Business Champions

McAllen Sports

For forty-one years McAllen Sports has put their customers first. Priding themselves on reliability and top-notch service, the retailer amassed a loyal following that only continues to grow over time. As owner Jorge Salcines puts it, “we’re nothing without our customers.”

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, McAllen Sports worked to put customer and employee safety top of mind. As well as both requiring and selling masks at the store, rigorous cleaning procedures have been put in place as well as curbside pick-up and delivery services. Reaping these benefits, Salcines mentioned that they’ve been working on orders of customized masks for different businesses, including schools, stockyards and municipal departments.

“We’ve never not come through with an order, for anybody,” Salcines said when talking about the shop’s workload. “When you’re in the business this long, your employees become family and your customers become friends.”

In Salcines’ eyes, “you’re only as good as the people around you” and while he admits that businesses still have a long way to go on the road to recovery, he is quick to acknowledge what a great support system can do. “The Chamber is going to play an important part in helping out businesses,” Salcines said. “There’s great people working there, knowledgeable people who actually care.”

To browse their inventory visit https://www.mcallensports.com/ or stop by their shop on 108 S 16th St.

 

9Round

As COVID-19 continued to spread throughout the nation, shutdown orders swiftly closed businesses where a high number of people might congregate, such as gyms. As a result, local kickboxing gym 9Round had to transition their operations to accommodate for a more virtual experience.

During the shutdown, 9Round has offered guided workouts through Zoom. Members using their online portal have been able to take advantage of ‘Workout of the Day’ exercises, as well as various different sessions provided by the gym.

“This is not our typical business model,” said owner Noe Meza. “This is something that was developed very quickly to give people the same push and motivation from the gym while in their home.”

While the gym plans to re-open on May 18th, Meza says that the franchise’s long-term goals include transitioning virtual workouts to a more stable platform, like an app. He also says one of the biggest takeaways from this experience was the franchise’s ability to “continue to provide services while flipping their entire business model.” Meza also credits local support for helping them get through this.

“One thing that was very valuable was the support that we’ve had from the Chamber,” Meza said. “Without the Chamber, I would have gone into this blind and not really have known what to expect. I’m very appreciative of everything they’ve done.”

To learn about becoming a 9Round member, visit https://www.9round.com/

Sylvan Learning

For many students across the nation, a week off of school for spring break turned into an indefinite shutdown that will likely last for months. As school districts have moved to distance learning, Sylvan Learning has expanded their hours to offer one-on-one online tutoring for students and parents who might need it.

“Parents need to take into consideration that kids will be losing six months of learning, or more, due to Covid-19,” explained Marketing Manager Brenda Garza. “With online tutoring, we can offer the same high quality, educational instruction and adjust to everyone’s schedules.”

The team at Sylvan recognizes that individual students have their own unique learning capabilities, and work with them to meet their standards and match academic goals.  While shutting down their centers has been less than ideal, online tutoring offers a more personalized experience. Being virtual also means being able to reach more students in the South Texas region, including Mexico.

“As a community, we need to move forward in regards to technology and how accessible it is to students,” Garza said. “If this happens again, what are we going to do? That’s where Sylvan Learning has helped to reach a greater amount of students and provide those things.”

To inquire about their tutoring services, visit https://locations.sylvanlearning.com/us/mcallen-tx

Heartland- A Global Payment Company

As a payment processing and technology provider, Heartland’s operations were turned on their head with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s biggest clientele are restaurants, and with a downturn in business, Heartland’s main priority became figuring out ways they could help their merchants.

“We were calling to check-in and listening to what they had to tell us, then we would tell them about everything we could do for them,” Territory Manager Steve Brooks explained.

Some of these things include helping restaurants and retailers’ transition to online services, as well as helping to secure loans for small businesses that otherwise cannot not get them from a bank. Heartland also provides help for payroll processing and offered these services at discounted costs and rates. Brooks said they did no sales calls for the entire month of April.

“We’re not pushing things, we just want to make sure our merchants are okay and aren’t burdened with any cost,” Brooks said. “It’s a very tough time, and we’re doing everything we can on our end to help.”

As the commercial landscape continues to change, Brooks makes one thing clear: “We all have to stick together. We will survive and this too will pass.”

