The founder of one of Robstown's most well-known eateries passed away Saturday after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Gregorio C. "Gollo" Barrera was the founder of G. Barrera's Fried Chicken in Robstown. He had founded an earlier fried chicken restaurant with his brother 10 years before deciding to branch out and open his own restaurant along Third Street in 1970
His grandson, 42-year-old Rene Barrera Jr., said his grandfather was a hard-working man who put everything he could into the family business. Gregorio Barrera's son, Rene Sr., took over ownership of the restaurant after Gregorio retired. Rene Jr., who began working at the restaurant when he was just 14 years old, manages the day-to-day operations at the family business.
"He (Gregorio) wasn't a big man, but when he walked into a room, he filled it up," Rene Jr. said. "My grandfather was a man of respect. He didn't demand respect, but that's what he got from everybody. He just had that presence."
During the first few years of owning Barrera's Fried Chicken, Rene Jr. said his grandfather kept the restaurant afloat by selling donuts for 10 cents a piece.
"He used to be able to pay his rent just by selling donuts," Rene Jr. said. "He had to stop, though, because it got to be just too much (work)."
Eventually, Barrera's Fried Chicken became one of the more well-known eateries in Robstown, with customers coming from all over the Coastal Bend to get their hands on the family's homemade fried chicken.
Gregorio Barrera, formerly a pastry chef, came up with the recipe and method of cooking the chicken, and the family still uses it today, Rene Jr. said.
"He taught me everything I know," he said.
Robstown Mayor Rodrigo Ramon Jr. said he has known the Barrera family for decades and often frequents the restaurant.
He said he hopes the community will offer their support for the family as they deal with the loss of their patriarch.
"(Gregorio Barrera) will be greatly missed," Ramon said. "He had a great business…and it was known throughout the Coastal Bend. It's a small business, but it's an icon."
Gregorio Barrera is survived by his wife of 65 years, Azucena "Tena" Barrera of Robstown; his children, Rene (Velma) Barrera Sr. and Hilda (Arturo Sr.) Salas, both of Robstown; four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and numerous other relatives and friends.
A Rosary was held on Monday, with the funeral service following on Tuesday at the Robstown Memorial Park Mausoleum in Robstown.