The Insider last interviewed Octavio Gomez, 37, on January of 2014, just before the El Paso Chihuahuas made Southwest University Park their home and The Mix Apartments had been complete for over a year. A lot has changed since then and even more has changed since Gomez and partners helped transform an industrial warehouse patch of downtown into an epicenter of clubs and restaurants. Gomez and his fellow young entrepreneur partners, Rudy Valdes and Nick Salgado make up the Pan y Agua Group. The trio recently received the innovation award from the Hub of Innovation, a local nonprofit based in Downtown El Paso that helps support new start-up businesses.
Between the Montecillo development and the family of restaurants, Gomez has been instrumental in imprinting his vision in new ventures. His major footprint was felt in Union Plaza with the bar/club 1914 and The Garden restaurant. The Garden is now closed but a new business is taking its place. Just like The Garden itself, Gomez has gone through an evolution over the years. Now in the midst of more change in the wake of downtown growth, we spoke with the business innovator to get some insight on his journey and the future of what was once The Garden as well as the future of Gomez himself.
Q. Can you tell us a little about your vision as a youth and how it affected you as an entrepreneur, specifically those related to downtown El Paso?
Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to stay in town and try and have an impact on this City. I didn’t know how or when or where but I had to try….
Q. Why did you choose to stay in El Paso and make these investments versus gravitating towards bigger markets?
Leaving never crossed my mind. I’ve had the thought that El Paso had/has great potential, and we are living in a great time, this generation, where El Paso is about to be something special and we can shape it.
Q. There has to be a parallel in the growth of your business portfolio and you as a person. Can you delve a little into how much you’ve personally grown and how that has affected your business vision and vice versa?
I build things that I like, and as I get older and more mature maybe the businesses get more mature. I try to build places where I would like to go. So maybe 12 years ago, 1914 was the type of place that I would frequent, now maybe it’s mellow, like Fools Gold, or food driven like Stonewood.
Q. The upcoming Downtown Living Tour is happening on April 1st and will include The Mix (a mixed-used apartment and retail complex) as one of the stops. You mentioned in your 2014 interview with us that you would like to pursue more residential projects in downtown El Paso, does that still hold true in 2017?
I would absolutely love to do more residential, hopefully sooner than later.
Q. Your vision of Union Plaza may have changed over time. Given the landscape of downtown today, what kind of businesses do you feel would work together in Union Plaza presently?
Union Plaza, at least the area I helped shape 10 plus years ago, was an old warehouse district, and was perfect for bars and nightclubs, but those businesses go out of style and people move on to the next new thing. Places like Tabla that are more food driven, will be around forever. Over at The Mix, we are getting a lot of interest from young professionals for their office space. Lawyers, architects, etc. That wasn’t the case a couple of years ago. These people need places to eat, places to frequent during the day, more restaurants, more bars (not clubs) would be great. Union Plaza isn’t going anywhere, it will always be an important part of downtown.
Q. Please tell us about the changes The Garden is undergoing–what kind of new business model can we expect?
The new project is going to be awesome. It’s going to be an urban multi-function event center. We can have weddings, art shows, family and party brunches on Saturdays and Sundays, etc. We will be turnkey for any event. We feel there is a need for this type of venue in town and especially downtown.
Q. How you would like to see that new model fit into your current vision of Union Plaza as a whole, whether you’re simply an observer or investor?
Big things are coming to Union Plaza. Three new food and/or beverage concepts opening in spring 2017, four to five office spaces opening as well. Union Plaza will be a nice new surprise for everyone in the coming months.
Be sure to get your tickets for the upcoming Downtown Living Tour to stop by The Mix in Union Plaza among other residential locations with food and drink at each!