Jauregui has been an entrepreneur in the food industry, owning three El Charolais restaurants, while Gonzalez has been a constant presence in the Chaparral automotive dealership business. Both were happy to and tell their stories and share advice with young entrepreneurs.
On a bright Friday morning, customers lined up outside of the Johnson City Mexican restaurant El Charolais. It’s 30 minutes before opening, but because of the people waiting outside, Jauregui and his family members decided to open the doors early. After all, this was the vision that Jauregui had all along when he started the business.
"You really have to save money ’cause when you try to open something up you have to at least have one year with no paycheck."
– José Luis Jauregui
“I’ve been in this business for 35 years now, cooking, serving and managing,” he said. “I started in a small restaurant in California for five years, then we went to Toledo, then to Louisville, where we open the business.”
Customers can see the hard work that Jauregui has put into his business by the quality of the food. Customers waiting outside 30 minutes before opening isn’t anything new for him.
Kaesha Montgomery, a student at nearby East Tennessee State University who was there early that day, had high praise to give to El Charolais.
“I always liked Mexican food, but for some reason at this restaurant it just stands out to me,” said Montgomery. “So it isn’t much for me to wake up early before class and get something to eat here, because the food is great.”
From city to city, Jauregui had one goal in mind: to own his own business. From the beginning, he always understood that it would be a process. Guided by his passion for the food industry, even through failure, he persevered.
“I used to work seven days straight and save money,” said Jauregui. “You really have to save money ’cause when you try to open something up you have to at least have one year with no paycheck.”
In entrepreneurship the ability to learn from struggle is something that is learned in the earliest stages. Saving up the money for the business was no easy task for Jauregui, as it came with some personal sacrifices.
“When I started I saved about $1,050, and that wasn’t enough. And that was just 14 years ago,” said Jauregui. “I had to sell my motorcycle, one of my cars and three different parts from my other car to three different guys.”
Jauregui always had the drive and the vision to succeed, which is a characteristic that he believes is key to having a business. To him, you have go into it having a great work ethic and loving the process, while having a great team that has that same passion.
“This is a full-time job. You really have to enjoy it while you’re doing it,” said Jauregui. “Always look to have good quality and good service and have a clean place. That’s my main thing ¬– got to make sure your place is clean.”
Now, 14 years later, he employs many of his family members at three restaurants in Johnson City and Elizabethton, making it a flourishing family business. Jauregui has big dreams for the future and still looks for new ways to improve the restaurant.
“I’d like to update this location and make it look better with the colors, flooring, decorations and also change the look of the bar,” said Jauregui. “Right now we’re working on the one in Elizabethton and then we will begin to work on this one here in Johnson City.”
“If you have a passion for it and enjoy what you’re doing, that means you’ll probably never have to work a day in your life."
– Freddy Gonzalez
”Latino entrepreneurship also shines in the city’s automotive industry, through Johnson City car dealership Chaparral Buick GMC. Run by Freddy Gonzalez, the Chaparral dealership was always the route he wanted to take.
“I’ve been in the car business for 47 years now,” said Gonzalez. “At first I was at General Motors, and that lasted 15 years. Then I realized I didn’t want to work this side of the business; I want to go into the dealership side of things.”
The car business was always a passion for Gonzalez when he was growing up. His father was in the car business in Texas, and now Gonzalez runs Chaparral as a successful family business on Johnson City’s “Motor Mile.”
“If you don’t have passion it will become difficult, so you better have a passion,” said Gonzalez. “If you have a passion for it and enjoy what you’re doing, that means you’ll probably never have to work a day in your life.”
Forty-seven years in, it still feels like he hasn’t worked a day in his life. He now has two other car dealerships in Piney Flats and Erwin, with even bigger goals of letting his children take over the business in the future. He hopes to keep the same mindset that drove this dealership to success.
“If you have a desire to be a businessman in your life, make sure you just find something you like,” said Gonzalez. “If you can find some way to do something you have in your mind – or find somebody who you can converse with and who has a lot of confidence in you, that you can talk with on a regular basis who can help guide you – I suggest to go after it.”
Above right: El Charolais holds strong family values, which is the driving force for the business.
Above, Freddy Gonzalez says having a mentor is import for entrepreneurs.
Bottom, Chaparral Buick GMC is located at 3514 Bristol Highway.
Photos by DaJour Ware