looked like the island was having the resurgence of success that had eluded it
for at least fifty years.
George and Cynthia Mitchell were buying up Strand
buildings and adaptively restoring them. They were following in the footsteps
of Bill and Karen Fullen, Jack and Martha King, Emily Whiteside, Robert Lynch
Neophyte Tilman Fertitta was trying his hand at building a
new, small hotel on the seawall, and at every island coffee shop, people were
gossiping and speculating where the millions of bucks were coming from that a
relatively new Houston resident, J.R. McConnell, was using to invest in a hodge
podge of island commercial properties.
The phone in my office rang. A Houston
broker told me that his client, recent Houston Rocket’s basketball great, Hakeem
Olajuwon, was interested in buying the Balinese
Room from Johnny Mitchell, never mind, he volunteered, that Olajuwon’s religion
was opposed to alcoholic beverages.
On Olajuwon’s heals was the broker for another Rocket’s great, Rudy Tomnjanovich,
who that broker told me wanted to get in on the Galveston Investment Action.
Just as the State Theater was being transformed into the Grand 1894 Opera House
under the direction of well-known historical building specialist, architect Killis
Almond, and downtown revitalization expert, Emily Whiteside, next door Zales Jewelry
began gasping for air, and finally closed.
A small restaurant and bar
called 21 followed but didn’t last.
the Grand opened, three fellows whose street sense and roll-up-their-sleeves work
ethic, flying above the action of the downtown historical district and without
fanfare decided to lease the Zales building and to open a restaurant with food
of “South and Central American sabor.”
Francisco Vargas and Rudy Teichman
would be the owning partners but with the initial help of their friend, Edward
T. Russell, who had not only overseen the design and operation of several restaurants
and their kitchens, but also was an expert in hospitality industry accounting
Teichman and his family had been on the Island for as
long as anyone could remember. He had always been known as “Rudy T.” Vargas had
immigrated to the island from Central America when he was but a teenager. Few
knew his given name was Francisco. He went by Paco. Hardly anyone called Russell
anything but “Mr. Russell.”
courtesy Family of H. Rudy Teichman
courtesy Rudy & Paco's
Paco is not just
the frequent nickname for those named Francisco, but it is the acronym for Pater
Comunitatis - “Father of the community.”
Since his arrival in Galveston,
Vargas had worked from dishwasher to busboy to waiter, and finally to manager
of the Balinese
Room and later, the restaurant at the San Luis Hotel.
they prepared to open the venture in the old Zales building, the neon sign went
up on its two sides – Rudy T and Paco’s – would be its name.
Opera House patrons and those going in for a lark, immediately and continuously
crowded Rudy T and Paco’s.
The reviews were stupendous.
who was born 17 years after Teichman, 1948 to be exact, had never lived in or
owned a business in Galveston.
he decided that by using the name “Rudy T,” that Teichman and Vargas were infringing
on his claim that Rudy T was one of his sole assets.
Never mind it was
virtually impossible for him to have been known as “Rudy T” before Teichman was.
filed suit, asking the court to cause Teichman and Vargas to cease using the “Rudy
T” as part of their business’ name. Their attorney advised them that fighting
wasn’t worth the legal expense, and especially the risk of a damage award should
The signs came down, the brand new menus were thrown
out. Everything was changed to read “Rudy and Paco’s”
Nothing much came
of Tomjanovich’s interest in investing in Galveston,
McConnell went broke then took his life; Fertitta sold his hotel to George Mitchell,
then moved out for a period; Whiteside sold her townflats and moved away; Olajuwon
didn’t buy the Balinese
Room; and George and Cynthia Mitchell continued with their Strand investing,
eventually selling two of their beachfront hotels to Fertitta.
them was the hotel that Fertitta had sold to Mitchell.
The Fullens retired,
Robert Lynch sold some of his Strand property. Tomjanovich moved to California
then retired, and so it went.
The two guys who began their venture with
little fanfare and not a large investment watched their business and its reputation
grow and grow.
People have always talked a lot about Rudy and Paco’s.
Galvestonians and those worldwide who knew him continued to call Teichman “Rudy
T,” in defiance of the obvious wishes of Rudy Tomjanovich.
Rudy T, 81, recently died. He had a hugely attended funeral at Sacred Heart Catholic
And Cathy Conlon-Townsend sent me a copy of a booklet that was
passed out at the funeral. It told about Teichman’s remarkable career.
though Teichman is gone, the restaurant’s name will remain the same, and Vargas
will continue to own his part and to operate it.
What’s the lesson? I’m
not sure that I know. Perhaps it is that self-importance often isn’t as grand
in the eyes of the public as it is in our own.
If that’s not it, it should
2012 – William
Cherry's Galveston Memories" September
6 , 2012 column
| Texas Town List | Columns
a Dallas Realtor and free lance writer was a longtime columnist for "The Galveston
County Daily News." His book, Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories, has sold
thousands, and is still available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com and other
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Cherry's Galveston Memories|