Author Archives: Gerry Garcia

People You Should Know – Veronica Whitacre, Comfort House Services


Nestled in a quiet neighborhood in the middle of McAllen is a wondrous place where God’s love is felt in abundance. Comfort House is a 10-bed Palliative Care Facility established by Sister Marian Strohmeyer as a ministry to the dying in 1989. “Sister Strohmeyer’s mission was to run Comfort House on God’s blessings, which meant by monetary donations alone,” said McAllen City Commissioner and new Administrator Veronica Whitacre. That is exactly what has happened with this facility for those in need of a quiet place to let go of life. Fundraisers are a part of what makes it possible – the February Walkathon, May’s Pretty in Pearl Luncheon & Styleshow, September’s Poker Tournament, November’s evening dinner, and the upcoming July 16th event, Summer Barbeque and Market Days are all organized to support Comfort House. Otherwise it’s the community that lends its support, along with United Way Services, foundations, and donors.…

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The McAllen ISD Lamar Academy International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) Programme offers the diploma to students who want to develop and demonstrate their scholastic intensity through accomplishments in six academic subjects.  IB at Lamar is globally ranked, boasting a 98% diploma completion rate against an 80% worldwide average.  At Lamar Academy, students receive support through the development of approaches to learning, and they engage in rigorous courses and take academic risks in developing research, writing, and communication skills.  Although the IB curriculum offers a more humanistic and integrated vision of education, it is still rooted fundamentally in helping students develop expertise in the conventional academic disciplines and the arts.  IB integrates the curriculum around problems or project-based investigations, which lead to authentic learning that can bridge across all disciplines, including Medicinal Chemistry, Molecular Biology, Developmental Psychology, and Mathematical Explorations, among others. Different from other programs, IB does not rely only on…

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Business You Should Know – Mail-Pak Your Box Store


Need shoes, a Christmas tree, or perhaps a TV with a surround sound system you sold on Craig’s list packaged and shipped? Where do you go to be sure the item is properly packed and safely shipped? Mail-Pak Your Box Store, offers just those services. Owner Ray Norton, a former executive, stays current with the trends in shipping stores. Offering a variety of services such as year round gift-wrapping, the rentalof private mail boxes, packaging, boxes, and shipping, he’s recently added new services. “The traditional mail and parcel center stores are becoming a thing of the past,” Norton said. “In order for us to continue to flourish, we continue to add other services.” Norton said. Norton listens to his customers and follows popular trends covered by Retail Shipping Associates, the industry organization he belongs to. He recently installed FotoZoomer, for instance, which prints color pictures, banners, posters, signs, and calendars…

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Chamber Member in the News! Carats’ Simple Strategy: Make It Special For Everyone


McAllen, TX—It’s all about the customers. While that is a common saying among better jewelers, Carlos Melguizo and Saul Sanchez, co-owners of Carats * Jewels * Living * Gifts, have implemented some fairly rigorous inventory changes to keep Carats customers interested and returning—often. “So many things were changing,” said Melguizo, recalling the market conditions of 2012-13. “Prices were changing and we had been focusing on the high end. We wanted to continue offering some everyday items as well. We added niche perfumes, high-end crystal, fancy candles and $30 – $40 perfect gift ideas. We do a fancy giftwrap on all these, wrapped to the max, in the same style as our high-end items. People know when they get the box/bag, that they are getting the Carats brand. Whatever they pick will be a unique gift.” And is that new merchandise segment growing? “Tremendously,” says Melguizo. “We think of it like…

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McAllen Chamber to hold Business Seminar on the DOL’s New Overtime Exemption Regulations

Glass - Valorie

The Department of Labor’s new overtime exemption regulations will go into effect on December 1, 2016, giving employers less than six months to prepare. The DOL has raised the salary threshold for exemption eligibility to $47,476 per year.  What will this mean for your business?  The McAllen Chamber of Commerce will hold a seminar entitled, “Making Sense of the Department of Labor’s New Exemption Rules” on Friday, July 8 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.  Labor and employment attorney, Valorie C. Glass with the firm of Atlas Hall & Rodriguez, will conduct a fast-paced, one-hour refresher course on an employer’s obligations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  She will also cover the details of the DOL’s final rule and how this impacts “white collar” exemptions and overtime, as well as practical considerations in managing reclassifications of employees from exempt to nonexempt status. Ms. Glass…

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Business You Should Know – Valley Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

Dr. Gary Schwarz

   As a child, all Dr. Gary Schwarz wanted to do was become a farmer. “That’s what my dad was and I loved working the land. I was influenced at an early age because the woods where my dad and grandpa used to hunt were no longer there, only fields of agriculture. Where had it all gone? I wanted to be part of bringing it back,” Schwarz said. However, his mother put a stop to that. “You’re not going to put your family through that!” she stated emphatically. “Be a doctor!” said his father. And so, while in college, he tried watching various medical surgeries but found himself passing out cold at each one. Choosing Dentistry instead, he enrolled at Baylor Dental College. While there discovered Oral Surgery, an extremely competitive field. “I watched the surgeries, didn’t get sick and was fascinated by them. I walked out of there knowing…

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People You Should Know – Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth Davis

