On Aug. 16, Marcos Silva, a college counselor for IDEA Public Schools, posted a note about his brother on Facebook.
“My brother is an electrician/builder by trade,’’ he wrote. “After building restaurants across Texas and Oklahoma for others, he threw in his bid and made himself one.”
It’s Wing Zone Grill & Tap, which Marcos said “represents a lot more than a wing place.”
“It’s the efforts, sacrifice and fight of a man to build for himself and his family,” Marcos said of his older brother Jose.
Silva’s journey to become the owner of one of McAllen’s newest restaurants began in Reynosa, Mexico, where he lived until the age of 8. Then he and his parents moved to Mission, splitting their time between the Rio Grande Valley and Othello, Wash.
“We worked in the fields,” Silva said, “picking asparagus, cucumbers, strawberries and raspberries.”
Silva’s parents added two more sons to the family, first Luis and then Marcos. The family moved from Mission to Pharr and then to McAllen, continuing to spend half of the year in Othello.
While a student at McAllen High School, Jose had the opportunity to learn electrical skills, preparing him for his first foray into business ownership. He did not realize the importance of learning this trade until he graduated from high school in Othello.
“What am I going to do with my life?” Silva said he asked himself. “I’m not ready for college.”
Seeking A New Path
He found his family’s imperative field work “amazing,” but he had other plans. Silva decided to go to San Marcos to become certified in electrical trades.
One year later, after completing the program, he returned to McAllen and began working at Metro Electric. Silva completed the necessary hours and passed the state exam, earning him the title of licensed master electrician.
After eight years with Metro Electric, Silva decided the time had come to put his electrical expertise and his management experience to work for himself, opening All Valley Electric. He spent the next 10 years honing his skills and leading his employees.
As he watched all of the phases of construction and remodeling while working on jobs, Silva decided to open his second small business, Faith Developers Group, a commercial construction company. FDG remodeled Burger King restaurants in Corpus Christi and San Antonio.
When COVID-19 hit, Silva had some time on his hands. He spent that time researching franchises, responding to a nagging feeling that the time had come for him to own his own restaurant.
Fulfilling A Dream
“A friend told me about Wing Zone,” Silva said, “because they have wing flavors not available in the Rio Grande Valley.”
After thoroughly researching the company and liking what he saw, Silva submitted a franchise application. The franchise owners liked what they saw after an extensive background check. They asked Silva to choose a location for a new restaurant.
“We didn’t look anywhere else but McAllen,” Silva said. “It’s our hometown.’’
Ultimately, he chose a vacant building on Business 83 and 11th Street, with the iconic Chase Bank tower in the background. Over the past year, Silva, his family and his employees have completely renovated the building, combining two business spaces into one.
Silva and two members of his team spent four weeks in New Orleans for training, learning every aspect of the WZ franchise.
“After the training, I had 10 days to find employees,” he said, a difficult task in normal times, let alone in the midst of a pandemic.
The hiring began nonetheless. The WZ franchise helped by sending a corporate trainer to McAllen, along with others familiar with the business. It was all hands on deck in training Silva’s employees.
WZ McAllen opened Aug. 16 and has been serving up signature boneless wings and made-to-order Angus burgers. There’s also The Big Red, a hand-breaded chicken breast with WZ’s Hot Shot flavor. Other menu favorites are fried-fish tacos and Norwegian-salmon salads.
There are also seven buffalo flavors, five sweet-and-spicy flavors, three “sweet, no heat” flavors and three dry rubs. Popular sides are onion rings, sweet potato waffle fries, kettle chips and homemade mozzarella sticks.
There’s karaoke every Wednesday and live music Thursday-through-Saturday evenings. There’s a spacious porch for seating to go with indoor and bar accommodations. Soon, there will be a two-story VIP room, seating up to 44 people for private meetings and parties. Curbside, carry-out and catering are also available.
Jose said he feels like a student again as he continues to learn every aspect of his new business. He walks from table to table to meet his customers, making sure they have an excellent WZ experience.
The business is a family affair. Angeles, Jose’s wife, works alongside him. Their twins, Jose and Angeles, are away at college but come home to work on the weekends. Their younger son, Joshua, a student at Memorial High School, works there, too. One of their nieces is a waitress and a nephew bartends. When not at their full-time jobs, Luis and Marcos are on site to support their older brother.
As a young man, Jose said he asked God to bless him with a car.
“I don’t need a new one,” he recalled asking in his prayer. “I just need to get to work. Now I look at how He has blessed me. I am really blessed.”