BANQUETE, Texas — Peña’s Grocery & Deli has been serving the people of Banquete for more than 66 years.
The store, run by Hermilo and Modesta Peña, has been at its current spot on TX-44 since the 1960’s, supplying the people of Banquete with groceries and even gas over the years.
But what keeps people coming back daily is the fresh food.
“I like the food," said Eli Hernandez, who said he visits Peña’s nearly every day, typically twice a day. "I like the chicken fritter -- the spicy chicken fritter. Great service, great everything.”
Hermilo Peña said he believes the food, cooked by his youngest son, is what keeps the business running.
“If you don’t have something good, the small place is going to go down," he said. "You have to have something that people like, to manage to do business.”
The store is run by the entire family; four generations of it.
“We’re very fortunate that we get to work with our family members every day, we get to see them, get to spend time with them -- especially my grandparents," said Ramon Rios Jr., Hermilo and Modesta's great-grandson. "We get to hang out with them and spend quality time.”
“You don’t get this back, you don’t get these opportunities back,” said grandson AD Peña II. “[We’re] just taking advantage of the time we get to spend together, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my cousin RJ.”
Rios Jr. and Peña II said they learn a lot from working with their grandparents. Mostly, they’ve learned how to interact with people.
“They show a lot of love to everyone, and it’s taught me a lot,” Rios Jr. said. “Love is key in life, they love everyone, it seems like, and everyone loves them. I think that’s why everyone keeps coming back, the love they show everyone, and it shows me how to treat others well.”
“First things first, the people come in here looking for my grandparents, just because of the way they treat them,” Peña II said.
Hermilo Peña said he believes continuing to work is what keeps him healthy, and interacting with customers keeps him sharp.
“Since I’ve been in business so long, I have a lot of friends. Mingling with people every day is kind of like another vitamin that I’m taking,” said.
The excellent service customers have grown accustomed to at Peña’s is one reason they keep coming back.
“Peña’s is the No. 1 spot -- everybody who works here is just wonderful,” said customer Rene Guerra. “I’ve grown up here my whole life, so just coming to Peña’s every day just brings me joy.”
Nowadays, Hermilo and Modesta don’t spend as much time at the store, as they try to stay safe and healthy during the pandemic. The two typically show up to the store around 2:30 a.m. to prepare for the day, and leave around 6:30 a.m.
“The hours we’re putting in right now, it doesn’t satisfy me, because I don’t stay busy enough," Hermilo Peña said. "But, I have a garden at home, and I do this, and I do that, and I rest a lot, more than I ever did in my life.”
While Hermilo Peña could turn over the keys to his kids and retire from the business, he said he has no plans on doing that any time soon.
“We find that if we have a commitment, we stay busy," he said. "That’s what’s keeping me healthy; getting up early, working."
Hermilo, who is in his late 80’s, said he hopes to continue working into his 90’s, and will continue as long as he remains healthy.