CDRE 28 | Mexico


Tony Haro is an investor, restaurant owner, and friend to his community. He’s been investing and serving people in South West Missouri for many decades. He loves his family, his customers, and friends. Originally from Jalisco, Mexico, Tony made his way to America to help his uncle run a farm and has been here ever since. He is proud of his successful children and mostly loves to spend time with his grandkids.


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A Million Miles From Jalisco, Mexico With Tony Haro

I bought 35,000 agave plants in Mexico a few years ago with a buddy of mine and his friend from Jalisco, Mexico named Tony. I have to introduce you to this guy because if you’re going to make a crazy investment, you want to do it with a guy who refuses to quit and asks a lot of questions. Being curious and asking as many questions as he can is what’s helped my friend and business partner, Tony Haro, become one of the most successful real estate investors that I know.

He’s equally as successful in business and relationships. He came to America at sixteen years old and now holds an incredibly profitable real estate portfolio. If you ask how he did it, he’ll tell you that he figured it out as he goes. My job on this show was to be as curious as I could be to help uncover some of the secrets for you. Here’s a hint. Accept help when offered, stand your ground, and never stop learning.

More than anything, don’t let anyone plant a belief in your head that doesn’t serve you. Your resilience could break a generational curse of poverty, depression, or anything. That’s why I refuse to believe that nice guys finish last. Tony will prove it to you. There’s a lot jammed into this episode, including a new tequila recipe, Tony’s iced tea-quila. You knew about it first right here. Maybe one day you can get a bottle of it. Tony, where do you think that comes from? It’s beautiful.

I don’t know. It comes from our old people back down there. You stay at the house until you get married. If you get married, you leave.

My grandpa was the same way, as a matter of fact. That was from a very agricultural family because they needed help on the farms there. I had a friend who is a doctor here in town and he’s a Muslim. He came from the Middle East and he said that if you left your family, it was considered a dishonor to your family. You were abandoning them.

In Mexico, it doesn’t matter if you’re 40 or 50 years old. If you’re not married, you still live at the house. Unless you want to leave but you don’t have to.

Did your kids help at the restaurant growing up?

No. I don’t want them there.

Why not?

It’s hard work. I want a better job for them. No, they don’t help us. They go there sometimes. If I messed up the computer or something, they go and update or so but they don’t work there.

Your kids are hard workers though.

They are hard workers.

How do you teach them hard work without letting them do hard work?

We don’t teach them. It comes naturally. My older girl started working at the zip line over here when she was sixteen years old. She worked there for 3 or 4 years. My little girl wasn’t even sixteen when she was working at the Bigfoot. One day, she goes, “Daddy, do you think he’s there?” I say, “He might.” She goes, “Can you stop by and ask if he can hire me?” I said, “Yeah.” Darryl was there and I said, “Darryl, do you have a job for this girl?” “Sure. Come on. Get off. I’m going to go, sign her up, and all that.” She started working on the spot.

He knew that if she watched you at all, she was going to be a hard worker. You modeled the hard work.

It was funny because she worked there for almost three years. One day, we were there and he said, “Galilea, why don’t you quit school, stay here, and work with me as long as you wish?” I said, “Darryl, come on. You’re my friend. You don’t do that.” We’re good buddies.

How long have you run that restaurant?

We started in 2006 over in Saddlebrooke.

You were where Hector was.

We were there for eight years. When Clyde Lorance, the gas station owner, tried to charge me $1,500 of rent, I said, “No, I don’t think so.” We moved down. We went to Nixa, thank God.

Are you renting that space?

Yeah, we’re renting that space.

It seems like you’ve been there for a while. For everybody reading, your tacos are the best. They’re life-changing. Not only that but I always appreciate the advice you give me on cooking my meat-smoking endeavors. You gave me some mole peppers and a great recipe for a marinade, which I use. You’ve educated me a lot on what the different cuts of meat are, barbacoa, and things like that. It’s funny talking to you because you seem to enjoy preparing food and the people. I wouldn’t say you complain but you talk a lot about working hard and getting up early. What time do you get up to open the restaurant?

I get up every day at 2:30 in the morning. It takes me about 15 minutes probably to warm up and get ready to leave but most of the time, 10 minutes after 3:00, I’m over the restaurant.

What are you doing? Are you packing and prepping food?

The thing is that we didn’t save anything from the previous day because there was nothing left.

We don't save anything from the previous day because nothing is left. Click To Tweet

You tell people, “I’m out of food?”

Yeah. Sometimes we had to close early because we ran out of everything and I’m not going to start cooking again. In the morning when I come in, the first thing I do is get everything prepared. I season the meat, pork, sausage, bacon, and all that. I start to get ready.

How many people do you feed in a day, you and your wife?

I would assume that on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, each day, we probably serve around 350 to 400 people a day. That’s just me and my wife, just two of us. It is hard work. Being there, we enjoyed it so much because we got a chance to talk to people. My wife does have more chances because I’m on the back. Sometimes, people are looking for me back there and waving to me. They inspire me more because people appreciate that.

There’s a community there that seems like you love. A lot of people go to work every day and do their job. Whether it’s their business or just a job, they go to work. It’s different for you it seems like. It’s taken me a while to figure that out about you. You talk about working and hard work a lot but it’s taken me a while to fully understand how much you love talking to people every day, how much that sense of community inspires you, and how lucrative in a way, not just fulfilling but a lot of people know you and what you do because you get a chance to talk to them. People get to understand some of the other things you do and you’ve become known as a guy who likes a deal. You become known as a guy who might buy a piece of property or some equipment.

