With most couples, “to have and to hold” does not include a daily serving of queso and chips, delicious green salsa or shrimp rancheros. However, power couple and Amigo Juan owners, Maria and Sergio Rodriguez, have been cooking and serving up these popular menu items for the past 18 years, while also finding a way to keep their love alive. A power couple could be defined as two equal partners who complement each other and whose relationship is based on mutual respect and appreciation—more about collaboration and less about competition. In the words of an unknown source, “Be a boss. Date a boss. Build an empire.” This is exactly what the Rodriguezs have done!
Sergio and Maria were both born and raised in Chihuahua, Mexico. Sergio was 16-years-old and Maria was 15-years-old when they met at a mutual friend’s quinceañera. Proving all those wrong who say you cannot meet and fall in love with the person you are going to marry at age 15, they made it official by marrying and starting their life together in 1994.
When they moved to the United States, the couple began working in the restaurant business with Maria’s family. Maria’s brother opened the family’s first restaurant location in Hope, Arkansas. After seeing his success, Sergio decided to try his hand at opening his own location in Texarkana. While searching for a location, they had to make a choice from a business and personal perspective regarding the right place for them to raise their family. They visited Texarkana and based on its “perfect size,” felt it would be ideal. Their dreams became a reality when the doors opened at Amigo Juan Texarkana in 2003. They went to work determined and did it together!
Despite the love shared between spouses, most couples have an eight-hour daily break from one another, which allows them to miss each other just enough to be delighted to come together once again at the end of the workday. Sergio and Maria’s story is different. “We do not know any different,” they said. “We enjoy being able to help each other and we have learned to take advantage of the strengths the other offers. We love what we do. We want to offer the best experience and food for everyone when people come in.” “I admire how Sergio can bring the best out of the staff and is able to organize and plan for the work ahead,” shared Maria. Sergio has an equally deep appreciation for his wife. “Maria is always there to help me. She is very positive and loves to work and talk to everyone.” The environment they have created, of both mutual respect and a desire to serve Texarkana to the best of their ability, trickles down to their staff and is felt in the overall atmosphere experienced while dining at Amigo Juan. There is a real “mom and pop” atmosphere felt as soon as you walk in the door. Everything about it shouts “welcome,” starting with the hostess who greets you, the bright, bold colors and charming décor that pull you in and the friendly service you receive from the servers. It has become a Texarkana favorite for gatherings of friends and family to eat and celebrate just about anything from birthdays to graduations.
As with any marriage and small business, there are always new struggles and issues to deal with, but no one could have imagined the struggles 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic would bring, especially to restaurants, including frustrating shutdowns and limited seating restrictions. Sergio and Maria did not let that stop them, but rose to the challenge and focused on what they could control. “We had to face the unknown, just like so many others did. We had to learn to adjust and lean on each other even more than we had. The pandemic brought us closer, put us through challenges, but also taught us how to overcome barriers, improve productivity and even advance our ways.” As they look forward to brighter days, their mission is to continue with the same “try our best to do our best” principles they have always had and keep their one longstanding goal in mind, to “Treat others the way you want to be treated. We want to serve the community and our staff by example, while doing what is right and helping when it is needed.”
Twenty-seven years in and they are still going strong and have been blessed with three children, Erika (25), Sergio (19) and Nicholas (12). Erika works as a Speech and Language Pathologist. Sergio is in business school and Nicholas is in the seventh grade. The jury is still out about whether any of their children will be interested in following in their parents’ footsteps and taking over the business, but Sergio and Maria are not worried. “They have grown up calling the restaurant their second home. We know if one of them chooses to take over some day, they will work just as hard and do great in the family business.”
Perhaps a truer meaning for “power” as it is reflected in this hard-working couple would be centered on their ability to embrace and celebrate each other while also embracing and celebrating the community they serve. In the words of Gandhi himself, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” What if we could all embrace each other more? What if we could all celebrate each other more? What if we could all serve each other more? The example of Maria and Sergio Rodriguez has shown us a picture of what that might look like, both through their marriage and business. In that spirit, let us pull up to the table, raise our margaritas high, munch on some chips and salsa and toast Amigo Juan, this incredible couple, and all they have built together.