The story of McAllen goes back more than 110 years. From a dusty little border town to the international metropolitan destination that it has become today, the history of our city not only offers us a glimpse into our past but reveals the perseverance that has made our community great.
It is a perseverance and tenacity embodied by founding city leaders and early business owners.
The future of McAllen’s continued growth and economic success is inextricably tied into our past. The businesses that have weathered the many real and metaphorical storms the region has seen tell us a great deal about the character of the city and about those who have helped McAllen grow into a regional leader.
The McAllen Chamber of Commerce is proud to honor the following businesses that have exemplified McAllen’s entrepreneurial spirit over the last 100 years.
A Quick Note
Your McAllen Chamber staff is honored to be a part of one of the longest lasting organizations serving the city of McAllen. Founded in 1924, with its forerunner, the McAllen Businessmen’s Club created in 1911, the Chamber has been instrumental in developing a healthy business environment, boosting economic opportunity, and improving the quality of life not only for residents of McAllen but for the entire Rio Grande Valley as well – all for nearly 100 years!
It is a privilege and humbling experience for all of us involved to serve alongside city leaders, business owners, and fantastic McAllen citizens for so long, as we continue to work diligently on improving McAllen for all.
Standing the Test of Time
As you drive up and down McAllen, you are likely to notice all the new plazas, stores, and amenities opening up all across the city. But on occasion, you’ll run across a true gem – a grocer that has stood the test of time, a restaurant that has fed generations of families, a hotel born in the early 20th century.
The following McAllen businesses are legendary. They are establishments that carry the traditions and heritage of their founders and the city of McAllen. These esteemed businesses have helped to make McAllen what it is and we are grateful that they have chosen to call our city home:
Casa De Palmas Renaissance Hotel
There are few businesses – if any – that can match the historical significance of Casa De Palmas Renaissance Hotel. Born alongside McAllen, this distinguished hotel has always been representative of the finest living McAllen has to offer, while offering a story etched in fire and rebirth.
With its exquisite Spanish architecture, white stucco composition, gorgeous landscape punctuated by exotic palm trees, gleaming red tile roof, and fabulous patio accentuated by twin towers, Casa de Palmas was like no other when it formally opened in 1918.
Since its inception, Casa De Palmas’ beauty and graciousness have drawn in visitors from far and wide including Marlon Brando, Pedro Infante, Bob Hope, President Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as senators, governors, and many other prominent figures.
Over the years, the hotel, has, unfortunately, faced catastrophes on several occasions. Still, it has literally and symbolically risen from the ashes.
Unwavering against the Corpus Christi hurricane of 1919, the historic building would eventually face a calamity in 1973, when lightning struck the south tower and caused extensive damage. It would be rebuilt and re-opened the following year, until 1987, when a sweeping blaze would once again close its doors. A three million dollar renovation would once again revive the Casa De Palmas Renaissance Hotel, however.
As stunning as when it first opened 100 years ago, Casa De Palmas Renaissance Hotel offers a Spanish charm fused with modern amenities. Join them in celebration this year as they commemorate a century of serving the residents of McAllen and lucky travelers who have had the pleasure of calling Casa De Palmas home if only but for a few days.
Photograph of courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission
Cine El Rey
Recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, the celebrated – Cine El Rey – has been an epicenter of the arts, creativity, and wonder in McAllen since it first opened its doors back in 1947. Then, the theater was the first of its kind, offering Spanish films to a community in search of its own identity. It was a golden age for El Rey, one that mirrored Mexico’s golden age of cinema. A plethora of celebrities would make their way to McAllen’s most noted theater including Mario “Cantinflas” Moreno, Pedro Infante, Antonio Aguilar, Tin Tan, and many others who were held in high esteem by the area’s Hispanic community.
For over forty years, El Rey bustled with life and energy. But by the late 80s, it was no longer the king of cinema that it had once been. Newly developed theaters and a shrinking market for Spanish-language films would soon force Cine El Rey to close.
But the king was not ready to give up its crown just yet.
Renovated – and revitalized by the Heart of the City initiative – Cine El Rey re-opened in 2002. This historic venue has once again grown into a leading entertainment hotspot where audiences and local citizens are treated to a variety of amazing shows from comedy nights to one-of-a-kind film festivals. As an integral figure in the 17th Street entertainment district, Cine El Rey continues to build on its legacy of cultural innovation and flare.
Suffice to say that the king lives on.
