By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition January 2018
Partners, Enrique Garza, Jr. from Weslaco, Texas and Brandon Fairlie from Windsor, Canada are two, one-of-a-kind individuals. They come from distinct backgrounds, but both were raised close to international borders.
They had different professions before getting into the construction business. They love and are passionate about the industry; it has provided them with successful careers.
Brandon graduated in mechanical engineering and moved down to the Rio Grande Valley. He took a job at a company called Windsor Mold Texas, specializing in plastic injection tooling. “I worked there for about seven years, and then in 2001, I opened Merit Construction,” he told Texas Border Business.
Later, the name of the business changed, when his longtime friend Enrique, a restauranteur and builder joined forces with Brandon. As soon as this happened, they created a new company and added ‘EB,’ to differentiate it. The company is now called EB Merit Construction.
Many of you have seen their signs, announcing sites with ‘New Construction’ or ‘Under Construction’ in different cities of the Valley. They are in high demand for two simple reasons; quality craftsmanship and excellent customer satisfaction. Since they are both personally involved with each project, overhead is lower than larger companies, giving them a competitive edge on pricing.
Brandon was a custom homebuilder before the partnership. Today, he and Enrique deal with a large array of construction and development projects, however, they always work to provide their customer’s satisfaction. They’ve seen consistent growth, but don’t want to get too large. Their strong niche is helping customers with the entire development process, from finding property to designing, building and even putting the team together to rent their commercial projects.
Their first project as EB Merit was a shopping center in Mercedes, which included the design and construction of what became the most significant commercial project for them at the time.
Enrique and Brandon are known for their honesty, and excellent craftsmanship. They know, that if your customers are satisfied, they will recommend you. Today they enjoy a consistent and uninterrupted business growth. EB Merit Construction is now building in multiple locations throughout Texas and the United States.
Brandon said that many of the custom homes he built were for attorneys and doctors, some of them gave them additional work to build commercial projects. They were constructing their law offices, medical clinics, and shopping centers.
Brandon describes himself as ‘pretty adventurous.’ “I guess out of the partnership, I’m the risk taker.” He pointed out that Enrique is more conservative compared to him. “I’m very aggressive, so it’s kind of a good balance as a partner.”
EB Merit Construction has been involved with construction of several buildings on South Padre Island. One that stands out is Las Costas, an eight-story mid-rise building with a view of the Gulf of Mexico. Few local construction companies have the privilege to say they’ve built this type of building. Brandon said that for them, this project was a huge challenge. “Before that, we had not built anything over two stories.” He said, “There’s a lot of underground work, the foundation goes 80 feet into the ground, and then the building went 100 feet in the air, there’s a lot more to it than what the people see.”
People in this industry know that doing coastal construction is dealing with the salt environment, with stringent foundation requirements and the challenges that go with any expectation. “We had that project scheduled for 13 months, and we finished in 11,” Brandon said.
EB Merit has also gained momentum in building fast food franchise restaurants including six Taco Bells in San Antonio, a Long John Silver’s seafood franchise in the Rio Grande Valley and another one in Corpus Christi, followed by Church’s Chicken, and Hardee’s in as far Indianapolis. “We were invited to a corporate Long John Silver’s future design committee meeting, where we shared our expertise in different design aspects for their reimaging”, Brandon said. EB Merit is currently building one of these new restaurants in Las Cruces, New Mexico. “Because our relationships with our clients are so strong, this particular franchise group that hired us for the local job, also hired us to go out of state to build their new projects.”
Currently, Enrique and Brandon have partnered up with several of EB Merit’s past clients to develop their own projects including the purchase of the property next to the well known Wanna Wanna’s Beach Inn Bar & Grill on South Padre Island. “We purchased the property with a group of partners, and are building Phase I, which is four beachfronts, and five bedroom condos with their own private pools,” he said. “We plan on selling or renting the units, and may actually keep one for ourselves! What’s better than walking next door for a beer and burger”, he added.
Enrique, is also a unique businessman. He was born in Weslaco but raised in two countries. He is part of a well-known family on both sides for the U.S./Mexico border. Enrique lived in Nuevo Progreso until he was seven years old. “My family has owned Arturo’s Restaurant for the last 49 years,” he said. His mom, Leticia is from Mercedes and his dad, Enrique Sr. is from Matamoros, Tamaulipas. His parents have been married for 48 years. His brother Beto, owns the Arturo’s in Weslaco, which EB Merit built, and his sister lives in San Antonio. “The longest warranty EB Merit has ever given to a job, is Arturo’s”, he explained. “It’s been several years, but every time I go, we need to touch something up, and I’ll probably never stop helping them!”
He was enrolled in the Weslaco schools, and graduated in 1989 from Weslaco High School. He then attended St. Mary’s University in San Antonio majoring in international business. He took his last semester in Europe, at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.
Enrique, although young, has acquired substantial business experience. It all started when he was working with his father Enrique Garza, Sr. in the restaurant business from a very young age. After college, he went back to work for his dad at Arturo’s Restaurant in Progreso. Enrique says that his character is much like his father’s; they often used to clash, which was not very easy. Still, his father is the person he most admires, for his dedication to his family, hard work, perseverance, honesty, and humility. “If I could be half of who he is, I’d consider myself successful!” While he tries to follow in his father’s footsteps, his mother has been the shoulder to lean on and has helped guide him to get to where he is today.
Enrique is an entrepreneur. He found success in his own restaurant, Café Picasso, in Weslaco. “I opened it in 1994, it was a gourmet restaurant, serving duck, lamb, veal, and an awesome Sunday Brunch.” he said. It was a popular restaurant, and got great reviews on Texas Monthly.
Enrique also founded a mobile technology company called BIBISI in 2007. While he is still a shareholder, Enrique sold part of it to a very successful marketing firm out of Dallas. “For several years we were the technology partner for Fiesta San Antonio, and have worked with large national companies to develop mobile strategies”, he added. During all this time, Brandon and Enrique had known each other as friends. He said, “I really can’t tell you how long we have known each other, whatever he told you, Brandon is right, because he remembers a lot more than I do.”
At that time, Brandon was already building a lot of big homes, and Enrique was doing small remodeling projects. He said, “As you see on TV, and then I stepped it up a little bit in the Westgate property.” This was his first subdivision project in Weslaco along with a 40-unit apartment property which he still owns and operates with his sister.
Enrique and Brandon, along with another one of their past and current clients, created BES Merit Properties. “Last year we completed our first shopping center and have plans to develop two more in 2018,” Enrique stated. Together with their partner, they found a unique property between the Super Walmart and Walgreens in Brownsville, and through EB Merit, designed and built the center. “We are completing plans to develop one more shopping center in Brownsville, another in McAllen, and a 190-unit apartment complex”, he added.
It is obvious that their clients value their work; it is not every day that a construction client turns into a partner in a different venture. Aside from this, EB Merit is currently building several other shopping centers, medical buildings, dental offices, and restaurants. “We are currently building another Khan’s Grill Restaurant, and a Phase I of North Park Village, a large shopping center in North McAllen”, Enrique stated. EB Merit will not only take on large projects, but will also work hand in hand with owners to complete finish-outs, and commercial remodels.
EB Merit Construction
They feel very grateful that the Rio Grande Valley that has provided them with the opportunities to grow their company into a successful commercial business. Enrique Garza Jr. and Brandon Fairlie are looking forward to the challenges of the next adventure in their careers. TBB