We are in the right spot there because I know a lot of people. Most of the people that go in there, I know exactly what they’re doing for life. Some of them buy and sell tractors. Some of them are real estate, like you. They go in there and are like, “I got a good deal coming up. You might be interested.” I’m up to the opportunities. If there comes an opportunity, I’m not going to let it go.

People know that. You know all the police and firemen.

I know state troopers, all the fire departments, police, and chairs around there. I never tell anything to anybody about this. Whenever a police, sheriff, or state trooper goes there, we never charge them one penny. They appreciate it.

I bet and it’s a way you can honor them for their service.

Some of them are new. They go in there. We say, “Sir, it’s on us.” “You can do that?” I say, “Why not? If something happens at my house, I’m going to call you and you’re going to go. You’re risking your life. Why can’t I give you a little bit of what we have or what we do?” They appreciate that.

That’s a way to make sure they’ll always show up at your restaurant and protect you.

I always told them, “Not because I gave you this. If I’m doing something, I’m not the person that can avoid that. You arrest me and pull me over. That’s your job. If I do something, I’m a man and I have to pay for it. Not because I gave you breakfast and lunch. You got to do your job.”

Everybody wants to try to do something but a lot of us don’t know how to help or contribute. Everybody contributes in the way they can. If you can do a little extra, you can feed people in your community.

It’s like your business or my business. You can’t please everybody. There’ll be always somebody who’s not going to like you or he’s going to talk something about it. He’s going to post it on Facebook or you pay something stupid but I don’t listen to them. They can speak about your business and whatever they want. That’s their decision. This is their point of view. Not mine. I probably don’t like it but okay.

You can’t please everyone. There will always be somebody who’s not going to like you. Click To Tweet

If you’re not pissing people off every now and then, you’re not living right. It took me a while to realize that I used to be one of these people who was a people pleaser. I didn’t like conflict. I didn’t want people to not like me. I would do everything I could to try to please people, which is a good thing. Except sometimes, if you’re living right and doing things the way you’re supposed to do, you’re going to come across people that don’t live right and they’re going to be irritated by you. That’s why we need good men and women in the world so that we can irritate those people who don’t live up to our standards. Has anything like that ever happened to you where you don’t even know why somebody doesn’t like you?

There are a few people who have been going there and then they posted something on our page but I ignored them. I learned how to ignore them because I cannot get with them every day. If they want to talk about it, that’s fine. Not because one guy doesn’t like you mean everybody doesn’t.

It usually means they’re having a bad day anyway.

One guy says, “I’ll make a trip from Mozart to your restaurant. When I got there, it was one minute after 2:00 and you were closed.” I said, “We close at 2:00.” He posted it and said, “I hope you go broke.” I said, “I’ve been to the United States in 1981 and I never go to Taco Bell. They’re not broke.” It’s as simple as that. There are some restaurants that you don’t like and go to. There are some restaurants that I don’t like and go to but I didn’t talk bad about them. I respect whatever they have

That’s got to be a quote for a T-shirt. “I’ve been in the United States since 1981. I’ve never gone to Taco Bell and they’re not broke.” There are some different strokes for different folks. We met in a way through a community. One of my agents who was starting to take off was Brad Youngblood who knew you. How did you and Brad meet?

I met Brad when we were over at Saddlebrooke and he was working for this company. He used to stop up there every day to get his breakfast from us.

You’ll see him when he gets some burritos from you.

Yeah, every day. He’s a good guy. He’s one of the best guys I have ever met here. I love Brad and his family. We became good friends.

Same here. He introduced me to you. What’s interesting is that you guys were exploring the opportunity. You purchased a farm in Mexico in Jalisco. You wanted to start your brand of tequila. Since we’re talking about it, let’s have a little tequila while we’re talking about this. What did you bring here?

It’s what I call an iced tea-quila.

What is it?

That’s tequila with iced tea. It’s got some vanilla on it.

Did you make the iced tea also?

We did make the iced tea, yes.

Is it a special brand of tequila?

We work and get them into the market.

It’s your recipe. Let’s open it up here. We’re going to pour over a little bit of ice here.

This is not a tequila that you can drink like a base but it’d be good after a meal. When you have your good meal and a little bit of this, it’ll settle down.

Cheers. That’s good.

It’s got some sweetness but not that much.

It reminds me of the maple syrup we had with Nathan. It’s dark but not syrupy. It’s not thick. It’s very light. It doesn’t smack you in the face like a lot of tequila would.

It’s got 32% alcohol.

I could see putting a lime in that or a lemon. That’s nice. You could even put a little lemonade or a sparkling fizzy.

You can do whatever you want in it.

Thank you for bringing that. That is good. This is something you want to bring to the market someday, iced tea-quila. You guys were starting down the entrepreneurial journey of seeing what it would be like to create your brand.

This is the deal. Brad and I talked about it. I did some research because I got some friends down in Mexico. They have the distilleries and all that. Every time I go down there, I go over, see them, and talk about it. I’m not asking straight questions because they might not have an answer but I try to catch one here, catch one there, and all that.