To learn more about Heartland’s e-commerce services, visit https://www.heartlandpaymentsystems.com/

 

Urban Signature Appliances

As more people are staying home, retailers have seen a shift in consumer spending to home appliances during the coronavirus pandemic. Locally, community members can look to Urban Signature Appliances to provide them with a contactless purchasing experience.

Customers may browse their online store, request a quote and choose between direct delivery and curbside pick-up. For those who want to shop in-person, the storefront remains open, operating under shorter hours and is regularly cleaned and sanitized every hour. Additionally, the business has taken extra measures in order to protect its employees and customers.

“We are implementing temperature checks before customers walk in our door,” said Pablo Ruiz, Sales Manager. “We’re also requiring masks for our employees and customers, and if they don’t have one, we will provide them with one.”

In just a matter of weeks, businesses have been required to adapt to a new normal, and while some changes are temporary, Ruiz feels the benefits of making others more permanent.

“What we are learning through this experience is perhaps increased sanitization is something we should always be doing, not just during a pandemic,” Ruiz said. “But another thing is just to think positively, and know we are going to get through this.”

To shop appliances online, visit: https://urbansignatureappliances.com/

 

Dulceria Pinkis

For years, Dulcerias Pinkis had gone back and forth about building an online website to expand their business. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, that decision was made for them in a matter of weeks. After the business shutdown in mid-March that ordered all non-essential services to close their doors, the candy and party supply store had to get creative.

Being pushed out of their comfort zone has proved favorable for the business that does much of their work via their website and Facebook pages these days.

“After seeing everything that was going on, we decided to move quickly to continue to service our customers,” said Orelia Martinez, Marketing Representative for Dulcerias Pinkis. In addition to moving their store online, the store offers curbside pick-up and direct delivery for all orders. Similar to other retailers, the business also began to carry essential items such as hand sanitizer by the gallon, toilet paper, eggs, gloves and masks.

“Our goal and our vision as a business is always on the community and how we can help them and what we can give to them,” Martinez said. “We’re always thinking of our clients and what we can do to make things better.”

To shop their inventory online, visit http://dulceriaspinkis.com/

2F Akaushi Beef

“When the restaurants shutdown, all of our orders came to a halt,” recalled Alyssa Hind, Marketing Manager for 2F Akaushi Beef. Normally a meat supplier for local Rio Grande Valley restaurants and meat markets, 2F Akaushi had to pivot their business model to cater to a different set of customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The business began implementing weekly curbside pick-ups in McAllen for beef boxes, and after advertising on their social media pages, sold out in thirty minutes. Within a week, 2F Akaushi built a website where customers could purchase their boxes directly, and sold out of that week’s inventory in only a day and a half.

“We’ve learned to be resilient and open-minded to change and to come up with new innovations,” Hind explains. “But the local support is what’s kept us in business and looking forward to the next week of sales.”

Since joining as members two years ago, Hind says being part of the McAllen Chamber has made 2F Akaushi “very proud” and is part of the reason they would love to stay selling primarily in McAllen, in appreciation of their loyal customers and constant support.

To place an order for one of their beef boxes, visit https://2fakaushibeef.com/product/ground-beef-box/

Bicycle World

While the rest of the world was preparing to shut down due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cycling industry was about to experience a major surge in sales across the United States. In McAllen, Bicycle World owner Tracey Roberts says that the major issue for the industry now is being able to even find inventory.

“We’ve had the best month on record ever, for all of our locations,” Roberts said. “We’ve been able to do three or four months of sales in one month.”

Statewide stay-at-home orders across the nation left people with a desire to get outside and exercise – biking has proved to be a major answer. Like most businesses, Bicycle World made modifications to their store hours and regulations, such as providing customers with gloves and limiting the amount of people inside at once. However, with an increased demand for bicycles, the business has faced their own unique problems.

“My employees have had to work through their lunches, and sometimes even have to build bikes on the spot,” Roberts explained. On some days, Bicycle World has to close down early, just to catch up on repairs. “They’ve been absolute godsends, and none of this would be possible without them.”

Bicycle World’s current hours are 10am-5:00pm, Monday- Saturday and closed on Sundays.

