PUBLISHED: 11:52 AM on Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Votions spice things up at Tejano Corner
• 1961 Anka St., near Costco
• Monday-Saturday 6 a.m.-9 p.m.
• Takeout and dine-in (523-5610)
• $3-$8 menu items
Andy Votion wanted to share his San Antonio "Tex-Mex" cuisine with Juneau. After humble beginnings at the ANB Hall in downtown, Votion and his wife Sylvia Votion have opened a new Tejano Corner restaurant near Lemon Creek.

"We're basically a tiny family pulling together to make it a success," Andy said. "To me cooking is an art, not a job. I love watching people's expressions when they taste my food. That gives me satisfaction."

Walking into the restaurant is a flavor of the south for all senses. The bright colored walls are accented with sombreros and ponchos. Tejano music can softly be heard while the smell of spices come from the open kitchen.

After the closing of the Kelly Air Force base where Andy worked, the Votions moved their family from San Antonio to Juneau in 1995. Andy said he visited his brother Alfred, who had lived in Juneau for 13 years at the time, and decided it was time for a change.

"I went home and told my wife it's beautiful in Juneau, and we're moving," Andy said.

Andy said owning his own business always has been his dream. He originally opened Tejano Corner a few years ago by renting the kitchen in the ANB Hall downtown. He served two breakfast menus - "South of the Border" and "North of the Border."

"For north of the border, I served things like biscuits and gravy and bacon and eggs. Then south of the border were more traditional Tex-Mex meals," Andy said.

"There were several obstacles that were interfering. I would have to shut down if there were events going on in the hall and sometimes the kitchen would be left really dirty, and then I'd have to clean it up before I could cook anything. The people loved the food. Since then people would ask me when I was going to reopen. We were doing good, but a lot of things just weren't working there," Andy said.

He then went to work and became a substance abuse counselor for Gastineau Human Services. In November, he heard of a building for lease near Lemon Creek.

"He gave me a day and a half to think about it," Sylvia said. "He told me that we had to decide right then, and everything has happened so fast since then."

Opening the restaurant was delayed because Andy had blood poisoning, but he was determined to make his dream a reality.

"We really pushed ourselves to get this place open. There were times my brother and I stayed up for 72 hours straight and my wife would be up for 30 hours," Andre said.

Andre and Sylvia now live in a studio apartment above the restaurant. Andre said the support of his wife has given him the energy to make the business work.

"She's my backbone, my support," Andre said. "We'll be married 30 years in March and there's been a lot of experiences and sacrificing. When I told her I wanted to do this, she said she'd back me up. She's always been supportive."

Sylvia said the restaurant came together with the help of family and friends.

"Our three kids helped us and they have really good friends who pitches in. If it hadn't been for everyone pitching in, I don't know how far we would have gotten," Sylvia said. "When we opened, he (Andre) looked up and saw the people and just couldn't believe it. He was overwhelmed."

The Votions have a son, A.J. Votion, and two daughters - Toni Votion and Veronica Cary. Cary is married to Mark Cary and the couple have a 3-year-old daughter, Maricella. The Votions children are in their 20s and help at the restaurant while also working their regular jobs.

"When we sat down and approached the kids about what we wanted to do, we weren't sure what they would think. They help us all the time. Now we manage to see them on a daily basis," Sylvia said.

Veronica said her three-year-old daughter enjoys helping as well.

"She'll throw on her apron to help. She'll greet people as they come in and say, 'Welcome to my restaurant,'" Veronica said.

Andre said enjoying food as a family has been a value instilled at his home, and he believes no one should be turned away from a meal.

"When I was at the ANB Hall, there would be someone sleeping at the door, and I would bring him inside. Once he woke up, I would tell them to go to the bathroom and wash up because breakfast was waiting for them," Andre said. "I did that almost everyday. I wouldn't give them money, but everyone needs to eat and I could do that."

He said he learned much about substance abuse while working at Gastineau Human Services and now reaches out to the homeless to ensure they have food.

"When I was a teenager, I didn't get along with my father and I was homeless. The man at the recruiting office for the Marines would give me jobs to do and give me a meal ticket. I never went without food, and I'll never forget that," Andy said. "I believe in paying back and that's what I try to do."

Using fresh ingredients each day, Tejano Corner serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is two tacos and a coffee: a choice of taco ingredients from refried beans or spicy Mexican sausage to diced potatoes and scrambled eggs. Soft tacos also are served for lunch and dinner with a variety of choices such as ground beef, pork or grilled steak and ranchero sauce or chili and onions.

"A lot of people here think it's crunchy like at Taco Bell. Our taco is what a lot of people think of as a burrito," Andy said. "We adapted a combination of what we do with what people here are saying they are used to getting." Andy said. "It's a hit and people love it."