Just try to pick up little bits of information around there.

I learned because it caught my attention. One time that I went there, they had that bottle of tequila that I wanted and he said, “Do you want that with a label or without a label?” I said, “Why do you ask?” He said, “With label, there’s so much. Without a label, there’s not so much at all. It’s a different price.” I say, “Is it the same tequila?” He goes, “The same thing. One got a label. I hate to pay 50% taxes to the government.” They caught my attention. We did some research on how much agave extract we need to make a bottle of tequila and the volume is pretty high. A friend of ours who’s Brad’s cousin says, “We’ll grow the agave and then you guys talk about it.”

That’s when I got involved because we were starting to track the success rates and the commodity prices. It seems like there’s a four-year rise and peak in agave prices.

It waves.

With agave, what we learned is that piña is pineapple in the grounds, a gigantic pineapple. You have to harvest that whole thing so you’re ripping the whole plant out of the ground.

Just to get that. When you get that, I’m pretty sure after eight years, there are smaller ones. It might be 35 kilos or 70 pounds but you strip the whole thing to get to it.

Every year, you have to replant your crop and it takes 6 to 8 years to grow a piña big enough to make quality tequila.

It takes six to eight years to grow a pineapple big enough to make quality tequila. Click To Tweet

Enough sugar on it.

It seems like what we figured out is that the bigger the piña, the more quality sugar is. First of all, I never invest in a product. I usually invest in the person who’s leading the product. Brad had told me so much about you and you had started to invest with him. You seemed like you were on the cutting edge of the short-term rental business in Branson and made a lot of money there with Brad. I knew that you were an entrepreneur and that you were a good man.

You are a friend of a friend and that’s all I need. I got a chance to know you and figure out what kind of man you are. I appreciate the opportunity to know you and do business with you because you are a good man. You’re an inspiration because of how hard you work and where you’ve come from. You’re from Jalisco so you knew a lot of people in that area and there’s a lot of distilleries there. It’s an opportunity for us to create or get involved in this booming tequila business. It seemed like China had opened up its borders to tequila. The demand had gone way up.

There are only two distilleries in the state of Jalisco and they’re owned by Mexicans.

Who owns the rest?

Chinese and American people. Chinese own most of them but there are only two distilleries. The older ones, Jose Cuervo and Sauza, they’re the only two that are owned by Mexicans.

I didn’t know that.

They gave me an idea of how big the demand and the market are.

Just because the taxes from the Mexican government were too much for us to make a profit, we decided to sell the commodity. You said, “I bought this farm.” Tell us about your farm. How big is it?

The farm is about 200 hectares. It’d be about 400 and some acres. We have some cows here.

That’s a big farm. Tell us about the property, lakes or streams?

We’re on a stream. We have a dam in there. We had a big old pounds and running water through the property. It’s all a combination of working on the cows and all that. We got big old corrals in the house. We got about 120 mama cows.


No, we don’t plant any corn. We have the agave.

In the beginning, it seemed like you were planting some corn between the rows.

In the beginning, the plant was too small. In two years, we did it. After that, the plant takes over and we cannot do that anymore.

The plants were too big to plant a corn. One of the things that I trusted about you was that if you didn’t know how to do something, you’re the guy who’s going to figure it out. The people that were working for you seemed like people that you knew and trusted.

Both of them are part of the family and they always stay on top of them. I know the engineers from there. If they have any problems with the disease of the plants and all that, they go down to the town and talk to the engineer because I told them to do it. He told them exactly what they had to spray with so we could kill the disease.

That was news to me too that there are agave plant engineers who advise you.

They can tell you exactly what kind of fertilizer to put in there and all the chemicals they need to spray to kill the disease and prevent the disease too.

Agave plant engineers can tell you exactly what kind of fertilizer to put in there and all the chemicals they need to spray with to kill the diseases. Click To Tweet

It seems like that was our first major a-ha. These bugs are going to get to it and we’ve got to do something about that. We also bought certified plants too.

They were certified plants that we bought from the distilleries.

What we learned was that a certified plant is a small pop.

They will be the first pop from the plant.

It’s like a little offshoot.

It’s an offshoot but the certified plants only grow one time because when you put the plants on the ground, it takes three years for them to start popping out some plants. That’ll be your number-one certified plant. In the second year, there’ll be some more coming up. They’re not going to be as good as the first one. That’s what they said there. The first plants after three years will be the best.

We could plant those if we want but we’re probably not going to get the best rating from engineers and won’t sell for as high of a price.

It probably takes more money to get them out and try to sell it.

What seemed like another expense was we’ve got to keep weeds away but then there’s also these offshoots that shoot up that go through the leaves of the existing plant. We’ve got to make sure those are cut off because that’ll destroy the plant.

Every first week of May, we get them out.

There’s a lot of vigilance, wouldn’t you say? There’s a regular labor cost for us to do this.

There are guys there every day on top of them and all that. This is the deal that has been working for us. I told them to keep an eye on the plants. If they see something wrong in one plant, there might be just one but they have to walk the whole field and figure to find another one. They cannot go and spray that plant only. They had to spray the whole thing because the roots go underneath. Even if you kill it on top but the roots get to the other plants, it’s going to spread out. What I’ve told them is, “Whenever you see something, you spray the whole thing, not just the plant.”

