CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Emilio Venegas was furloughed from his job at an aerospace company early in the COVID-19 pandemic. He was still working, but had his hours, and subsequently his pay, cut.
“I got furloughed in April, from there I had two decisions: I could eat the loss in pay and loss in work, or I could come up with something on my own, and not have to worry and struggle like so many others have, and do today,” he said.
So, he started formulating the plan with his family to what eventually turned into Southside Tacos.
“I saw a pretty good opportunity here on the south side to open up some authentic food. I come from a very traditional family who cooks every single meal, and I saw a good opportunity to bring good flavors to a beautiful town like Corpus,” Venegas said.
Venegas signed the lease to the building the restaurant is in, located at 5717 Saratoga Blvd., in October. From there, he and his family put in a lot of work to get the restaurant prepared for launch in January.
“It became pretty hectic, I have three small children. A lot of days from October to opening day we spent a lot of time in here, 16 hours a day where I would work my regular job, and I’d come here afterwards and really grind it out, building this place up, and cleaning it up,” he said.
Venegas said getting the business started was more difficult due to the pandemic. Administrative things that would’ve typically required going to a government building to get the necessary paperwork, had to be done through mail and email, which slowed the process down.
Venegas is not alone in the restaurant business. In fact, several members of his family help him run the business. His father runs a lot of the restaurant’s operations, his cousin manages the bar, and his wife handles social media, Human Resources, and administrative tasks.
“Family is actually what drove me to build this restaurant, and the kind of environment that it is,” he said. “I need to have people I can trust around me, I need to have people I’ve worked with my whole life. For some people, it may not be easy to work with family, but for our family, we come from a very strong, traditional background, so it’s easy for us.”
Around the same time the restaurant opened, Venegas went back to working full-time. He said he now works around 80 hours a week. However, being busy is nothing new for him. Venegas served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and while enlisted, completed a four-year degree.
“I always push things to the limit. Just kind of switching over from one set of craziness and busy schedule to now, I’m working a regular job, owning a restaurant, and I still continue to keep myself busy. I have a lot of high energy, a lot of motivation, and I’ve got a lot of support,” he said.