Exquisite. Style. Quality. Tradition. Family. These are but a few words to describe Jones and Jones.
Amy and Frank Jones first opened Jones Book Stores in 1926, becoming the first book and stationery store in McAllen. Following World War II, the highly touted business would be reborn as Jones and Jones, adding to its repertoire, fine gifts.
Over the decades the business continued to grow at an exponential rate, and eventually, ladies’ fashion, a restaurant, men’s apparel, precious jewelry, a gourmet shop, and an Orlane spa and beauty shop would become features of the highly reputable business.
For more than seven decades, the Jones and Jones store remained in the hands of a Jones’ family member. From Amy and Frank’s son, Jim, to his own children Lan and Jill, Jones and Jones was built on tradition, personality, and excellence.
The legacy of quality and style continues on to this day at the more personable store conveniently located at the Uptown Shopping Center on North 10th Street.
There are few other businesses that can tell the story of McAllen with such grace and honesty. Founded in 1912 by Harry and Harriet Kreidler, Kreidler Undertaking Co. first called the back room of the Western Union office on South Main Street in McAllen home.
As the city grew, so did business, and in 1928 Maynard L. Kreidler (2nd generation) would enter into partnership with the founding members. Since then, sons and daughters alike have continued on in the family business, providing a care and service in McAllen that few others can.
Now, fifth generation Kreidler’s continue to honor the legacy of their forefathers
A restaurant built on love and community. An owner made from the stuff of legends.
Opened by Rogelio Guerrero in 1947, Rex Café and Bakery has become a McAllen favorite for generations of families. Serving traditional American and Mexican foods, the restaurant offers patrons delicious meals in a quaint setting that makes you feel like you’re enjoying a nice dinner at home with your family.
But perhaps the only thing more amazing than the food was the founder – Rogelio. A World War II veteran, Rogelio was greatly involved in the local community and armed services. During his time he was recognized for his bravery and valiance on many occasions, including being awarded the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with Three Bronze Stars and the Philippines Liberation Medal, among many others.
The legacy started by Rogelio has been carried on wonderfully by his family.
A McAllen staple, Ruben’s Grocery has been family owned and operated for over 40 years. And when you walk into Ruben’s Grocery that’s exactly how you’re treated – like family.
Founded by Ruben Sr., the neighborhood store on the corner of 20th Street and Gumwood Avenue started as a traditional market. While the elder Ruben worked diligently to keep his business running, his son – also a Ruben – was developing his knack for exotic foods and dishes.
As clientele expanded to include a diverse group of people from all over the world, the younger Ruben and his father began to explore importing products from countries across the globe. Thus, the Ruben’s Grocery that we have come to love and cherish was born. As the World Market for the Valley, Ruben’s Grocery has been delivering specialty items from over 18 countries to customer’s all throughout the region.
A taste of the world is available right here in McAllen for all to enjoy.
A Link to the Past: McAllen Heritage Center
McAllen has a long-storied history built on fortitude, intelligence, and confidence in the face of challenges. For over a century, citizens, city leaders, and business owners alike have all striven to create a city that their children, families, and even visitors would yearn to be a part of.
With an international history full of adventure, love, passionate and daring characters, and a touch of fate, McAllen has plenty of wisdom to offer the world.
One of the places that out-of-towners and locals can learn from that wisdom is the McAllen Heritage Center (MHC) in McAllen’s historic downtown. Located at 301 S. Main Street, the MHC has plenty of stories to offer anyone interested in learning. And they’re celebrating their 10th year of being open now!
Looking Towards the Future: McAllen Chamber’s Innovation Programs
The City of McAllen has become an international destination and focal point of an amazing community that spreads all throughout south Texas because of its culture, amenities, city leaders, and business owners.
Without the hard work and dedication of local businesses, McAllen would not nearly be as successful a city as it is now. Because of this, city officials and the McAllen Chamber of Commerce have worked diligently for years to create programs and initiatives that are designed for burgeoning entrepreneurs to turn their visions into reality.
We know that through the support of our initiatives such as 1 Million Cups, which offers two local entrepreneurs an opportunity to present their startup to a diverse audience of mentors, advisors, and entrepreneurs, as our well our other Innovation Program like The I&E Network Meeting, TheGoodPitch Competition, Innovation Grant Awards, The McAllen Business Plan Competition, The IdeaPlace, The Latina Hope Network, and many others, we will help the business leaders who will continue to write the story of McAllen for the next 100 years.