The roots go underneath. Even if you kill it on top, the roots get to the other plants, and it's going to spread out. So whenever you see something, you spray the whole thing. Click To Tweet

There’s a lot at stake because we bought a lot of plants, didn’t we?

It was about 35,000. That was a lot.

How long have they been in the ground?

They’re several years.

That’s a long-time return on your investment but we’re hoping it’ll be a good payoff.

We’re up for it.

Not just the money but what’s interesting is the experience and also the hopes that we might be able to grow our plants with sugars that we can be proud of and bring a brand to market. There’ll be a combination of both. We’ll have a private reserve and sell some to maybe Jose Cuervo. I don’t know. Maybe we’ll sell some to the Chinese distilleries and the US distilleries.

We may decide to make our tequila.

Whoever wants to pay the most. That’s neat. I can’t wait. This farm was a real estate investment for you?

It was owned by, not an old man, he was my dad’s age. He was the president of a pretty good-sized town. He was my dad’s good friend. I remember when I was a kid, my dad used to go to the town and see his friends. One day, he says, “Salvador, I bought a nice farm by San Nicolas.”

That’s your dad, Salvador?

Yeah, my dad. He said, “I’ll let you come out one day and look at it.” It’s nice. Time goes by and one day, my dad says, “We’re pretty close over here. I’ve seen his truck going up to San Nicolas, probably to the farm.”

How old were you at this time?

I would say 9 or 10 years old. I was in the truck with my dad getting along with him. We went up there. His friend was at the farm when we got in there. He was like, “Come on. Look at this old house.” In their house, probably the ceiling was 20 feet tall. Put all the adobe houses. I was impressed with that. It goes from here all the way back. You see the mesquite tree up there. It was beyond that. I said, “Just to walk there, it’d take me about half a day.” I was thinking in my mind. I see I had a nice dam full of water, nice corrals, a shower for their cows, and all that. It was nice. When we left, my dad said, “I can’t imagine how much money he had to pay.” I’ll get that on my mind.

What did your parents do growing up?

Farming. My dad was a hardworking man. We were ten in the family and I’m the eighth in the family. We grew up not having anything. We don’t have anything. All my brothers and my sister were born in different houses because we didn’t even have a house. We’re bouncing from house to house, who people let him use the house to live in.

Did your dad work for a farmer or just farm whatever land he could farm?

He farmed whatever land. He didn’t own the land. People let him use the land on the half. Whenever they harvested, half was for the owner of the land and half for my dad. That’s how we grew up. We plowed the fields with mules and walked behind a plow every day back and forth. That’s what I did growing up. We plant some peanuts, corn, and all that. We don’t have a chance.

We did go to school. My brothers went to school to third grade and I went to sixth grade. When I was twelve years old, I got out of school and helped my dad for a couple of years. I see that it wasn’t for me. You borrow some money to plant the corn, peanuts, and all that to support the family. When it’s time to harvest, you sell part of the corn and the peanuts and pay here and there. We ended up with nothing again. Every year, it was the same thing. I said, “It’s not for me.”

Farming is not for you. At what point did you make the decision to make a change?

I was about fifteen years old when I started telling my dad, “I’m going to try to go to the United States.” He said, “It’s hard to cross.” My Uncle Mike, my dad’s brother, the youngest one, was my godfather too. I was sixteen when he went down there and said, “I bought a farm in Missouri. I need you to go down there to take care of the cows and horses that I have there. Would you like to go?” I told my dad and he said, “It’s up to you.”

Talking with people around two friends and myself, we decided to go to Tijuana and try to cross the border. That was it. We make it. We went to California and then from California, they flew us down to Chicago. Two days later, from Chicago, my uncle brought me down to the other side of Saddlebrooke. He had a 400-acre farm there and left me there.

You worked on the farm.

I didn’t know anybody. I couldn’t speak English or drive. I was in the middle of the land there.

No instructions?

Nothing. I didn’t even know what the name was of that dog but I knew the guy that was in there who was a white boy. His name was Danny so I called that dog, Danny. He was listening to me. Wherever I go, he goes with me.

You’re sixteen years old. You crossed the border to the United States. Your uncle says, “You’re going to work on my farm.” He gave you no instructions. You named a dog Danny. This is your life.

There was a good friend of my uncle. He became one of my best friends. His mom had a farm about 1 mile from there. It was a big old farm. It was 569 acres. One day, he went down there and I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He opened the door and said, “Get in.” I went in there. He took me to Allstar. Allstar used to be a store called Consumer. It is a grocery store. He bought me some groceries and all that. He took me back. Every weekend, he was doing the same thing.

He was taking care of you.

Three months later, I started to understand a little bit of English. One day, he went down there and said, “Come on. Let’s go and see my mom.” I hump in the truck with them and we went over there. He introduced his mom, the sweetest lady I ever met.

Did she take care of you?

She took care of me. She goes one day, “Tony, I want you to help Leo on the weekends if you can. I’ll pay you $25 a day to cut wood, fix fence, and all that.” I was like, “Sure.” That’s how I learned a little bit of English. I was sticking out with Leo there cutting wood and fixing the fence. When it got to 12:00, we’re going to the house and she had a good meal every time. I wasn’t having that. She used to wash my clothes and all that. She had done it like I was her grandkid.

During the week, you farmed, and then in the off times and the evenings, you would go work for her, make a little extra money, and then she’d take care of you.

