Raymondville BBQ spot wins top small-business award

JR Infante and his sister, Cissy Infante Guerrero, celebrate winning Rural-owned Business of the Year from the Small Business Administration for their restaurant, Tucker's BBQ located in Raymondville. (Rick Kelley/Valley Morning Star)

RAYMONDVILLE — When it comes to smoke, there are no short cuts.

And this kind of attention to detail, coupled with a family atmosphere, has landed Tucker’s BBQ one of the biggest business awards in South Texas by being named Rural-owned Small Business of the Year by the Small Business Administration.

“Come in, sit down. We know most of the people by name,” said Cissy Infante Guerrero, who with her brother, JR Infante, is co-owner of the restaurant. “We make the barbecue fresh every single day. My husband’s the pit master, Michael. I think consistency is what sets us apart.

“The star player is the brisket,” she adds. “And I think neck-and-neck for second would probably be our pork loin and our chicken. But everything’s good, because my husband babies it all morning long. Usually about 4:30 or 5 o’clock to get the fire going, get everything on, and we cook fresh every single day.”

Tucker’s originally opened in 2009 in Lyford — she and her brother were “born and bred” there — but moved operations to Raymondville in 2017.

“We were very blessed,” Cissy said. “The Raymondville EDC was able to kind of persuade us to come into Raymondville, and the Small Business Administration provided so many wonderful stats that, how could you deny the numbers? We bought the property and my husband and my brother, they built this building.”

The restaurant is named in honor of Cissy and JR’s father, who, naturally enough, was christened “Rudy.”

“Well, his name is Rudy, but they used to call him Tucker, Rudy Infante,” Cissy said. “All his friends called him Tucker. Well, they were a bunch of guys who hung out and a number of them were named Rudy or Rudolfo, so they started calling themselves ‘tocaya,’ which in Spanish means someone who has the same name.

“So somewhere in the ‘80s it turned into Tucker,” she added. “It just kind of stuck.”

The SBA Small Business Awards are part of National Small Business Week, which is May 3-9. It recognizes small business owners who demonstrate staying power and a history as an established business with at least three years of business operation. Winners must also show growth in net worth and business expansion, increases in jobs and sales, innovation in products or services, response to adversity and contributions to community-oriented projects.

“It’s truly an excellent time to recognize the importance of small business ownership and to celebrate model entrepreneurs who use innovation to solve problems, create jobs and whose enterprises contribute to the growth and prosperity of the Lower Rio Grande Valley District,” said Angela R. Burton, district director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley District Office. “National Small Business Week is one of my favorite weeks.”

The import of the regional recognition at Tucker’s BBQ did not go unappreciated after a phone call informed them of the award on Thursday.

“The girls clapped and did a whole round of applause,” Cissy said. “We did a little jig. It was cool.”

Likewise, brother JR was in a celebratory mood Friday.

“Oh man, we love it!” he said. “We’ve been doing this almost 11 years and, I mean, we finally got to our own place. It’s been great. Great, great, great!”

Both Cissy and JR say, despite the accolades they’ve received, they don’t anticipate expanding or changing what is working for them now.

“You do one thing, and you do it well,” she said. “A lot of people want us to add certain things to the menu, but if you do too much, you spread yourself a little too thin and we really, really take pride in cooking that barbecue just right.”

Or as JR puts it, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”