Looking at Nana’s Taqueria today with its multicolored courtyard, well-stocked gift shop and cozy restaurant filled with patrons, you would never guess how it all got started.
Eight tables in a small room, a husband-and-wife team, one employee and an immigrant family were struggling to find their footing in a new country.
It’s a story that has taken 12 years to build – and it’s still going strong.
Roxanna Trevino recently recounted that story and sat where it all got started. It’s in one wing of what’s now a restaurant with several pieces to it. Nana’s beginnings didn’t take up much space. A few hundred customers will visit Nana’s on a busy night these days. When Trevino and her husband, Alfredo, began the business in 2009, they were happy if they could attract a dozen paying patrons.
Their Weslaco restaurant name is the nickname of one of their four daughters. It features great food and a festive atmosphere. Nana’s also gives the feel of eating in a Mexican border restaurant but with a Rio Grande Valley address. Nana’s success on FM 1015 has been hard earned. There were crushing business debts to overcome early on. A flood visited in recent years, threatening their gains. Then more recently, Roxanna had to confront a serious health concern.
The Trevinos remained unbowed.
“It’s the American dream, that’s what I tell my employees,” Trevino said. “But you’ve got to fight for it.”
Bringing Lonches To RGV
Trevino and her husband are natives of Nuevo Progreso, Tamaulipas. It’s just across the Rio Grande from its similarly named sister city on the U.S. side.
They moved to Weslaco in 2009 with their four young daughters after deciding Nuevo Progreso was no longer a safe place to live due to drug trafficking-related violence at the time. They took a piece of their hometown with them.
“Lonches,” Roxanna said of the Mexican-style sandwiches stuffed with cabbage, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro and the meat of choice wedged between warm bolillo rolls. “Lonches are a Progreso thing.”
Nana’s would make them a Weslaco thing, too.
Tourists that had long enjoyed the lonches in Nuevo Progreso could now have the real thing in the Valley on FM 1015. It turned out that the lonches Alfredo and Roxana had known their whole lives would be the family’s meal ticket in the United States. She concedes the restaurant niche they found was done out of necessity. It was a need “to do something to make a living.”
“We started from zero,” she said.
And then when they had reached solvency, gotten out of debt and looked to be on firm ground, a devastating flood hit in late June a few years back. Roxanna recalled seeing “our chairs floating” and coming to tears in seeing the disaster.
“A video from our restaurant made the national news,” she said. “Some of our Winter Texan customers saw it and called us. ‘Are you doing, OK?'”
They would be, eventually, just another challenge to overcome.
The Nana’s story can be told in stages.
Five years after the start in the one room with the eight chairs, the business expanded. An indoor restaurant area is currently filled daily with customers. The added restaurant space also happened to be the former Trevino family residence. The business would later spring forward dramatically with a major advance.
A courtyard filled with colors, tables, live music on many nights, and an elaborate gift shop of Mexican curios and jewelry has emerged to become a Nana’s signature. Weddings, bridal showers, photo shoots and all types of Mexican holidays are celebrated with mariachi and folklorico music. It all fills the air many nights at Nana’s courtyard. Having fun and being festive blends right in with great food.
“You can come here and feel like you’re in Mexico,” Roxanna said. “We try to incorporate the culture into what we do here.”
The Trevino family is looking to open a second restaurant, with the choices being McAllen or Harlingen. Two of their Texas A&M University-educated daughters are now involved in the business. The Nana’s menu will be expanded in the coming months beyond their traditional lonches and taquitos menu.
“It’s a matter of having faith and a good attitude,” said Trevino, who has drawn on both qualities in dealing with a serious health issue in the last year. “You keep moving forward, with the support of your family and your employees.”