On the weekend, Sundays and Saturdays.

She was somebody that would be a mama to you a little bit.

I stayed there by myself for almost two years. After that, my dad, mom, two younger brothers, and younger sister came from Mexico to the United States.

To that farm?

Right. My uncle brought them here to the farm and then I said, “Why don’t you let my dad and my brother stay here and I go to Chicago?” My uncle used to own a heating and air conditioning company. He says, “If you’d like to come over, you work here.” I moved to Chicago.

What did you do in Chicago?

Heating and air conditioning for seven years.

You worked with him and learned heating and air?

Yes, I learned all that.

Which did you like better?

Heating and cooling. It was a nice and good experience.

You had to work on uncle things.

My uncle was hard on me but he would want me to learn. He says, “Always remember that you might have $1 million saved but there’ll be somebody out there who might try to get it from you. Whatever you learn, nobody’s going to get it from you. Whatever you learn can make you $1 or $2 million more.” It’s a great philosophy. He was a good old man.

Whenever you learn, nobody's going to get it from you, and whatever you learn can make you one or two million dollars more. Click To Tweet

At what point did you start buying real estate? One of the things that people don’t know is that you own a lot of real estate. One of my favorite things about you is that you seem to always walk into a good deal. You seem to be charmed and blessed in the ability to find a good deal. You’ve formed a community. You love to cook for 400 people a day. Everybody knows you and loves you. There’s this community of people that are like, “There’s a farm for sale. Tony will buy it.” If it’s a good deal, you’ll buy it. They know you don’t buy things if they’re not a good deal.

There are the best opportunities when you know a lot of people. The opportunities will come. You asked me when was the time that I started buying real estate. I used to come every year to help my dad sell the cows and all that. I flew back to Chicago 2 to 3 times. I know a lot of people who sell barns and all the big people who own big farms.

In ‘92, me and my wife got married. You got to find a good woman. I brought her over to Chicago. A week later, the old woman called me and said, “Tony, I want you to come down. I’m getting too old and I’d like to meet your wife.” I told my wife, “Come on, let’s go down to Missouri so you will meet these good people down there.”

When we came, she said, “Tony, I want you to buy this land.” She has 569 acres there. I said, “I ain’t got no money to buy it.” She goes, “No, I want you to have it. I want $250,000 for the land and you tell me how much money you want to pay me per year, one time a year. I’m going to leave it up to you. I’m going to carry the note at 2%.” I don’t know. I got to think about it. I’m never coming in my dreams. When my uncle came over and dropped me here in Saddlebrooke, it was 1,100 acres. I told my uncle one day, “Why don’t you buy this land? It’s for sale. It’s right off $65. It’ll be good potential.”

Let’s pause and tell everybody what Saddlebrooke is. It’s a large-scale real estate development. What’s the name of the developer who came in?

Clyde Lorance.

He came in, bought up all this land, plotted it, and made Saddlebrooke an actual city. He had done this in another part of the country very successfully but he did it in our area in the worst real estate market in history. It didn’t pan out. When we talk about Saddlebrooke, we’re talking about a lot of plotted lots with not many homes. It’s catching on as a very upscale community but your property was adjacent to this.

Also, the other side of the Bull Creek. We bought that property. I had to go back to Chicago. I asked three of my brothers if they wanted to go in with me because, for me, it was too much. I had a house in Chicago and made payments over here. Three of my brothers said, “We’ll go with you.” There were four of my brothers and we bought it. Every year, we were paying for it and all that. She says, “You’ll have to let me stay here as long as I wish.” “You stay there as long as you want. I don’t care.” That’s how we bought this property. That was the first property that we owned. It was 569 acres.

That’s getting started with a bang right there.

In 2005, my wife and I moved down from Chicago to that property.

Were you done with the heating and air at that point?

I was done there.

Was there something that happened that you didn’t want to do anymore?

No. The thing is that after I was working with my uncle for seven years, he closed down the company. I was like, “What am I going to do?” My brother and I created H&H Heating & Cooling because he used to work for my uncle too. We were teamwork.

You started a business here in Missouri.

No, it was in Chicago. H&H Heating & Cooling. I was doing service. I did installations and all that for 2 or 3 more years. After that, I said, “I want to do something different.” I’m always doing some talking with people. I thought I was going to be a truck driver. I bought a semi-truck and I was a truck driver for ten years.

Did somebody teach you how to drive it or did you just figure it out?

No. There used to be a training in school. Believe it or not, I went to train in a school for truck driving.

I didn’t know that you drove trucks. How long did you do that?

For over ten years. For 2 to 3 years, I drove across America.

Were you starting to have children around this time?

We had. My wife used to go with me and my children. They come along and ride with me. We had a nice rig. When we moved down here, I quit driving. I remember I went over to switch my driver’s license to Missouri. She goes, “Would you like to give your CVO?” I say, “Nope. Get them out of there.” I don’t want it. We moved into the old house and the farm that we had because she had passed away three years before.

In 2005, we moved down here, I don’t have a job or anything. One day, I was driving around Kirbyville and saw a lot of sawmills over there. I was like, “Where are you guys buying your logs and all that?” “Cedar.” We have a bunch of cedar. I bought a chainsaw and all that. I was cutting one trailer full of cedar logs a day.

