WESLACO, Texas – At a Rio Grande Valley Partnership event last November, Craig Garansuay explained why more national fast food and restaurant chains should take a look at Weslaco.

During a presentation at Weslaco City Hall, the San Antonio-based commercial developer said that based on market share, Weslaco’s eateries were outperforming those in other communities in the Rio Grande Valley.

Six months after that presentation, Garansuay is bringing some of those national brands to Weslaco. At a groundbreaking ceremony for an eight-pad, ten-acre retail plaza to be known as The Shops At N Bridge, Garansuay unveiled tenants like Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, McAlister’s Deli, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jersey Mike’s, Paris Bakery, Juice Us and more.

The project is being developed by the Garansuay Group on the southwest corner of N. Bridge Avenue and Expressway 83 in Weslaco.

“The Rio Grande Valley has been incredible for us. The leadership that Weslaco has has been very important to this project and it really would not have happened without them,” Garansuay said. “So, we want to thank the mayor, the EDC, the chamber, and everyone for helping us put this project together.”

Asked when the project would be completed, Garansuay said: “We are going to deliver the buildings in the first quarter of 2023. The restaurants out front should be starting construction in the next 90 days and so they will be open in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of next year. Come the second quarter of next year we should have a vibrant, fully operating shopping center with about 40,000 square feet of retail and four restaurants.”

Garansuay was a keynote speaker at the RGV Partnership’s Investment and Commercialization event in Weslaco last November. At that point, Garansuay was then representing the brokerage firm, Corporate Asset Partners. In his presentation, Garansuay said Weslaco punched above its weight when it came to the number of customers attracted to fast food joints and restaurants in the city. In fact, he said, they are performing 30 to 40 percent above the market average.

Garansuay said he started to “dig in” to try to understand why Weslaco’s restaurants are doing so well.

“If you look on the average for the burger groups, their market average, Weslaco is about 35 percent above those same stores are doing on a market average. If you look at the chicken guys, it is about 34 percent above what the market average is. Sit down restaurants, 40 percent,” he said.

By way of an example, Garansuay looked at the number of people that visit restaurants in neighboring Pharr. Pharr is a bigger city than Weslaco, but Weslaco’s restaurants are doing just as much business.

Garansuay said 82,000 people live within a three mile radius of Pharr and their average income is about $62,000. If you increase the radius to five miles, he said, there is a population of 225,000 people. 

“You do the same thing in Weslaco. Three miles, you get about 62,000 people. Five miles you get about 107,000 people. And so Weslaco is able to produce greater volumes, with 32 percent less people in three miles and 110 percent less people in five miles,” Garansuay said. 

“And so what that tells me is there a lack of categories. People are revisiting the same places over and over and over. The No. 1 Dairy Queen in the entire country is located in Weslaco, Texas. They are about to do a second one, I think.”

Interviewed after the groundbreaking ceremony for The Shops At N Bridge, Garansuay told the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service similar story.

“When we originally started looking at Weslaco we identified this site as an opportunity. Then, as we were going around doing the due diligence and reconciling the volumes of the actual restaurants that were in operation in Weslaco, Texas, we obtained these numbers. We then pulled back and looked at the same restaurants across the Rio Grande Valley and compared their market average with the actual sales in Weslaco,” Garansuay said.

“By category, burgers were 35 percent above, chicken stores were about the same, 30 to 35 percent above. And then sit down restaurants were almost 40 percent above what the average store volume was doing. And so you get this Mid-Valley swath of really non-cannibalization restaurants that get the lion’s share of all of that volume. And so that, along with the ability for these guys to operate national brands at a successful level, has led to these numbers.”

Garansuay noted that Weslaco is surrounded by smaller communities whose residents visit the city to work, shop, and eat.

“You have got a large area where you can get a population that really is challenged with opportunities and distance. If you are a retailer or a restaurant owner and you come here, there is this market that has been substantiated. If you come to Weslaco and open up your doors you are going to get rewarded.”

Garansuay added: That is why they (the national restaurant and fast food chains) are here. They have done their own research and they agree. They are ready to invest their capital here to benefit from the sales.”

Valdez’s perspective

Following the groundbreaking ceremony for The Ships At N Bridge, the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service interviewed the executive director of Weslaco Economic Development Corporation.

Steve Valdez said: “I grew up here and I have always thought of my town as a little big city. We have a small town atmosphere, we have a small town charm but with events like today, big city amenities. That is exciting.”

Valdez acknowledged that being centrally located in the Valley has really been key for his city. 

“Sort of being sandwiched in middle, being centrally located, is a big advantage. You can live in Weslaco and travel 30 minutes for work in any part of the Valley, east and west. Or, you can live in any of those other cities and travel 30 minutes to work in Weslaco. It is that central location that really has made a difference with our regional growth.”

Asked what it was like to work with the Garansuay Group, Valdez said: “Craig is a super guy. He is aggressive, he has a certain charm and personality. We can see why he was able to attract these national brands to Weslaco. Plus, of course, the numbers that we presented to him have helped him to recruit. So, it has been a great partnership.”

Valdez noted that The Shops at N Bridge is one of five commercial projects currently underway on the south side of Expressway 83 in Weslaco.

“We tried to give this event the attention it deserves and not really talk about the other four projects. But we cannot go on without not talking about them.”

Valdez then listed the five for the Rio Grande Guardian.

“Starting at FM 1015, we have the old Palm Aire Hotel covering eight and a half acres. That is getting knocked down. In about a week or two it is going to be leveled to the dirt, just like you see here. We are encouraging the developers to bring an anchor restaurant, a strip mall and, most likely, a120 room, four story hotel and event center.

“Then, coming west, we have this project (The Shops at N Bridge) covering a ten acre-plus tract.

“Then, continuing to the west is the Palm Plaza. There were buildings there that were obsolete. We had about 80,000 square feet of buildings that got knocked down. That is going to make way for another development like this. It is 15 acres and so we are working hard to recruit a big box store for that location because that is the heart of Weslaco. 

“Continuing traveling westward we have Southpoint Plaza II, where the developer is building his second commercial property in Weslaco. What is nice about that location is that it is next to the Valley Baptist Micro Hospital. And so we are guessing that we are going to be able to acquire some health services and professional services for that location. 

“And, then the last one, within a stone’s throw from South Point II Plaza, is the new Ojos Locos construction site. Building plans include a 6,500 sq. ft. indoor restaurant and bar with another 900 square foot outdoor patio. That is going to be a regional draw.”

Asked when all five projects will be completed, Valdez responded, 2024. “In two years Weslaco will have a new look,” he predicted.

Valdez concluded the interview by talking about consistent and stable leadership in Weslaco.

“I cannot say enough about our leadership. It is not enough to say they are business-minded. Our EDC board is filled with business owners themselves. Our partnership with the city leadership is seamless. We love that relationship. That is very much the key to the success we are having.”

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