One man's dream becomes reality with new shopping center

photo by Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph Elder Higuer adds lights to Western boots, belts and hats at his family's Western wear store Las Texanas at the new Plaza Victoria shopping center at 2268 Montgomery Gardens off of U.S. Highway 271 in Tyler. The shopping center features four Mexican businesses and a soon-to-open Mexican restaurant.

Jorge Limas believes Hispanic businesses are growing in Tyler.

After years of dreaming, working and saving, Limas, 44, opened Plaza Victoria in December. The retail center is already filled with four Hispanic-owned businesses and has only one spot vacant — reserved for Limas’ restaurant, J el Norte￱o, which he plans to open this month.

“I’m targeting Hispanics,” Limas said. “This is where all the Hispanics are.

“Businesses are growing this way. And I want to be one of them.”

Limas, 44, grew up in Mexico, where he learned welding, electrical and machinery metal work at a technical school before moving to the U.S. in 1988. He came to visit his sister in Henderson County and work to save up enough money to return to Mexico and open a shop. He worked on a private wildlife ranch for more than a year and decided not to return to his homeland, he said.

Limas became a resident in 1988.

“I took advantage of that situation,” he said. “I was trying to see what I could do here.”

He studied at Tyler Junior College for about six months, but finishing college became too expensive. He was sending money he made to family members in Mexico. His father died when he was 5, and his mother cooked for schools to provide for Limas and his seven older siblings.

Limas worked for Loggins Meat Co. before getting a job at Brookshire Grocery Co. For 15 years there, he worked his way up, from maintenance to a commercial truck driver.

As a single 28-year-old, Limas was visiting Mexico once a month.

“I love my family very much,” he said. “They are the reason I am who I am.”

While he said he traveled to his native country so often to visit family, his wife, Sonia Limas, claims he was looking for a girlfriend.

Mrs. Limas, 43, was teaching Limas’ niece at a daycare in Mexico when they were introduced by his sister in 1995. She earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood in Mexico and began teaching in 1990.

After they married in 1997, Mrs. Limas moved to Tyler on a conditional two-year visa, then an 11-year residence card. She received her citizenship in June 2010.

After Limas began attending English as a second language classes through the Literacy Council of Tyler, he began teaching for the organization. His new wife learned the language quickly and continued teaching at the Literacy Council when he left to begin driving trucks.

In 2000, Mrs. Limas began working as a pre-kindergarten teacher. But she was not certified in Texas so after three years, she left to work for the Literacy Council.

When her daughter was ready to start kindergarten, Mrs. Limas became certified and began working as a kindergarten teacher at Douglas Elementary.

She also has worked for Birdwell and Austin elementary schools but returned to Douglas “because that’s my home,” she said.

Mrs. Limas beams when talking about her children, 13-year-old Victoria, who is good in school and loves sports; and 10-year-old Jorge, who is a talented artist. The retail center, Plaza Victoria, is named after their daughter so their son named the restaurant they plan to open — J el Norte￱o — after himself. Their son likes to say the restaurant is his, but their daughter counters that the lease space belongs to her.

LIFELONG DREAM

While working throughout the years, Limas often dreamed of what he would do if he had enough money, and thought about opening a store.

“I always want to better myself,” he said. “I know I can always do something more.”

After traveling all the time as a trucker, he quit working for Brookshire Grocery Co. about eight years ago to spend more time with his children. But he soon began working for a trucking company in Kilgore.

While working there, he bought his own 18-wheeler tractor truck, followed by a tank trailer to make more money.

He partnered with a friend to buy three more trailers and through their business, J&R Trucking in Kilgore, they lease their trailers through the other company, he said.

A few years ago, while driving down U.S. Highway 271 North in Tyler, Limas saw a for sale sign on four lots of vacant property. He bought the land, and together with the help of family members, cleaned it up, he said.

His vision was to build a restaurant on the property, but he was denied a loan from banks, which told him a restaurant was too risky in that economy.

“I decided I didn’t care if you (the bank) lend me the money or not, I’m going to do it,” he said.

Limas gathered family, friends and friends of friends who worked construction to help build the center.

Later, after depleting his resources, Austin Bank agreed to lend him money to finish the little work that remained.

Limas was working full-time and helping with the center on his off time.

“All the money he was making, he was putting in this project,” Mrs. Limas said. “I was paying the bills.”

After starting construction in 2010, the first two tenants, Vicky’s Beauty Salon and Las Polamas Grocery Store, moved into the retail center in December.

Las Texanas opened in January and recently expanded to take up two spaces, while Los Ludoviko’s opened in May. All five lease spaces in the 6,000-sqaure-foot center are full.

Mrs. Limas said they plan to open their Mexican food restaurant, J el Norte￱o, this month in the remaining space, but are still working with the health and fire departments and finishing the interior. Limas’ niece, Martha Cajero, will manage the restaurant, while his brother, Martin Limas, will cook.

Although they’re still working to get the restaurant open and managing the retail center, Limas is still driving trucks and his wife continues to teach.

FIRST, BUT NOT LAST

After all of his hard work, Limas said being a business owner is a wonderful feeling, and it especially gives him satisfaction knowing his children will have a better life. “That’s what moves me,” he said. “I’m doing something good for my kids.”

He doesn’t have any plans to slow down.

“I got this and I know I can do more things,” he said. “This is the first (business) but not the last.”

Limas already has another venture in mind. He believes a big sports bar on that side of town would be great, he said.

Mrs. Limas said although the principle reason for the business is their children, her husband also wants to help other people in the community who want to start a business, like the tenants in their center.

“I know there are people who want to start a business and need someone to help them,” Limas said, adding that he is still starting himself but one day he wants to help others.

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