SBA honors 8 El Paso business owners, advocates

Vic Kolenc   | El Paso Times Updated 9:57 a.m. MDT May 2, 2016

Keeping a business in one family for more than a century is a difficult task.

But that's what Joe Caldarella's family has done.

"We've had our name on a store for over 100 years," Caldarella, 68, said from his 21,000-square-foot Caldarella's Restaurant Supply at 201 N. Clark in East Central El Paso.

The store sells everything from pots, pans and knives to ice machines, stoves, freezers and other large pieces of equipment, as well as equipment parts for restaurants. It's one of only a handful of restaurant equipment supply stores in El Paso.

The family business has evolved from its founding by Caldarella's grandfather in 1898 as a Downtown meat shop. That evolved into a grocery store, which turned into a sporting goods and gun supply store. Then, 55 years ago, Caldarella's father, Ciro, decided to get out of the sporting goods business, because of growing competition from national chains, and get into the restaurant equipment supply business, Joe Caldarella said.

Now, Caldarella's two daughters, Tessa, 34, and Anna, 38, are poised to keep the family business going when their father retires in the future. Caldarella's wife, Christina, and his sister, Ellen, also help operate the business.

"The reason we have been around so long is our family is so strong and can adapt to whatever comes to us," said Tessa Calderella, who does the accounting along with other duties at the family business. "Our family (businesses) survived the Great Depression and huge companies trying to wipe us out."

The success story is being honored by the SBA's El Paso office, which is giving the Caldarellas the El Paso Family Owned Small Business of the Year award.

That award is one of eight SBA awards that will be given to El Paso area business owners and business advocates at a luncheon Thursday at the Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel. The luncheon is part of National Small Business Week.

The top award is going to Yolanda Arriola, founder and chief executive officer of Southwest University at El Paso. She's the El Paso Small Business Person of the Year award winner, and in March was selected as Texas Small Business Person of the Year by the national SBA — the first time in more than 20 years that an El Pasoan has won the state award.

Arriola is one of 54 winners who vied to be the 2016 National Small Business Person of the Year award winner. However, SBA officials announced Monday that the two women owners of Equator Coffees & Teas, a California coffee roasting and tea distribution business, won the national award.

Silva said Arriola has not only had to overcome challenges of running a small business, but also the challenges of operating and growing a school.

In 1999, Arriola started QuickStudy Learning Center, which grew into Southwest University. It has about 1,700 students and about 200 employees, according to information Southwest supplied to the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which nominated Arriola for the award.

The school has grown from one building to a campus with seven buildings at 1414 Geronimo in East Central El Paso, and an 8,500-square-foot automotive tech center at 6500 Montana.

As for the Caldarellas' business, Silva said it's not easy to pass a business from generation to generation, and instill in the children the business passion of the parents and grandparents.

Tessa Caldarella said growing up in the store gave her a passion for not only the restaurant equipment supply business, but for small business in general.

"We've learned a lot from our father. It's amazing how he built the business without a formal business education," she said.

"I bleed restaurant equipment," she said. "I have a passion for small business. I think it's the backbone of our country."

Joe Caldarella said the success of his business is not only due to his family, but also to the loyalty of other family businesses.

"We have second- and third-generation customers" from both sides of the border, he said. "We are catering to family businesses," he said.

Other SBA winners:

  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Manuel Diaz, 29, owner of 4-year-old MDM Entertainment Productions, which does sound and light production for a variety of events.
  • Entrepreneurial Success: Salvador Perches, owner of 58-year-old Perches-La Paz Funeral Homes, which he took over in 2000 after his father died. It operates four funeral homes in El Paso, one in Las Cruces, and 11 in Juárez, according to the SBA.
  • Champion awards for business advocates and mentors: Women in Business: Sylivia Martinez, owner of Altomar Home Healthcare and Medical Equipment. She's the El Paso and regional award winner; Financial Services: Laura Butler, Wells Fargo Bank; Minority Small Business: Frank Spencer, Aztec Contractors; and Veteran Small Business: Willie Carl Jenkins Jr., Freedom Janitorial Services.

Vic Kolenc may be reached at; 546-6421; @vickolenc on Twitter.

Make plans

What: SBA Awards Luncheon.

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Wyndham Hotel, 2027 Airway.

Cost: $35 per person.



Originally Published 7:00 p.m. MDT May 1, 2016 

Updated 9:57 a.m. MDT May 2, 2016


View the published story here.

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