Author Archives: Tony Vindell

Freelance journalist Tony Vindell has more than 30 years experience as a newspaper reporter. Born in Nicaragua, he studied journalism and political science at the University of Missouri-Columbia and at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. He began his career working for The Pecos Enterprise in West Texas. Vindell also worked for The Laredo News, The Brownsville Herald, Valley Morning Star, Port Isabel News Press and the Raymondville Chronicle/News. Vindell, who lives in Brownsville with his wife Sharon, enjoys hunting, fishing and traveling.

Sesame Seeds Grow a Business

Romi Cordova, a veteran worker at Dipasa, arranges bags of roasted sesame seeds. (VBR)

The Rio Grande Valley’s ubiquitous tortillerias and tamale factories are well known as producers of popular food products that are staples to Mexican food fans throughout South Texas. But for more than three decades, a Brownsville company has earned distinction as a manufacturer of a food product more familiar in another part of the world. Since 1985, Dipasa USA Inc. has been processing roasted sesame seeds into tahini, a paste…

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Brownsville’s Burger History

A burger and fries basket served at The Palm Lounge. (VBR)

When it comes to having a burger, most people think about fast-food joints like McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s or Jack in the Box. Others favor chains known for having some of the best hamburgers in the country, like Corpus Christi-based Whataburger and In-and-Out Burgers of Irvine, Calif. Some people might say that all beef patties placed inside a bun or roll are basically the same, but three of the oldest…

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Sea Wolf Howls on Island

The Lobo Del Mar Dance Troupe performs an eclectic blend of international dances. (Courtesy)

Palm Street Bar & Grill on South Padre Island used to be just a place to grab a sandwich, enjoy a spirit or listen to good music. Not anymore. The bar and grill, now operating under the name Lobo Del Mar Café, has transformed into a potpourri of entertainment, art, food and people under the direction of a large family group of entrepreneurs. Sitting at the end of West Palm…

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Historic Valley Funeral Homes

Raymondville’s David Wittenbach now operates one of the oldest family-owned funeral homes in the Rio Grande Valley. (VBR)

Most funeral homes in the Rio Grande Valley are located in the more heavily populated cities like Brownsville, McAllen and Harlingen, with many of them owned by large corporations. But a few are still family-owned and operated. The small Willacy County city of Raymondville has two of them, down from three just a few years ago. Duddlesten Funeral Home and Good Shepard Funeral Home are both located along West Hidalgo…

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Gluten-free Goods on the Road

Peggy Harris with some of her gluten-free breads at a farmers market. (VBR)

Selling shrimp caught in the Gulf Mexico was a full-time job for Peggy Harris when she was a vendor on the second floor of Valley International Airport in Harlingen. Called Texashrimp, the business on the south side of the boarding area was easily seen by passengers wanting to take some fresh shrimp with them. After eight years, she sold the venture and embarked on a new and different type of…

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Dental Practice Grows as a Business

Dr. Juan D. Villarreal (center) with Dr. Denise Hausenfluck and Dr. Vivian Teegardin. (VBR)

Several hundred dentists provide needed services throughout the Rio Grande Valley, and one of them owns and manages the largest network of clinics in the South Texas, and perhaps in the Lone Star State. Dr. Juan D. Villarreal, a Harlingen native who holds a doctor in dentistry from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, has turned the business that he first opened in 1983 on Ed…

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Custom Bootmaker Keeps Tradition Alive

Armando Duarte Rios shows one of the many exotic skins he has in the shop.

Some may call it a dying industry as technology keeps swallowing one tradition after another, but the only bootmaker left in Raymondville and one of a few in the Rio Grande Valley keeps defying the odds against dozens of commercial bootmakers. Armando’s Boots Co. has been producing the custom-made footwear for nearly 40 years and is not showing any signs of slowing down. The 77-year-old owner, Armando Duarte Rios, comes…

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Valley Organic Produce Feeds Texans

Organic farmer Mark Miller holds gold beets grown at Tenaza Farms

Location, location, location is a familiar adage used to describe a major selling point in the real estate industry. In today’s health-conscious consumer marketplace, it’s organic, organic, organic. Just ask Mike Ortiz and Mark Miller, two of three partners (the other one is Jade Murray) who are involved in growing, packing and shipping more than a dozen winter vegetables for some of the biggest, and smallest, supermarkets and specialty shops…

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Shrimp and Sawdust: A Family Tradition

Gary Williams gets ready to put live shrimp inside a brown bag filled with sawdust. (VBR)

Gordon’s Bait & Tackle in Brownsville has gone through one expansion after another over the years, following a family tradition that has converted the business into more than just a place for anglers to buy supplies before they head on fishing trips to the bay, area canals and the beach. The family owned and operated business on Highway 48, also known as Padre Island Highway, is a one-stop shop selling…

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Taxidermist Preserves Wildlife

Taxidermist Rene Escamilla with some of the trophies he has completed at his shop in Brownsville. (VBR)

Texas white-tailed deer, fish, birds, reptiles and even African animals often find their way to Rene Escamilla, who can preserve them for hunters and fishing enthusiasts who want to keep a trophy. Escamilla is an expert in taxidermy, or the practice of stuffing or mounting an animal’s body for display or even educational purposes. And the Brownsville taxidermist probably knows that line of business better than most of his colleagues…

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