ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – In 1937 Mexican immigrant, Domingo Garcia founded El Fenix, an authentic Mexican restaurant not far from Downtown Abilene. Now, 85 years later, the building he worked out of has been demolished. Although, this location holds another special meaning to the Garcia family, as it was their home for much of that time.

Domingo Garcia Jr. with mother and father

“It’s a part of me because I was born here,” said Domingo Garcia Jr., building owner.

Now condemned by the City of Abilene, Garcia and his siblings had the home torn down. He said it was in disrepair and full of asbestos, but nobody was using the building or living in it for many years. He said it was still a difficult decision to make.

“If the City hadn’t have told me to tear it down, I wouldn’t have,” Garcia explained.

Before crews came in to perform the demolition, Garcia and some of his siblings recalled a few memories of the old place one last time. Before opening El Fenix, they told KTAB/KRBC their father had a delivery service of sorts, known as Joe’s Tortillas – named for his oldest son.

“My dad used to go sell tortillas,” Garcia remembered. “[He’d] Load them up in a station wagon and go to Anson, all these little towns around here.”

Original “Joe’s Tortillas” card

Over the years, Recipes were added and El Fenix was born. To the family’s delight, the community couldn’t get enough. The Garcia family home became a gathering place for El Barrio Zancudo, the surrounding neighborhood of historically Hispanic and black residents.

“It was like a town within a town,” Garcia painted. “After church everybody would come over here… It was amazing how many people would be in here and you’d have people waiting outside, too.”

Through times of segregation, Garcia said his parents were welcoming to all.

“Even though he wasn’t allowed to, he would bring them back to our dining room and still serve them with pleasure,” Maria Salazar, youngest of the Garcia children, reminisced.

Upon Garcia Senior’s passing, his wife Maria took over. Even though she spoke no English, she ran the restaurant well and made herself a service to the community.

“If people didn’t have food, she would bring them food,” Garcia said, adding to his mother’s spirit of giving.

Salazar continued on her brother’s thought, “She was able to say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ And they knew who she was.”

Maria Garcia with daughter Olivia

After Maria retired, the kids took up the business. They ran the original location and even opened a second location, which ultimately saw the closing of the first.

“When the other opened at Burro Alley, people wanted to go to the new El Fenix – the big El Fenix,” Salazar explained.

While the recipes live on, El Barrio Zancudo – much like the building – has somewhat crumbled. Nonetheless, the Garcia children expressed gratitude to the community for the years their family got to spend within it.

“I just want to thank the community for giving all the business that they have here when it was here,” Garcia said.

Salazar added, “If it wasn’t for you, El Fenix wouldn’t have happened.”