Author Archives: Eileen Mattei

Freelance writer Eileen Mattei was the editor of Valley Business Report for over 6 years. Her articles have appeared in Texas Highways, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Parks & Wildlife and Texas Coop Power magazines as well as On Point: The Journal of Army History. The Harlingen resident is the author of five books: Valley Places, Valley Faces; At the Crossroads: Harlingen’s First 100 Years; and Leading the Way: McAllen’s First 100 Years, For the Good of My Patients: The History of Medicine in the Rio Grande Valley, and Quinta Mazatlán: A Visual Journey.

Floods and Fighting Back

SS Auto Body Solutions owners Rachel Hinojosa and Rene Moreno next to a classic car in their shop. (VBR)

“In life you have to take chances. Sometimes the biggest risk you can take is not taking one,” said Rachel Hinojosa. Last year, she and her husband Rene Moreno opted to take a more active risk with their business SS Auto Body Solutions. In November 2017, one year after the couple had opened SS Auto Body Solutions in Harlingen, they jumped at the opportunity to lease a Mercedes building with…

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Ambiance Enhances Care

Mid Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation in Mercedes offer hotel-like amenities as well as care provided partly by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine’s Family Residency Program. (VBR)

The sign outside reads Mid Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation. “I see it as a hotel,” said Alice Roel, the licensed nursing facility administrator for the Mercedes facility. “You register and have housekeeping, meals, activities, laundry and transportation provided round the clock with exceptional customer service.” The state-of-the-art complex, which Touchstone Strategies opened in November 2016, aims for a homey, hospitality ambiance rather than a medical or institutional atmosphere, Roel said.…

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Changing Lives with Music

Board certified Music Therapist Marisa de Leon, who plays a wide range of instruments, helps patients regain their ability to walk, move, remember and talk. (VBR)

Talk about a huge learning curve. Before board certified music therapist Marisa de Leon opened her business RGV Music Therapy and Wellness Center in May 2017, she had never held a full-time job other than a professional internship. One year later, de Leon is so busy seeing clients across the Valley that she recently contracted the services of another music therapist and transitioned to an LLC from a sole proprietorship.…

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Manufacturing services spur growth

IAI’s five Matamoros plants provide manufacturing services, such as laser etching, for American companies. (Courtesy)

When Bob Katusak launched International Assembly Inc. in Brownsville 26 years ago, he couldn’t have imagined how the company would evolve. In those pre-NAFTA days, businesses like his were known as shelter operations. In short, he established a manufacturing facility in Matamoros for small American companies that wanted to lower labor costs and contracted with IAI to oversee production, quality, labor and import/export paperwork. At that time, when AIDS was…

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IT Marketer Boosts Family Business

Andy Crockett handles website and social media marketing for the family business, gift fruit shipper Crockett Farms. (Courtesy)

Once upon a time, a small business’s IT person installed new systems and programs, trained staff to navigate them and fixed glitches. But that’s so 20 years ago. “Marketing has changed so much, especially for anyone like us who markets nationally. If you don’t stay on top of marketing trends, you lose market share,” said Terrie Crockett, who with her husband Allan runs the gift fruit shipper Crockett Farms. “There’s…

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Building a Future on the Past

Inside the restored Putegnat Building in Brownsville, Fernando Balli talks about the 1868 building. Designer Tina Garbo Bailey, who collaborated with Balli, stands to his right. (VBR)

While getting his degree in architecture and environmental design, Fernando Balli earned a C in architectural history. That is noteworthy because now, with Balli Property Group, he specializes in restoring historic architecture in Brownsville. The turning point came when, after restoring a 1931 house on Palm Boulevard that backs onto Town Resaca, he and his wife decided that, instead of flipping it, they would make it their home. The striking…

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Landscape Design: Beauty and Function

Andrew Heffner used native plants help this residential landscape design fit into the natural surroundings. (Courtesy)

While working for the city of McAllen as a landscape architect, Andrew Heffner realized the region could support a full-time business that catered to commercial, residential and public clients who needed a landscape architect. Five years ago, he opened Heffner Design Team as a one-man operation. Today he heads a full-time staff of four designing landscapes with the aim they be “beautiful, functional and meet the client’s budget.” Licensed by…

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Clark Shapes Clay into a Business

Sculptor Doug Clark shapes clay on a work in progress at his studio. (VBR)

“I’m not a be-still or sit-still kind of guy,” said sculptor Doug Clark in his Edinburg studio. The number and variety of bronze sculptures he has created in his 35-year career are a testament to that. In McAllen alone, 65 of Clark’s pieces are on display, including Quinta Mazatlan’s extraordinary statues of native animals and his Veterans War Memorial of Texas’s statues and remarkable Korean War plaques. His Janis Joplin…

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Living Next to Nature: La Jarra Ranch

Charles Edward Wetegrove and his brother Raymond with Edward Burleson Raymond’s 1886 chimney that was part of the original house.

When Charles Edward Wetegrove and his brothers Joe and Raymond inherited the family’s 500-acre Las Majadas Ranch in Willacy County, they knew they wanted to keep the ranch, their heritage, intact. Their great-grandfather had come to the Wild Horse Desert in 1872, began rounding up wild horses and cattle and herding them north to markets. Eventually he established the 6,800-acre ranch where the homestead’s 1886 chimney ranks as the oldest…

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A Lifetime of Designing

Architect Calvin Walker of WPA stands in the Brownsville Library's Space 14s (Space for Teens), which he designed as an internet resource center. (VBR)

As a young architect, Calvin Walker left Louisiana to work in the Rio Grande Valley for a year.  Fifty years later, he is still designing buildings from his Brownsville office. In the interim, he worked for 30 years at various iterations of the large architectural firm SHW, rising to vice president and partner in charge of Brownsville. In 1997, he declined to relocate and started Walker Perez Associates with Carlos…

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