CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Even after experiencing his fair share of challenges during the pandemic, Rene Villarreal made it a point to stick to his goal of bringing a popular chain restaurant to his hometown.
“The first time I ate Charleys out of town, I said, ‘Man, we got to have this in Corpus,’” Villarreal said, describing a lunch he had while at an airport. “So, I submitted the application that day and two years later I got a call — that’s how we brought Charleys to Corpus.”
Although he had intended to open a location at La Palmera Mall in early 2020, that grand opening was later postponed to July 14.
“We went from having a plan and a loan in place with SBA (Small Business Administration) and everything to nobody wanting to help at all,” he said. “So, we made everything happen pretty much on our own.
Villarreal also manages Directek Inc., a security system supplier along Ayers Street. In order to get things moving, he resorted to using money from Directek.
“I kind of used some funds from there, and kind of borrowed from my own company to build out the Charleys and go ahead with it without a loan,” he said. “Somehow, we made it all happen.”
That “we” includes a small set of Villarreal’s friends and family — including his wife and children.
“When nobody’s around, you got to count on your family,” he said. “(They) came through and helped me a lot. It’s stressful, they got to put up with me out here all day and all night working every day and making it happen."
“It’s a lot of hard work, dedication, (but) family helps a lot. Without them — it wouldn’t be possible, So I just thank my wife, and my kids and everybody, you know, who make it happen.”
Now, a second location is nearing completion at the Saratoga Station Shopping Center near South Staples Street. This Charleys location will replace the old Jimmy Johns. And in about a year, Villarreal expects to open a third location. Currently, he is looking at the Calallen and Portland areas.
“Those are growing,” he said. “So we’ll see what happens.”
The new location will also offer wings — an added addition from what is normally available at their mall location. Villarreal said he intends to hire at least 20 more service workers before their March 30 opening. If you are interested in applying, you are asked to contact Villarreal via email or call (361) 299-5280.