Off of 500 acres, you logged your property and took it to the mill.

Every day, they come and get one load. I pile it up for them and load them up. I was making $380 to $400 a day. It wasn’t bad but it was hard. I started at 4:00 in the morning. I don’t get home. My wife used to bring me breakfast and lunch there. I got home at 4:00. Bob Case was the name of the guy who came and got it. One day, said, “Who’s helping you?” I said, “Nobody. I’m by myself.” There was the story.

One day, I had a company from Chicago. I told him, “I’m going to Saddlebrooke to get some beers.” I went down there with Clyde Lorance. He was like, “Tony, give me advice on how to make this deli work because I’m losing money in the deli. We sell hamburgers, chips, hotdogs, and nachos. I don’t make no money.” I was in a hurry because I had a company at home. I said, “Put a Mexican restaurant.” After that, my phone started ringing. “Tony, why don’t you put a Mexican restaurant?” I’m like, “I never run a restaurant. I don’t know how to cook.”

You never drove a truck or how to do heating and air. You have no instructions for running a farm. He saw something in you. He saw the man that I see, the guy that can do about anything.

He says, “Come on. I don’t charge you rent for six months.” I said, “Clyde, I don’t know anything about cooking. On top of that, you have to put on a hood and whatever you need.” He spent about $20,000.

You didn’t know anything about cooking?

No. I went home and told my wife, “Clyde Lorance says that we can put a restaurant in there.” She goes, “What do you know about cooking?” I said, “No, but you know how to cook. You just cook like you cook at home.” That’s how we started. We started Saddlebrooke in 2006.

It’s a different guy doing it now but people still go up to Saddlebrooke for those chorizo burritos in the morning. It’s good food. It’s hard to get good Mexican food in Missouri. You have got to go where Mexican people go to eat it.

As Mexicans, my family and I never go and eat at a Mexican restaurant.

Where do you go?

We like Chinese but not all of them, just a few. We love Italian. That’s where we go. We put a spectacular Chinese food.

Your wife taught you how to cook then?

Yeah. I had a great wife. My best investment is my family. You could have 20 houses and 20 properties but you got a chance to lose them. When you invest in a family, you will never lose them. They’re always going to be your family, the ones staying behind you. That’s the best investment you’re ever going to make.

Your best investment is your family. When you invest in your family, you will never lose. They're always going to be your family. Click To Tweet

If you can help it, you’re going to leave them a legacy of properties. Every time I talk to you, it seems like you’re buying another property. One time, I said, “Tony, how are you? Good to see you.” You’re like, “I bought another property for about $200,000 that’s worth about $400,000.” What is your process when you decide to buy a property or not? What do you look for?

The number one rule that anybody should fully understand is deal flow. You get a lot of deal flow because you talk to a lot of people so you have the opportunity to say yes and no to a lot of deals. You have good relationships with people in town and you’ve invested in those relationships with bankers and people like that so you get the call first a lot of times. That’s important.

I remember my dad always told me, “As you’re growing up, opportunities will come in your life and you got to grab them. It might come once every ten years or twice but if you don’t grab it, you lose the opportunity.” Every time I see an opportunity, I’ll grab it. An old man said, “If you’re going to build a house, you got to have a good foundation. If you don’t have a good foundation, the house is going to come down. You got to be in that position.”

What does a good foundation mean to you?

It means you have to have a good relationship with the bank and have some money and good credit to start. If you don’t have that, might as well don’t get it.

What else do you look for in a deal or an opportunity?

If you’re asking for an opportunity, for me, at the time, you’re going to sign all the paperwork and make sure that you already make $20,000 to $40,000. Otherwise, if the property you buy is worth $300,000 and you’re going to pay $300,000, that means you’re going to have to wait 4 or 5 years to make $20,000.

You’re saying you don’t buy a property unless you make $20,000 to $40,000. You have to know what the value of the land is. How did you start learning it? Did you ask for help? Did you have a realtor?

I talk to a lot of people like you and Brad. I catch things from you guys or any investor that comes over at the restaurant to a T. At the restaurant, I’m in a good position because there are a lot of people who go there and I always ask.

In your questions and conversations, you’re asking people, “What are land prices like? What’s the market like?” You’re picking up information.

I know a lot of them. I always ask, “How’s the real estate market? What about housing and all that?” “It’s so good.” One day, my godfather said, “Smart people ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask.” That’s a good philosophy.

Smart people ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask. Click To Tweet

Another big win for you was the tiger sanctuary land. Tell us that story. It’s on the tiny Christian County border. That’s between Branson and Springfield as you’re driving up. There’s a tiger sanctuary there that you may have seen. I don’t know if it was that tiger sanctuary or another one but if you watch Tiger King and you look at the documents, somebody in Branson had bought a tiger illegally or something. There’s this tiger sanctuary where people can go and look at tigers but you owned that land at one time.

A friend of mine used to own the original tiger sanctuary. I used to own the one right next to it, which they needed that too to expand.

That’s raw land that you owned. Was there anything on it?

No, it was a house. I bought the property when I sold the land to Clyde Lorence on the other side of the creek. We didn’t come by the story.

This is when Clyde was still buying land for Saddlebrooke.

He was selling a lot of lots in Saddlebrooke. He thought he was going to run out of land.

Was this before the market turned?

