Author Archives: Eileen Mattei

Freelance writer Eileen Mattei was the editor of Valley Business Report for over 6 years. Her articles have appeared in Texas Highways, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Parks & Wildlife and Texas Coop Power magazines as well as On Point: The Journal of Army History. The Harlingen resident is the author of five books: Valley Places, Valley Faces; At the Crossroads: Harlingen’s First 100 Years; and Leading the Way: McAllen’s First 100 Years, For the Good of My Patients: The History of Medicine in the Rio Grande Valley, and Quinta Mazatlán: A Visual Journey.

IT Marketer Boosts Family Business

Andy Crockett handles website and social media marketing for the family business, gift fruit shipper Crockett Farms. (Courtesy)

Once upon a time, a small business’s IT person installed new systems and programs, trained staff to navigate them and fixed glitches. But that’s so 20 years ago. “Marketing has changed so much, especially for anyone like us who markets nationally. If you don’t stay on top of marketing trends, you lose market share,” said Terrie Crockett, who with her husband Allan runs the gift fruit shipper Crockett Farms. “There’s…

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Building a Future on the Past

Inside the restored Putegnat Building in Brownsville, Fernando Balli talks about the 1868 building. Designer Tina Garbo Bailey, who collaborated with Balli, stands to his right. (VBR)

While getting his degree in architecture and environmental design, Fernando Balli earned a C in architectural history. That is noteworthy because now, with Balli Property Group, he specializes in restoring historic architecture in Brownsville. The turning point came when, after restoring a 1931 house on Palm Boulevard that backs onto Town Resaca, he and his wife decided that, instead of flipping it, they would make it their home. The striking…

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Landscape Design: Beauty and Function

Andrew Heffner used native plants help this residential landscape design fit into the natural surroundings. (Courtesy)

While working for the city of McAllen as a landscape architect, Andrew Heffner realized the region could support a full-time business that catered to commercial, residential and public clients who needed a landscape architect. Five years ago, he opened Heffner Design Team as a one-man operation. Today he heads a full-time staff of four designing landscapes with the aim they be “beautiful, functional and meet the client’s budget.” Licensed by…

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Clark Shapes Clay into a Business

Sculptor Doug Clark shapes clay on a work in progress at his studio. (VBR)

“I’m not a be-still or sit-still kind of guy,” said sculptor Doug Clark in his Edinburg studio. The number and variety of bronze sculptures he has created in his 35-year career are a testament to that. In McAllen alone, 65 of Clark’s pieces are on display, including Quinta Mazatlan’s extraordinary statues of native animals and his Veterans War Memorial of Texas’s statues and remarkable Korean War plaques. His Janis Joplin…

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Living Next to Nature: La Jarra Ranch

Charles Edward Wetegrove and his brother Raymond with Edward Burleson Raymond’s 1886 chimney that was part of the original house.

When Charles Edward Wetegrove and his brothers Joe and Raymond inherited the family’s 500-acre Las Majadas Ranch in Willacy County, they knew they wanted to keep the ranch, their heritage, intact. Their great-grandfather had come to the Wild Horse Desert in 1872, began rounding up wild horses and cattle and herding them north to markets. Eventually he established the 6,800-acre ranch where the homestead’s 1886 chimney ranks as the oldest…

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A Lifetime of Designing

Architect Calvin Walker of WPA stands in the Brownsville Library's Space 14s (Space for Teens), which he designed as an internet resource center. (VBR)

As a young architect, Calvin Walker left Louisiana to work in the Rio Grande Valley for a year.  Fifty years later, he is still designing buildings from his Brownsville office. In the interim, he worked for 30 years at various iterations of the large architectural firm SHW, rising to vice president and partner in charge of Brownsville. In 1997, he declined to relocate and started Walker Perez Associates with Carlos…

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Look Before You e-Leap


  E-commerce is growing 23 percent per year as 51 percent of Americans prefer to shop online. Yet 46 percent of small businesses do not have a website. “Is selling online right for your business?” asked Eduardo Lugo of the Small Business Development Center at a seminar on e-commerce. “You have to do your homework, just like you were opening a restaurant or retail location. It revolves around your target…

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Lubbock: West Texas Windfall

West Texas town has something for everyone No longer your grandfather’s West Texas town, Lubbock has become a destination well worth the trip. What’s great? Restaurants and wine bars so good you’ll consider relocating.  Fascinating, one-of-a-kind museums and, threaded throughout the city of 250,000, active prairie dog towns and friendly folks. The home of Texas Tech, Lubbock offers days of easy-going fun and great food.   Playing to its High…

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The Enlightened Exterminator 

Jose Guerrero and Gabriel Martinez prepare to treat a house for termites. (VBR)

Safeguard Pest Control provides solutions When Juan Martinez returned to the Valley after serving in the Marine Corps, he found a job with a pest control company. He enjoyed the work, moved up the ladder and eventually managed the business. In 1991, he started his own company, Safeguard Pest Control, with his assets of a pickup truck, experience, a strong work ethic and a Pest Control Structural license from the Texas Department of Agriculture. Now the largest independent pest control company in the Valley, Safeguard is run by his sons, Frank and Gabriel. “I started working here the day he opened the business,”…

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Dancing as Fast as She Can 

In 1995, during her senior year at Lamar University, Lori Rodgers often traveled between Beaumont and Harlingen as she prepared to open her business. The dance major, with advice from her father Rick Mathes, had found a home for Rio Grande Valley Arts Studio in Harlingen and was having the building renovated. She convinced him that she did not need a teaching degree as a backup.“Dance is what I know…

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