hannah gentiles

hiram carrera - the trading post

Originally built as a convenience store in 2000, with a plan to sell everything from snacks to alcohol for those working the onion fields lining the Rio Grande just outside of town, the Trading Post that now exists has gone through a few different transformations over the years — but both Rafa Carrera and his son Hiram agree that they are finally hitting their stride. Rafa built the structure with his own hands, adding bit by bit as the business grew and transformed.

Hiram first got a taste of working in the family business as a kid when he, along with his older brother Oscar, would fill in for their parents from time to time running the convenience store. His childhood memories range from chill to exciting — often encountering local characters. Ask Hiram about the Burro Lady — it’s a story you won’t forget. 

While Hiram speaks fondly of his time at the store as a kid, he never envisioned that he’d be back in Presidio running another variation — the bar and restaurant that exists today — but it’s clear  it’s where he wants to be:

“In September 2016 my dad and I opened up Presidio Trading Post & Cantina. At that time I only made the commitment to help set up shop and after a few months make my way back up to the Dallas-Ft Worth area, where I had been living since graduating from PHS in 2009. Almost every time I visited Presidio again from 2017-2019 I would work a shift or two at the bar, and it didn’t matter who came by — life-long locals, newbies, tourists — they would all show my parents love for providing them with a place to hang out and have a beer; they especially gave them praise when they started serving chicken wings! After seeing the consistent growth the business had in the years I was away, I decided to make the full commitment and take the workload off my parents’ backs in October 2019. Although 2020 was a difficult year, we’ve been able to grow Presidio Trading Post in a way I couldn’t have imagined in 2016. I don’t have an exact plan on where things go next, but I do want to expand the community we’ve built, where both locals and visitors can let their hair down a bit in an atmosphere that is welcoming to all. “

In sitting down with the growing number of young business owners & entrepreneurs & artists in Presidio, I feel witness to a movement happening here. Historically, young people in Presidio often move away in search of furthering their education and work opportunities, & few find their way back. Is that changing?

While the very understandable reluctance to newness is felt, overall you can sense a vibration. As Hiram & I talk about this shift, it’s clear he wants to be a part of it. Hiram is still trying to determine what that looks like for The Trading Post –– whether that involves bringing in more music & events, a variety of food choices, utilizing more of their space, or all of the above. It’s clear that he is not merely willing, but actually excited to continue building relationships & providing a place for the community to congregate, to feel welcome & to be fed. 

In light of this, there is great hope that those who get to be a part of the movement, & even help lead the way, will be community members, past & present. I ask Hiram what he might say to one of his peers who have, like him, spent time away, but are considering (even reluctantly) a move back or are interested in contributing to the growth. Relating to that challenge, he shares some thoughts;

“Since our business has been operating & evolving for over 6 years now, I feel we’ve proven that new businesses can thrive in Presidio, so I hope there is growth in our economy by way of new businesses, especially if there are new businesses that can supplement the already existing businesses in Presidio.” 

While making it clear that all are welcome to Presidion(with a reminder that his father was not originally from here &  certainly dealt with his share of challenges), he shares a desire for those in the community to get to be apart of that growth, adding:  “Presidio is an international port of entry for both people & many commercial goods, along with growing tourism from both the Big Bend State Park & Big Bend National Park, there is so much money to be made here, & I hope locals like myself that have left Presidio find their way back can be the ones that take advantage of that.”

Standing with Rafa & Hiram Carrera on the wooden deck at The Trading Post, hearing details about both the history of and the dreams for the future of the business, a couple of tourists coming from Big Bend Ranch State Park pull into the parking lot. The Trading Post sits just at the edge of town, at the entrance to “River Road,” a gorgeous roadway that runs parallel to the Rio Grande, with stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges, the river and over to Mexico. There is nothing quite like it. 

The guests were thirsty and looking for a place to take a break from their drive on this increasingly hot afternoon in early November. While the evenings have begun to be chilly, the power of the sun on the small town by the river continues to make for warm days. Despite being closed at this early afternoon hour on a Sunday, Hiram graciously opens up shop just for them. As he serves them cold beers on the porch, he engages with them about their travels, encouraging them to make a return trip when they’re open for food later in the evening and adding information about the increasingly popular karaoke on Friday Nights. The couple, clearly grateful for the respite and Hiram’s willingness to open, says, “Oh, I assure you we’ll be back.” 

Here in this remote town that rarely experiences much attention from the media,that’s how you earn new business: word of mouth and personal experiences. Hiram shares the frequency that he encounters new customers arriving with a tale of a friend who’d once come to The Post and endearingly spoke about their experiences. He explains that he tries to keep that in mind at all times when running the bar/restaurant, wanting to honor previous good experiences and encourage more positive growth. With a wealth of knowledge about the area, but also just a generally pleasant & insightful person to talk to,Hiram & his crew are doing an excellent job of ensuring The Post is a place you want to return to. 

“The best part about living in Presidio is the people; it might not be immediate, but once the people from here get to know you, they’ll have your back no matter what.”  - Hiram Carrera

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