Hector & Laura Gutierrez
Laura Gutierrez wasn’t looking for romance in 1999, caught up as she was in her daughter’s life, her work as an academic counselor and reaching for her goal of obtaining her Master’s degree in Counseling. Meeting Hector at a function for Court Appointed Special Advocates, she as a volunteer and Hector as a supporter, was no big deal.
But when life is determined to set you on your path, it will lead you there. Meeting next at a political function and then at
a wedding, she gave in to the invitation to a dance and handed Hector her pager number. Soon after he called.
“It took me a while to call him back,” Laura smiled. “We were married in 2001.”
By then Hector’s business was growing after years of hard work with his brother, José, and father, Horacio.
“I want to give gratitude to my parents because I wouldn’t have been able to start anything or be where I am if it wasn’t for them,” Hector said. “My dad was the one who bought the first property along Highway 107 in Edinburg, but hoping it would help us. Though he didn’t make much money as a truck driver, he sacrificed to buy that land for us. We didn’t want to be truck drivers. He wanted something better for us too. It was that motivation we saw in him that was instilled in us.”
That land was enough to get the ball rolling. First they built a convenience store which José ran. Hector lived in Houston working as a chemical engineer for Dow Chemicals. He discovered he liked sales rather than engineering, however, and asked his boss to send him to the sales department.
“If that’s what you want,” said the surprised boss at the request for a demotion.
“I didn’t care. That’s what I wanted to do.”
Dow trained him as a salesperson which set him up for his upcoming life change, long before he knew it. Gaining that experience in sales also gave him confidence to venture forth when needed.
José happened to mention to Hector one day how people were renting videos in town, so Hector said he’d look into it. Once again Horacio came through for his boys. Giving them money to buy videos, the brothers went into the video business.
“We moved the toilet paper to the side and put in the movies,” Hector laughed. “I then noticed in Houston videos were also in supermarkets. When I suggested to José that we do that, he agreed.”
Hector resigned his Dow Chemicals job, and with the strong sales experience in his back pocket, he moved back home, with one supermarket already awaiting their movies. As they expanded their stores, Hector realized José and his father needed to be on their own, so he went down his solo path.
Renting stores in strip centers to house the videos, one of the stores didn’t do so well. That experience set Hector on a new road.
“I remember thinking, ‘I believe I’m doing this wrong. I need to be the owner of the buildings. When this video business dies out, what am I going to be left with? Just a bunch of useless movies.’”
It was then he changed his strategy and started buying properties, investing in commercial land and building the strip centers.
“I would ask, ‘If one of these days I sell out, where would the company want to be?’” Hector reflected. “That’s how I selected my sites for future stores, hoping one day somebody would buy me out.”
Sure enough, Blockbuster did buy out his 12 locations, with Hector renting them the space which still provides income today, albeit with new tenants.
Branching out, HMG Construction Inc. has added commercial and residential building, doing a flip here and there, and has developed a couple of subdivisions to its list of services rendered. With a string of strip centers, he is adding his second laundry mat, one of their best decisions, Laura claims.
Talking to Hector and Laura, they relish their lives and those of all their children, but especially their daughter, Ava. At 15 months she went through the battle of her life with cancer.
“Our world was turned upside down,” Laura said. “I quit my job to be with her full time, but praise God, she’s been free and clear since October 2012.”
When Laura was ready to return to work, Hector asked her to work with him, which she did. Though she misses her counseling work, she loves what she’s doing. Still expanding, they’re planning their next center at Ware and Daffodil.
“We’ve had our ups and downs but that’s life, you know,” Hector said. “You just remember the good things. You don’t want to remember the bad things.”
“When you go through tragedies or trials, they make us stronger,” Laura added. “God has a plan for us. You think you’re going to do something and He throws you a curve ball. Today I’m happy. We’ve grown the business together. I’ve learned a lot. It’s been a good change.”
Together this strong, steady couple brings forth their love of their work, love of their family and love of each other to share with their community, the community they call home.