It was right in there in 2005 and 2006. He told me one day, “Tony, tell you brothers I want to buy the land.”

Is this the land that the woman sold the house to and Clyde wanted to buy that?

He wants to buy it. I said, “Clyde, they don’t want to sell it.” “Come on. I’ll give $1,000 an acre.” I said, “No.”

What was the land selling for at that time?

We had listed it for $800 an acre and didn’t sell it 2 years early.

It wasn’t selling at $400. He was going to offer you $1,000 an acre and you said no. Most people wouldn’t do that.

He said, “Tell your brothers.” I never did talk to them.

Were you afraid that they wanted to sell it?

One of them wanted to sell. The other two won’t. A week later, he wrote, “Tony, I love your land and all. I wanted to buy the land.” I said, “Clyde, my brothers don’t want to sell.” I didn’t even ask my brothers. He’s like, “$1,500 an acre.” I said, “No.”

Why did you say no? Why did you not talk to your brothers?

It’s because I don’t want to sell it. I wanted to stay there. I’m a country boy. I grew up in the country.

Plus, it’s sentimental.

He said, “Did you talk to your brothers?” “No, but I will tonight.” The next day, he called me, “Did you talk to your brother?” “Yeah. They don’t want to sell it. “Tell them to put a price on it.” I said, “No, they don’t want to sell it. He’s like, “Okay.” A couple of months went by and he still called me every day. He wanted to buy the land and all that.

One day, I told my wife, “I haven’t talked to my brothers and I ain’t going to tell them but he wants to buy the land. He’s going to pay for it.” One day, he called me, “They said that they’ll sell it but it’ll be $2,700 an acre.” That weekend, I got a call from a friend in Chicago. He was going through Mexico. He said, “I would like to stop by and say hi.” “Sure.”

In the morning, he came in with a brand-new Hummer. He’s sitting right in the front of the house. We were having breakfast and I saw Clyde Lorance go on his four-wheeler. He says, “Tony, you got company.” I said, “Yeah, this guy from Chicago came over and looked at the land.” He said, “Whatever you do but let me have the last chance.” About a month later, he bought the property for $2,750. That’s what it is. I love Clyde Lorance. I respect him. I love the man and his family. We become good buddies, friends, and all that.

He was a businessman. He was going to break it up and sell it into lots. He was going to make money.

The thing that he said was, “I want you to carry the note for 24 months and I’ll pay you 6% interest money on it.” I was like, “Sure. Why not?” After I had done that, I called my brothers and they all agreed. They had to agree. That’s how we sell that. We split the money between me and my brothers. Everybody went on their way. One brother got 200 to 300 acres in Ava. Another brother’s got 200 acres over by Marshville. Another one bought a $500,000 farm.

Your brother in Ava is a good cook too. He’s got a restaurant there.

They’re busy.

I’ve been there. That’s beautiful. It’s a great breakfast.

That’s how I started in the real estate business.

That woman gave you a break. She cared deeply for you.

That was a gift from her.

Isn’t that special? She sowed that into your life. That’s very special. That’s good that that turned into a seed for you to be able to continue to invest and provide for your family in an amazing way. To buy and sell land and run a business, at some point, you had to become an American citizen. How did that happen to you?

To tell you the truth, I gave my citizenship or my green card with the amnesty back in ‘86.

Was there a legislation?

It was the Ronald Reagan amnesty and how we became US citizens.

It worked out for everybody. You became this anchor to your community which is giving back to law enforcement because you appreciate it. You do a lot for a lot of people. You’ve helped Brad and invested with him as a partner. We’re investing together in some great things.

Great things have been happening in our lives because we came without having anything. We made it so far. I have a beautiful family. I have a beautiful wife and a hardworking woman. I got three beautiful girls. I’m a grandfather. Thomas is a blessing. I had a good time with him. My older girl is a speech therapist. She got a degree in speech therapy. My middle girl is taking her Master’s degree in Clinical Administration. My younger girl is going to start her Master’s degree in Criminal Psychology. She works at Cox.

Nobody wants to be a real estate mogul like Dad.

I don’t think so. They need to focus on their career.

What advice would you give somebody who maybe wants to start investing in real estate or somebody who is already investing and wants to take it to the next level? What kind of rules do you go by besides making money when you buy? Is there anything else that you might share?

Do not be afraid to invest in real estate. Go for it. In real estate, you can’t lose in there. If you buy real estate, at the moment that you sign the paperwork, you have to make sure that you’re going to make $20,000 to $40,000. The economy and housing market might drop but not lower that you’ll be able to lose money.

Don’t be afraid to invest in real estate. Just go for it because you can't lose. Click To Tweet

If you want to hold the property, you’re building in that margin. You can always rent it out if the market drops so you don’t have to sell it. If you’re going to sell, sell it for a high price. It seems like you hold a lot of property too. Do you have any selling rules?

Whenever somebody comes out with the money, I’ll sell it for the right price. It’s like when Brad and I sold the lodge. He called me and said, “No, he won’t give you $750 but he’ll give you $720.” “Sell it.”

You guys did great on that.

Why not? It’s a good margin of money. You always can invest in that so we invested.

One of the things I want to be sure that people don’t miss is that your dad took you to that land in Jalisco and put an idea in your head that you refuse to believe. That idea was, “We’ll never be able to afford this.” Did you think about that a lot? What was it that made you rebel against that philosophy and think, “No, I am going to have this and go for that?”

