Marlen Saenz opened her new furniture store in Laredo, Texas, last month with a mariachi band, prizes, giveaways, wine and a crowd that exceeded her expectations.
“A lot of people were there. It was a very nice party,” Saenz said. “I never thought we’d be that busy that day.”
She punctuates her conversation with “thank God” – “100 percent,” she said. “We always thank God for everything we do.”
No wonder. Fifteen years ago, she was selling picture frames at a flea market in Rio Grande City. Her eye for decorating drew attention, and soon she was dressing up homes, offices and other spaces. It wasn’t long before Marlen’s Gallery was born. The rest, the Mexican-American entrepreneur told Valley Business Report for a 2017 article, sprang from her attitude of, “No se detengan, dale por adelante.” Which means, “Don’t stop, move forward.”
From a small store in Rio Grande City, Saenz moved into a larger place in McAllen and then to a 31,240-square-foot location in that city. She purchased and upgraded the store with the help of a $1.3 million Small Business Administration loan.
Marlen’s Gallery – a member of the Home Furnishings Association – began drawing customers not only from the McAllen area but from Laredo.
Laredo customers asked for a store there
“We have a lot of customers in Laredo,” Saenz said. “We were making a lot of deliveries to Laredo.”
Laredo is about 165 miles northwest of McAllen, so for two years her Laredo customers asked Saenz to open a store in their city. The decision was easy.
The Laredo opening was planned for about six months, Saenz said – but it’s not the last move. The new store is small, only about 10,000 square feet. Business there has been “very good, thank God,” so she’s already looking for a larger space.
“It’s never enough space,” she said. “That’s the plan. One more year and we’ll go in a different direction.”
In addition to continually thanking God, Saenz attributed the success of her stores to offering quality, attractive products – some of which she designs herself – at good prices. And to having very good employees.
This has been a strong year for business, Saenz said, and she expects to continue moving forward in 2020. So, she probably hasn’t thrown her last party in Laredo.