 

Cappadona Ranch

Cappadona Ranch owner Victoria Cappadona has built her business around one South Texas staple: mesquite. Known for their mesquite bean jelly, Cappadona Ranch also produces mesquite tea, coffee and flour. To keep providing these products during the coronavirus pandemic, Victoria has heavily relied on her website and social media to fulfill customer orders.

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how important it is to have an online shop and a social media presence to sell and promote your product,” Victoria said. “I could operate my whole business from my phone if I had to.”

For Victoria, operating this way helps Cappadona Ranch stay in contact with customers and other business owners as well. On her social media channels, Victoria has begun to publish new recipes, footage of life on the ranch and more behind the scenes content to keep posts fresh and innovative.

“The best tool that I’ve been given is staying connected with people. Learning how to collaborate has been the biggest thing that keeps us moving forward,” Victoria explained. “I’m very grateful for everyone I’ve met through this process and through the Chamber. Everyone is interconnected and it takes a village to keep us all moving forward.”

To shop Cappadona products, visit https://cappadonaranch.com/collections/frontpage

Southern Roots

Southern Roots is used to providing the community with unique floral experiences, but due to Covid-19, owner Mariana Linaldi had to quickly figure out how to keep business moving forward. Now, Southern Roots offers curbside pick-up for arrangements, and heavily relies on social media for advertising.

“We’re such a visual type of business; people are used to coming in the store and picking out their flowers,” Linaldi explained, “but the good thing is that we have such a good social media presence.”

The first two weeks of the shutdown were particularly hard, as Southern Roots imports many of their flowers from areas like South America and Holland. At the time, shipping for flowers had virtually stopped. However, Linaldi drew on lessons she and her husband learned from the 2008 recession to deal with the current crisis.

“When the market crashed we were forced to reset our lives,” Linaldi said. “Going through that really helped me get through this.”

As businesses learn to navigate this new landscape, Linaldi wants people to know how important it is for the community to stand together.

“We have to embrace each other and continue to support the businesses that are deemed essential,” she said. “We’re all just trying to follow these new rules.”

For curbside and delivery orders, call 956-800-4517.

BrandiT

“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” said BrandiT Sales and Marketing Manager, Andy Santos. That attitude has carried the company through adjusted operations as a result of Covid-19. To continue business, BrandiT has utilized their website as a key feature while offering free delivery and a contactless buying process.

BrandiT uses a virtual showroom, where customers are able to pick out their product, customize it and receive a quote. From there, a final purchase can be made and a delivery scheduled.

“The technology we have makes it easy to service our customers,” said Santos. “One of the only upsides to this is seeing how we evolve and how to go about business in the future.”

With the help of merchandisers, BrandiT provides personal protective equipment, such as medical gowns and face masks. Despite shortened store hours, customers are still able to call and schedule in-person appointments.

“From my point of view, I’ve been in sales for over twenty years,” said Santos. “I used to shake multiple hands a day, sit down with people for meetings and visit businesses. Now, we’re just going to all have to be more aware of each other.”

To browse their virtual showroom, visit https://www.mybrandit.com/ or call (956) 687-7666 to make an appointment.

 

Carats Jewels – Living – Gifts

Like many retailers, luxury boutique Carats has moved the bulk of their operations online, heavily relying on their website and social media presence to serve customers during the coronavirus pandemic. For co-owners Saul Sanchez and Carlos Melguizo, this has given them the opportunity to explore advertising and servicing options from a different approach.

“What we’ve learned is we have to be more aware of our online business,” Sanchez said. “The thing we’re still learning is how to encourage people to use our website.”

The challenge comes from customers wanting to see a product in person, particularly jewelry, before purchasing. To continue a level of engagement, the team at Carats uses a messaging software in which customers text a phone number and associates will reply directly to answer questions or provide product photos. Additionally, Carats provides a touch-free payment service, as well as curbside pick-up, delivery and free shipping.

“We’ve been highly involved in the community, not because we expect anything in return, but just because we like to support our organizations,” Sanchez explained. “We’ve definitely gotten that support back from the community; people who are buying things because they recognize that.”

To shop their inventory, visit https://caratsfj.com/ and to use their texting service message (956) 994-0970.