Nuts and Cows & Mi Cocina by the Hour Looking at a building in Mexico for a business, she realized it would make a great restaurant. Elizabeth Davis has bravado. She didn’t cook and wasn’t quite sure how to open a business, but that didn’t stop her. She went to the local Coca-Cola plant, and through her passion in what she believed would be a terrific business, she convinced them to paint her building and give her equipment,  tables and chairs. Opening her restaurant led her to a ten year catering business that eventually fed up to 4,000 people a day in factories’ cafeterias. “I learned to hire multi-functional employees and focused on building a strong team, taking care of them and their lives,” Davis said. Coming to McAllen, Davis decided once again to tackle the business world, this time with pecans, and created Nuts and Cows. Davis won the…

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Business You Should Know – KUMORI


Sitting in his office, Francisco Paez began his tale as Kumori co-owner with two brothers, no relation, Fernando and Eduardo Paez. With 19 years of success behind him Paez said, “I had promised myself never to be in the restaurant business again. I had a terrible experience and said, ‘Never Again.’ I was living in Monterrey, Mexico, and saw how U.S. citizens liked sushi. I thought, ‘Let’s bring it to them.’” Proposing the idea to his childhood friend, Fernando’s response was enthusiastic. “Let’s do it!” It took them about a year to get their first Kumori opened in McAllen. “Everything was a challenge because of a different culture, different country, different way of working with employees. But, we’ve always been blessed and people have been very loyal. That is what has made us succeed,” Paez explained. Several other factors have also contributed to their success. “We adapted to our markets.…

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Applebee’s® Ignites 2,000 New Wood Fired Grills to Give Americans the Steak They Deserve

McAllen, TX area Applebee’s introduce new Hand-Cut Wood Fired offerings including USDA Choice Top Sirloin Steaks and Bone-in Pork Chops Moving to take back America’s neighborhoods – the roots of its rise as the country’s largest casual dining restaurant chain – Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar® is unveiling new American-made, wood-fired grills as the centerpiece of nearly 2,000 U.S. locations and inviting guests to follow the enticing aroma of American Oak smoke into their neighborhood Applebee’s to try a new Hand-Cut, Wood Fired Grill item. Three McAllen & Edinburg, TX area Applebee’s will introduce certified USDA Choice Top Sirloin Steaks as the marquee item of its revamped menu highlighting the elevated quality, flavor and freshness of its dishes. “Our new wood-fired grill is the cornerstone of our elevated dining experience and we’re excited for our guests to come in and try our delicious new wood-fired steak options,” said Regional Vice…

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Dr. Carlos Ayala “Simplifying the Beauty in All of Us”

Dr. Carlos Ayala Newsletter

Double-board Certified in Otolaryngology and Facial Plastic Surgery, and the only board certified facial plastic surgeon in the Rio Grande Valley, a clinical associate professor of surgery at the UTRGV School of Medicine, a retired military man, Dr. Carlos Ayala is a multi-faceted physician. I knew I wanted to be a doctor since I was a kid,” he said. “I went to my mom’s doctor’s appointments with her to translate and learned all the complicated lingo. Though I was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, and learned English in school, I lived in a home where no one spoke English. I decided I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to help people like my mom. I saw the doctor helping her and thought it was great.” Entering the Navy after graduating from high school, he worked his way up through the ranks until he obtained a scholarship…

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12 Questions with McAllen Chamber Board Member Laura Warren


1) What is your favorite book?  I like Around the World in 80 Days and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Vernes – he’s one of my favorite authors.  But my very favorite book is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I love to read. 2) What is your favorite movie? The ones based on Jane Austin books. I liked “Pride and Prejudice.” 3) What was your favorite vacation spot? I’m enjoying the High Adventure Camps with the Boys Scouts of America. I get beat-up on the outside, but I’m renewed inside. I recently drove part of Troop 7 down to the Florida Keys and did a two-week stint on a 75- foot sailboat. We did a couple of environmental preservation projects on a turtle sanctuary island. We went through a couple of storms and it was the coolest thing, and I learned I didn’t get seasick! 4) What is…

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People You Should Know – Pattie Rosenlund, MS Executive Director, Easter Seals

patti easter seals

Providing Help, Hope and Answers The Easter Seals Foundation was founded in 1919 by Edgar Allen when his  son was injured in a street car accident and, suddenly, disability touched his life. Easter Seals Rio Grande Valley began in 1952, starting out in an Army barracks in Pharr before moving to 1217 West Houston Avenue in McAllen. Executive Director Pattie Rosenlund, with the organization for 18 years, heads up the 160 employees. “My background is in teaching special education, and then I moved to teaching in the mental health world,” said Pattie. “I love the opportunities we have of program development, working with families to provide the support they need to make a positive impact.” Easter Seals offers multiple programs such as Early Childhood Intervention, which provides services from therapy for infants and toddlers with disabilities or developmental delays, helping adult clients fund their ongoing therapy to teaching parents how…

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San Antonio FOX Television Crew Films in McAllen

San Antonio’s “Daytime at 9” cast and crew visited McAllen to film portions of local episodes that will air in June.

A San Antonio television crew visited McAllen recently to film a portion of episodes that will feature the Rio Grande Valley. “Daytime at 9,” a program run on San Antonio’s Fox Channel KABB, will air two live programs from the Rio Grande Valley at the end of June, said Nancy Millar, Vice President and Director of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. “The program has now begun to air in the Valley as well, on KGBT Channel 4,” Millar explained. “’Daytime at 9’ will therefore be covering the Valley more frequently. These episodes just filmed will be the first of what is anticipated to be several more over the course of the run of the program.” The production crew visited for several days, filming interviews with McAllen chefs and some shopping scenes, Millar said. Featured locations will include Quinta Mazatlan and Town Lake at Fireman’s Park. “The…

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