San Juan breaks ground on much-anticipated franchises

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Officials from the city of San Juan hosted a groundbreaking day on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate three new restaurant franchises coming to the city by the end of the year and also teased a few future projects.

San Juan residents can expect a brand new Italian restaurant Olive Garden, Chili’s Grill & Bar and Starbucks along East Frontage Road near the intersection of Cesar Chavez Road by October.

“What’s happening here today is good old quality quality, it’s very special,” said Senator Eddie Lucio. “It affects families, it affects the economic development of the community and it ensures that we will continue to grow.”

According to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, the 2,016-square-foot Starbucks project is valued at $700,000, while the Chili’s, which will be nearly 5,000 square feet, is valued at $1.4 million.

San Juan Mayor Mario Garza teased the groundbreaking last month, saying the new businesses coming to town are just the beginning.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Garza said. “We have a lot of good things in the pipeline.”

But it’s not just franchises that the city is pursuing.

“We treat people with respect, we want them here and we want them to be part of our family,” Garza said. “Not just big boxes, we cut ribbons at small mom and pop cafes and small shops. We treat everyone equally.”

In this frame from video, San Juan Mayor Mario Garza speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony last week.

Kelly Shaw, a director at SCC Development Company and a broker for Chili’s, said he was sent to the Rio Grande Valley to scout a new location for the chain.

According to Shaw, Chili’s top market nationwide in terms of volume is the Rio Grande Valley, and it doesn’t seem to be finding enough locations. Once Shaw found the location, San Juan officials jumped at the opportunity.

“I gotta tell you, we’ve done 20, 30, 40 projects in the state of Texas and from day one we came in to meet with the city [Economic Development Center officials], it was unlike any experience we’ve ever had in the past,” Shaw said. “They welcomed us with open arms. They have accepted what we are trying to do.”

And they also helped to solve problems.

“We had problems, they solved them. We needed this; They said no problem,” Shaw said.

Shaw continued that he had such a positive experience working with EDC CEO Ben Arjona that he would look to future development projects with the city.

Arjona also teased some other projects coming to San Juan.

“This is not the only event we will have,” said Arjona. “There will be more projects to come and I guarantee you that the others that are coming will be about the same but on a different level.

“Whether it’s a burger joint — I don’t want to say who, I’m not privy to this — but there’s a lot more to come so stay tuned.”

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