 

Medi-Weightloss

Medi-Weightloss owner Annie Holand credits a commitment to the greater community for keeping her business open. “We could have easily closed our doors and checked out,” Holand said. “But we have to take care of ourselves and our community, and we have to figure out new ways to do that.”

These new ways include switching to telehealth to videoconference and check on client progress, and offering curbside pick-up for products. Holand expressed that communicating with clients this way also satisfies a need for human interaction and that it’s “such a treat to connect with people in their own environment who are committed to living in wellness during a time filled with fear and anxiety.”

As Holand explained, a big portion of their patients are those deemed at higher risk for contracting coronavirus, so it’s especially important now to continue to see them. The team at Medi-Weightloss understands during this time increased consumption of processed foods while at home, along with high stress, takes a toll on the immune system.

“Our patients come to realize how important wellness is,” Holand explained. “We want to help the community understand that food is medicine.”

Medi-Weightloss is taking new patients and open their doors to them on Wednesdays and Saturdays. For information visit https://www.mediweightloss.com/

Fully Promoted

For Fully Promoted manger Miguel Leal, the strong sense of community he’s felt throughout the last few weeks has been his biggest takeaway while operating during the coronavirus pandemic.

After moving the business completely online and offering curbside pick-up and direct shipping for products, Leal says that with the help of the corporation and their customers, Fully Promoted has been able to adapt.

“With everything that’s gone on, it’s been crazy,” Leal said. “It seems like the community has pulled together. We’ve felt the love from our customers who want to shop local.”

While being known for offering embroidery services, screen printing and promotional products, with the help of their manufacturing network they’ve been able to offer high demand products for customers.

“Because of our network, we were able to switch gears from being known as a promotional product company to helping our community with personal protective equipment,” Leal explains. While this inventory has always been available, the pandemic has upped the ante.

Leal mentioned how appreciative he is of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce “for everything that they’re doing and keeping everyone in touch” while also saying he’s felt the love from other Chamber members as well.

To shop Fully Promoted’s inventory, call at 956-683-8006 or visit their website at https://fullypromoted.com/locations/mcallen-tx/

Ginny’s Bridal Collection

Since 2011, Ginny’s Bridal Collection has played a part in major events in the lives of community members. From weddings and quinceañeras, to proms and special events, owner Aldo Topete prides his business on celebrating love and happiness on a daily basis. To continue to do so, Ginny’s Bridal has moved exclusively to online orders, closing their storefront due to coronavirus.

“Fortunately, we have always embraced technology, so switching to a virtual environment has been somewhat easier to adapt,” Topete explains. The team at Ginny’s Bridal have been using e-mails, Facebook and Instagram to keep in contact with their customers. Though, Topete admits they miss the intimate interaction they usually have with customers. To maintain that, they’ve begun video-chatting sessions, sharing important information about orders, store status and using these calls to offer emotional support to customers expressing concerns and anxiety.

Topete maintains that having a vision for the future is necessary in keeping the business going. He has used this time to review areas of his business structure like their website, social media and automation for areas of improvement.

“You need to have plans,” Topete said. “Customers and your team look up to you and they trust you to lead them through this.”

To shop Ginny’s Bridal Collection online, visit: http://www.ginnysbridalcollection.com/

Goma Boutique

Goma Boutique manager Larry Holtz has pivoted his retail structure on one idea: “When there’s a will, there’s a way.” After the widespread business shutdown as a result of coronavirus, Larry moved quickly to figure out how to benefit from the situation. Moving to online orders, he also began looking at merchandise the store already carried and that might be a necessity, such as hand sanitizers and face masks. During their first push selling masks, the boutique sold out in under ten minutes.

“You have to think outside the box and jump into action instead of waiting for something to happen,” Larry said. “Otherwise your business will drown.”

Goma Boutique is also looking into offering curbside pick-up service in the near future as part of their way to minimize costs, in a move that Larry describes as thinking smarter and more strategically. Relying heavily on Facebook advertising, he also shares his hope that people will want to indulge in retail therapy for a time when restrictions are loosened.

“We’re constantly finding ways to adapt,” Larry explained. “If you stay still, you’re going to go down. We hope our loyal customers are able to stick with us through this.”

To shop Goma Boutique, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/gomaboutique/shop/