There are more than 119,000 households in Corpus Christi, which have produced countless thriving businesses. The Coastal Bend is also home to many families who built a business and carried on its legacy via future generations. Some of the most iconic local names have some of the deepest family roots.
We set out to find family businesses. It was important to look across all industries, from marketing to insurance to architecture. We were looking for booming companies that have been making waves for several years, as well as organizations that go back decades. We were interested to see how branches of each family tree intersected with the businesses, as well as the decisions by members of each family to live, work and play in the Coastal Bend.
We knew that many of the names and places might be familiar to our readers — but we wanted to take you behind the scenes and introduce you to their stories. Behind every business is a unique and fascinating adventure of how they got there, what they do and how it’s been carried on. Some professionals knew from childhood what they wanted to do, others found themselves unexpectedly drawn to the work. Some businesses went back multiple generations, others are currently being run by father and son. Common threads that ran throughout, however, were their family love and a strong sense of community.
With such a robust pool of talent in our area, we knew that this feature could be dozens or perhaps hundreds of pages long, but we are excited to have selected these eight family businesses to introduce to you, representing a diverse range of industries and individuals. From hospitality to law to architecture, their influence on the Coastal Bend has helped and will help shape our community— today, and for generations to come.
Kiko’s Mexican Restaurant: The Barrera Family
Kiko’s Mexican Food Restaurant & Cantina is owned and operated today by Marcus Barrera, but its history began more than 60 years ago with his grandparents. They owned a Mexican restaurant off Morgan Avenue called Mi Terra from the 1960s to the 1980s. Amid those years, Marcus’ grandfather told his son-in-law, Kiko, that he should open a restaurant on the Southside. That vision and foresight paved the way for one of the most popular restaurants in the Coastal Bend.
BucketWorks, LLC: The Buquet Family
Creativity runs in the Buquet family. Bucket Works is a locally founded and headquartered business that offers association management, marketing and public relations services — and it’s run by sister trio Lexi Buquet, D’Anne Buquet and Daphne Buquet Martin.
Water Street Market: The Lomax Family
It all began nearly 40 years ago with two restaurants on Water Street; an Oyster Bar and a Mexican Restaurant. But when the demand for the Oyster Bar saw guests lining up down the street, they closed the Mexican restaurant and pivoted to make it Water Street Seafood Company. Then in 1990, they opened the Executive Surf Club. “It offers burgers, beer, live music,” said Richard. “I think it’s truly a treasure locally.”
Gignac Architects: The Gignac Family
Gignac Architects is an architectural, interior and landscape design organization that has been proudly serving South Texas since Raymond Gignac opened it in 1988. Over the three decades, the firm has built more than 500 projects, including educational, institutional, municipal and commercial buildings. It has offices in Corpus Christi, the Rio Grande Valley and Dallas.
Unique HR: The Bradford Family
UniqueHR is a Professional Employer Organization that offers the services of a large corporation along with the personalized experience of a family-owned business. UniqueHR provides small and mid-sized companies with essential services including employee benefits, workers’ compensation, payroll, risk management and more. Considering how much valuable time, money, and risk these functions can otherwise cost a business, UniqueHR is a crucial partner that enables businesses to sustain and thrive. Headquartered in Corpus Christi, it has a nationwide footprint, with offices and clients across the country. It serves clients in a variety of industries who range in size, from those with few employees to those with a workforce of hundreds.
Bonilla & Chapa, P.C. Attorney at Law: The Bonilla Family
Bonilla & Chapa, P.C. Attorney at Law has an expansive reach throughout Texas, with offices in Houston, San Antonio, Edinburg, Hondo, Harlingen, Beeville and its main location at the Bonilla Plaza in Corpus Christi. The firm practices in areas of personal injury, criminal defense, family law and social security disability. To this day, all of the Bonilla siblings still work in the firm or visit and provide support. Being able to work with family is something that Ruben greatly values. “It’s engaging, energizing and truly spiritually uplifting,” he said. “We are very busy at the firm, so we may not see each other every day. But every time I meet or confer with my brothers or sister, I learn something new and remarkable.”
Rock Engineering: The Rock Family
One business is helping build a rock solid foundation for Corpus Christi. Rock Engineering and Testing Laboratory, Inc. (RETL) provides geotechnical engineering, geotechnical and environmental drilling, construction materials engineering and testing services for the engineering and construction industries. The original owners, husband and wife duo Mark and Roetta (Roe) Rock, helped found the Corpus Christi company in March 1998. Roe serves as President of RETL and Mark is the Senior Engineering Consultant. Two of their children–Curtis and Loren– have also joined the family business.