manager/trainer for Pan Am’s baseball team, he moved around with his wife until 2012, when they…

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2017 TOP 5 SMALL BUSINESSES

This year’s Top 5 2017 McAllen Chamber Small Business winners all excel in their fields – along with their willingness to take risks, their determination and hard work, and most importantly passion for quality goods and services. Best Medical Supply. Open since 1995; 15 employees Joe Trejo and his wife joined his sister in a start-up business for durable medical equipment (DME) for wheelchairs and walkers. Listening carefully to his customers is what grew his business. When customers asked for more surgically invasive equipment, he would add it to his increasing inventory in the stocking warehouse. Changing the course of the company and finding their specialty niche came after a local hospital engineer left a piece of equipment on consignment, which he was able to sell for a healthy profit. “At first, I thought there was no way it was going to sell for a great profit margin. A week…

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MEET YOUR AMBASSADOR – LISA CANTU

Lisa Cantu Vice-president Business Development Officer Texas Community Bank Lisa Cantu, a vice-president Business Development Officer for Texas Community Bank, is balanced. . . in all areas of her life. Ranging from her Beatles Fab 4 collection to her love of her top three sports teams, the Astros, Cowboys and Spurs, she stays busy enjoying life in many varied areas. Then there are the 35 years of banking experience she’s accumulated, from processing loans, retirement, and IRA accounts to commercial lender and branch manager. Cantu appreciates how Texas Community Bank loves to help its customers who helped it become what it is today. Her volunteer work includes time dedicated to AARP Edinburg, and teaching the residents of Retama Nursing Home how to protect their financial assets. “To know I meant something on this earth and that my life has value through helping others. That is meaningful,” Cantu said. Her time…

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13 QUESTIONS WITH MCALLEN CHAMBER – JASON LEAL

Jason Leal Senior Vice-President, Senior Credit Officer for HIll Country Texas Regional Bank 1) What is your favorite book? I’m not known to be much of a book reader. I’ve been known to say my favorite books are Cliff Notes back in high school. But there is one book that I have read – Who Moved My Cheese? I read that in Leadership McAllen, Class 21. It has application in all parts of your life, personally, business wise, career wise, in that you really have to think about the fact that change is going to happen. Change can be good, change can be bad but it needs to be accepted and part of the life that you lead no matter what you’re doing. Your cheese will be moved. That’s stuck with me. 2) What is your favorite movie? I will be honest and tell my fellow Chamber members that my…

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PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW – VERONICA SANCHEZ & EDDA GUTIERREZ

Veronica Sanchez & Edda Gutierrez The Antique Blue House Veronica Sanchez and Edda Gutierrez, friends since childhood, are the vivacious, inspiring, and gifted women behind The Antique Blue House at 1005 North Main in McAllen. Merging their artistic talents with their love of antique and vintage pieces, whether it be furniture, clothing, jewelry or art pieces, together they have developed a unique store. “We love to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary,” Veronica said. All around the shop are pieces of their creative designs. In one corner you’ll see an original vintage end table, and in another window will be a stylish, repainted end table by Edda. Hanging in the vintage clothing section you might find an intricate, delicate First Communion dress designed and sewn by Veronica from another store she had previously for 14 years. “This is my time,” Edda said, as she explained how her children are now…

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McALLEN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE 2017 MAN AND WOMAN OF THE YEAR

Paul Moxley, Chief Executive Officer, Texas Regional Bank Janet Vackar, President, Bert Ogden Auto Group The honor of Man and Woman of 2017 has gone to two people with exceptional credentials who are respected by the entire community serving on multiple boards, working with non-profits and contributing as leaders in major companies. Paul Moxley and Janet Vackar are making a difference in their community. Paul Moxley, Chief Executive Officer, Texas Regional Bank, is normally a private man who prefers to keep his works and good deeds quiet. However, receiving this title of Man of the Year has Paul opening the vaults of his memories, remembering those who shaped him into the man he has become. He recalled the strong influence of his mother and shared one of his favorite memories of her: she used to hang his little 5 or 6-year old ADHD body by his belt on the doorknob…

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PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW – JOAQUIN ZAMORA

