It was the summer of 1996 and 701 North Main Street
was about to become a parking lot...
The deteriorating property had been sitting in foreclosure and the city wanted to annex the land and pave it for the library across the street. An unceremonious end to a charming but neglected little 1922 bungalow that had, for years, been all but forgotten.
This would have been the end of the story had it not been for a twenty-year-old local kid with an unlikely – some might say ridiculous – plan.
“I’m going to build a restaurant” he thought. Not just any restaurant, but something unique, with exotic dishes inspired by great Mediterranean chefs, a fine dining experience with grand, live music reminiscent of the jazz and samba clubs of eras gone by.
Isaac Guerra wasn’t even old enough to buy a beer, much less apply for a beer and liquor license. He was twenty. Who in their right mind would give a kid – just three years out of high school – the money to turn a crumbling old house into a restaurant? A local bank, that’s who.
It sounded like a stupid idea, but as a financial investment, it was brilliant. The bank knew that in its current condition, the city would pay only what the land was worth in foreclosure. But what if someone renovated the building and then defaulted on their loan? The bank would get the property back and whatever money the bank loaned, they’d recover when the city bought the improved property at market rate. All they had to do was wait for the young, inexperienced, and impetuous restaurant owner to fail … and this is where the story gets really interesting.
All they had to do was wait for the young, inexperienced, and impetuous restaurant owner to fail …
In August, 1996 – on his twenty-first birthday – Isaac Guerra applied for a Texas beer and liquor license, and two months later, Espana opened its doors to the public. Under Isaac’s leadership and creative direction, Espana flourished. Guests from around the Valley and all over the world poured in, captivated by the eclectic dishes and drinks, world-class service, and electrifying live entertainment unlike anything they’d seen before. Espana quickly became a favorite dinner destination for visiting celebrities, entertainers, and professional athletes, and of course Isaac’s beloved South Texas community.
Espana quickly became a favorite dinner destination for visiting celebrities, entertainers, and professional athletes, and of course Isaac’s beloved South Texas community.