Ever since I’ve seen the land, on the way back home, I have been asking my dad a lot of questions. When you’re 8 or 10 years old, you ask too many questions. Sometimes, most of them are going to be stupid questions but they’re good questions. “How much do you think he paid for it? How much cattle can he put in there? Do you see the dam? It’s beautiful. How much did it cost to do that?”

Even back then, you weren’t afraid to ask questions.

No, I always ask questions. He said, “He paid a lot of money, money that we’re never going to have. Always put that in your head.” My dad doesn’t have anything because he was born poor. He was a poor hardworking man. Taking care of ten kids in the family is not easy. Back then, we didn’t work or anything. We’re just planting corn and peanuts.

I grew up and came to the United States. One day, I got a call from my friend down in Jalisco. The old man already died so the family entered that farm. He called me and said, “Jose is selling his dad’s farm.” “What farm? The one in San Nicolas?” He goes, “Yes.” “What did he want for it?” “I don’t know. Do you want me to go and ask?” “Yeah, go and have a meeting with him.”

The next day, he called me and said, “He wants too much.” “What’s too much?” “$450,000.” “Did you walk the farm around?” “No.” “Go and walk around.” He did. A week later, he called me and said, “It was nice. It has a lot of spring water running all year round. It never goes dry. He’s got corrals and showers for the cows. He’s got a big old house and another house. He’s got everything but he wants $450,000.” “Give me his number.” He gave me his number and I went right at it. We fought for a month on price but I’m making him come down to $300,000.

You bought that land that your dad said you would never own. It has 35,000 agave plants on it and cattle. You have a business in the United States and a farm in Mexico, in your hometown. You’ve got a big family who calls you from Mexico and tells you where the deals are. You’ve got an entire community in Southwest Missouri that tells you where deals are and a family that you love.

When you’re an honest person, that’s what you found. When you have a lot of good friends and good people, they’ll take care of you. It matters that they can whenever you need it. That’s how we bought it. I always tell my wife. If you want to have a good wife, she can back me on everything. If I tell her something, she’s like, “It’s up to you.” She had never been for anything under this.

Tell me the joke, which you told me before about a book for men.

How do men know about women? Is that the one?

Yeah. What’s that one?

There is a friend of mine who used to work at the bank. That’s how I met them, at the bank that I was banking with. He’s a writer. He’s got a lot of books on Amazon and all that. One day, he went there and I was like, “How’s the books?” “All good.” I said, “Shane, did you ever want to make the best book? I’m going to tell you how to write the best book you’re ever going to write. It’ll be the best seller and the simplest book you’re ever going to write.” “What do you have in mind?” I say, “Get a book. Don’t write anything. On top, write in there, ‘What man knows about women,’ and leave it blank. The last page is To Be Continued. That’s it.”

It’s not even a journal. It’s just a blank book on what men know about women. You got lucky you’ve got a beautiful wife and kids. Tony, it’s a pleasure to know you and an honor to call you a friend. Thanks for telling us your story. It’s a good story. It’s good to know you.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity. I’m not the person who goes and tells my stories to anybody. I’m a pretty reserved person. I got good friends but I won’t tell everybody. Not much of the guy that goes and tells everybody what you have or not to have. You have what you have and you deserve it.

If anybody could see you, they wouldn’t know what’s behind Cabela’s hat and the button-up shirt. They don’t know the hard work and the wealth that’s behind that. That’s what I admire about you. The quest I’m on is to build that for myself and my family and do a very similar thing. I want to tell a very similar story.

You’re doing well, though.

Thank you.

I was like, “You can see the smartness of this person right through his eyes.”

It doesn’t feel like it sometimes but thank you.

One day, I was working at the restaurant and one guy came in. I always see this guy around 10:00 in the morning. He goes, “Tony, can I ask a question?” “Sure.” “How do you make your money?” “Like you, getting up at 10:00 in the morning.” There are some questions that you don’t have to answer but there’s always an answer for them.

He was asking though but some things, you have to figure out on your own. That’s that work ethic you can’t teach. You have to want it.

I’m a hard believer that if you have a mind to invest in properties, business, and all that and you have a good wife to back you up, you ain’t going nowhere.

That’s what it takes.

It takes a couple to walk together.

It’s not just children. It takes two to multiply God’s blessings on our lives. It takes both. It takes prayer together, thinking together, and doing business together. Every morning, she’s up in the front of the house and you’re in the back of the house. It’s a good life. The next time we do this show, we’re going to be releasing our brand of tequila. We’ll be able to call it tequila because it is made in Jalisco. It won’t be mezcal. I can’t wait for that. This is good. It is. Let’s sell some of this somewhere legally someday.

It takes two to multiply the blessings of God's blessings on our lives. Click To Tweet

Tony’s iced tea-quila, I like it. A big thank you for reading the end of our show. Your time is valuable. I hope you got a few takeaways that are going to help you get a greater return on that time. I know you will. If you did enjoy it, I’d sure appreciate a share or a comment. Feel free to subscribe for instant access to new episodes and offers. There’s also a ton of free content and ways to learn more and engage more at Until then, we’ll continue to bring you recipes for success and real stories from real people who, like you, are living out their divine purpose. God loves you. No matter what happens, don’t give up.


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