Joaquin Zamora McAllen City Commissioner District 2 Assistant Criminal District Attorney One of the first things a person notices about Joaquin Zamora, McAllen City Commissioner District 2 and Assistant Criminal District Attorney, is his welcoming attitude. Perhaps that is because he is so grateful to God for the life he is living. Born and raised in McAllen in a colonia, Zamora learned his work ethics early from clerking in the family store, stocking the shelves, taking inventory and selling barbacoa on Sundays. At the same time his moral philosophy was being honed – always tell the truth, respect your elders, don’t talk back, do the right thing. Maybe it was partly this which, by the time he was in 5th grade, helped him know what he wanted in life. It was not the family business, but the city business. “It was the ‘80s. I saw a lot of poor people…

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14 QUESTIONS WITH MCALLEN CHAMBER BOARD MEMBER – ANNETTE FRANZ

1) What is your favorite book? The Shack by William Young. The story line intrigued me. It’s about a man who suffers a lot of pain with the loss of a child, unbearable pain. The story is about forgiveness and how to get through life’s struggles. It is a reminder that many times we aren’t aware of God’s presence or even think we have been abandoned, God never leaves our side. 2) What is your favorite movie? I don’t know that I have a favorite movie. I like watching Hallmark movies. I prefer those, especially during the holidays, because of the happy endings. 3) What was your favorite vacation spot? Now that my kids are older, I think going to the island with them. When I was growing up it was camping at Garner State Park with my parents, near San Antonio in the Hill Country. 4) What is your…

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Business You Should Know – LEO RODRIGUEZ, STATE FARM INSURANCE

Here to Help Life Go Right! It is always amazing to me how life leads people to where they are supposed to go. Take Leo Rodriguez, State Farm Insurance Agent, for example. Growing up in Edinburg, he loved being outside. “We had such innocent fun back then,” he chuckled. “We’d go out and play baseball, touch football and climb trees. Every now and then we would try to get into mischief.” Graduating from Edinburg High School, he went to UTPanAm to follow his aspirations of becoming a doctor. When he graduated, his life changed when he was asked to be on the ground floor of what is now called the Learning Assistance Center, a program designed to help disadvantaged students get on an even playing field. Then, after seven years he received a call from an Agency Manager with State Farm. “He specifically told me, ‘This is not a job.…

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THE 2017 McALLEN INNOVATION GRANT AWARD WINNERS

Each year the McAllen Chamber’s Innovation Grant program attracts participants who put their creativity and dreams in the hands of the judges. “The program was created by the Chamber to develop a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem and to stimulate innovation in the McAllen area,” Director of Business Development Jorge Sanchez, said. Here are the six 2017 Innovation Grant winners. Ranvu Grocery Delivery App makes life easier for the busy families of the Valley. By downloading this app to a smart phone, people can select their grocery store of choice and create and order their list of food and supplies. The items will be delivered to them within two hours. Gloria Ordaz and her husband Dorance Cuba were in France working on a master’s program in International Business Management. For six months they researched the idea and future of e-commerce. When she read about the grocery delivery business, Gloria felt the time…

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PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW – OMAR QUINTANILLA

Omar Quintanilla Vice-President, Frost Bank, City of McAllen Commissioner District 3 With his degree in Finance, Omar Quintanilla began his almost 20-year banking career with the only bank on his business path, Frost Bank. After a year in the downtown San Antonio home office, he made a career move back down to his home turf, The Valley. “I’ve always liked analyzing financial statements and dealing with the business community,” he declared. “I especially like working with entrepreneurs and their companies.” Quintanilla, is Vice-President of Frost Bank and also serves as District 3 City of McAllen Commissioner. He began his service with the City of McAllen after he completed the Class 20 Leadership Course, when organizers suggested graduates join a city advisory board. Taking the knowledge of the over 30 city departments and their functions that he had gleaned from the class, Quintanilla became a member of the Community Development Block…

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13 QUESTIONS WITH MCALLEN CHAMBER BOARD MEMBER – STEPHAN WINGERT

Stephan Wingert Regional Vice-president, Publisher The Monitor 1) What is your favorite book? My favorite book is by David Allen and it’s called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I have a lot of tasks that pile up for me to do. I’m always looking for that philosophy or tool that’s going to help me keep up. His philosophy is that if you can get these things into a system which relieves them from being piled up in your head, then you’re more relaxed, you get to sleep at night. 2) What is your favorite movie? I’m a fan of the Star Wars movies. I love every one of them. I don’t even have a favorite. My favorite thing was when my son was old enough to share that with him. I remember sitting in the theatre with my mom when the first one came out and being…

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