SAN JUAN, Texas – San Antonio born businessman Al Treviño has won praise for opening a Sonic Drive-In in San Juan that is different to anything else in the country. 

Located on Highway 495, it is the first new Sonic to be built in the Rio Grande Valley in 18 years. Treviño plans to open 13 more in the Valley over the next few years.

“This is something big for us. We are always here with open arms for anybody that wants to come into the great city of San Juan to do business,” said San Juan Mayor Mario Garza, at a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony.

San Juan Economic Development Corporation Board President Arturo Guajardo said he was amazed at the speed at which the establishment was built.

“Just over three months ago we were breaking ground. Al said he would be flipping burgers by Thanksgiving. I thought that was pretty ambitious but you were not kidding. We are excited about doing business with you,” Guajardo told Treviño.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Treviño thanked the City of San Juan and Noble Texas Builders for their help. 

“This is the first in the (Sonic) system that is built by a franchisee from the ground up,” Treviño said. He predicted the new model would be copied in other parts of the country.

“Our neighbors have been great. This is not a business it is a home for everyone here. We look forward to serving great food, great drinks and becoming the place you want to be seen.”

In an in-depth interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Treviño explained how his new Sonic Drive-In is different.

“We are excited about serving this community, we feel like this design and coming up with this open concept is going to create a space where all the young people in the surrounding area will like to be seen at. We look forward to being part of the community for a long, long, time,” he said.

“The design is the first of its type. There are 3,500 Sonics across the nation, we have the privilege and the blessing of being the first franchise group to build this new prototype. All the logos have changed, the outside design has changed. This is what future Sonics will look like. And San Juan got the first one.”

Treviño again thanked Noble Texas Builders for helping to design and build the new restaurant. “Noble are great partners. I am so excited about moving forward. My commitment to the brand is to build a total of 14 in the Rio Grande Valley.”

Treviño was born and raised in San Antonio. He moved to the Dallas area before becoming a franchisee and owner of the new-look concept. 

“I did work for Sonic Corp. I was on their executive team. I was the vice president for Sonic Corp. for about 13 years. I have been involved with Sonic since 1999. Quite a few years.”

Asked if the new design was made in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Treviño said the plans were in place before the virus hit.

“COVID has not been good to the restaurant industry. But Sonic has thrived. I agreed to these last year. We put a lot less tables to ensure we have six feet of distancing. On our patio we only have three tables. We do have 18 drive up stalls, which provides complete, touches service. We feel good about that. And we have the traditional drive thru window. We think the architectural design helps in this environment.”

Treviño is the franchisee for 15 other Sonics. He said he is building in-site dining up north also but that is in response to cold weather.  He said the walls on the San Juan facility can be shut down when it is warmer and thus become an air-conditioned space. “During this cooler weather, with a nice breeze, we keep them open. It creates a nice patio environment.”

Treviño thanked the City of San Juan and its EDC for their assistance.

“The ease of doing business, expediting the permitting process; above all the treatment we got from the people in the City of San Juan, it is just first class. Never have we had this type of hospitality and open arms.”

Treviño added that because his company is a family business it is very involved in the community. “We like to give back,” he said. 

Noble Texas Builders

Rene Capistran, president of Noble Texas Builders, said he enjoys new challengers and he got that through working on the new-look Sonic.

“We met with Mr. Al Treviño about six months ago and we thought about the prospect of developing 14 sites for Sonic. I was intrigued by the opportunity, especially the new concept. I wanted to be part of something new, a challenge that not even corporate had put together. Challenging projects always intrigue us,” Capistran said.

“We had a few more meetings, we felt comfortable with each other and we moved forward. I tell you what: it has been one of the smoothest projects we have had. I can’t say there were not any challenges but when you have someone like Mr. Al Treviño, there is nothing that can get in the way. His greatest comment was, ‘every problem has a solution, Rene. We have just got to sit around the table and figure it out.’ I tell you what: he is a man of his word because without him we could not have done this. He was very involved”

Capistran said “kudos” also needed to go to the City of San Juan. 

“It is the easiest, friendliest municipality to work with. Not saying bad about any other municipality in the area but they wanted to be part of the team. It takes a team to be able to develop and deliver a project in 100 days. I could not be prouder.”

Capistran said the next new Sonic is slated to be built in Pharr.

“We could break ground by January at the latest and open in April. We have a five-year schedule to have them all in. We work with Mr. Treviño. He has to train his staff and make sure the right locations are identified.”

Capistran added: “This is not your typical Sonic. This catches your attention. Particularly at this time, we are in a pandemic, we are all looking for something different, something new, something to smile about. I really believe Sonic has come into our community at the right time. It is a destination.”

Realtor’s perspective

Realtor Miki McCarthy of San Juan had been looking to find a buyer for the land the new Sonic sits on for a number of years. McCarthy is a real estate agent with Texas Trinity Team, which is brokered by Texas Premier Realty. 

“I was excited to be the listing agent on this project. I listed it about five years ago and had many knocks on the door from many kinds of businesses. But, they were never the right one, the special one. That one of kind deal we were looking for,” McCarthy said.

“So, I am really glad that my seller had the fortitude and patience to wait for the right opportunity. The franchisee came along with such a wonderful project and a wonderful vision for the city of San Juan. We were thrilled to make it work.”

McCarthy predicted the new Sonic spur other developments along Highway 495.

“This is catalyst that will hopefully spur the rest of the development on 495. I am excited. Economic development has always been a pride and joy for me. As a real estate agent I get to do that work, Valley-wide. It is really special that I got to come back home to San Juan and bring a project of this magnitude and get it done for the city.”

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