Local businesses prosper through generosity

May 20, 2009 4:45:59 PM PDT
The owner of a Houston restaurant chain says he's done well during these tough economic times partly because he's giving away money. That's making his restaurant a big hit with schools and Little Leagues.It's not even five o'clock on Wednesday night and already Los Tios restaurant in Meyerland is filling up. Nancy Gordon came all the way from Clear Lake for the food and the money.

"We love coming here," Gordon said. "We come here all the time and tonight is special because they are helping St. Thomas out."

At least one night a week Los Tios designates a school for its "fiesta night," and then gives the school 20 percent of the night's sales. Tonight, Saint Thomas Episcopal stands to make hundreds of dollars.

"A lot of people are surprised," Ronnie Hellenberger, Los Tios manager, said. "They go, 'You give 20 percent back to the schools?!' And so they're excited and they appreciate it, and schools stand in line to do it."

The school giveback was the idea of Hellenberger who wanted to get more involved in the community while generating new business. Now schools even promote their own fundraising night to make more money.

"This deal just sort of evolved," Gary Adair, Los Tios and Skeeters owner, said.

It's become so successful that Adair now does the weekly 20 percent giveaway to schools and Little League teams in each of his four Los Tios and nine Skeeters restaurants.

"They are going to make money for their organization and we're going to be introduced to people who wouldn't normally eat in our restaurant," Adair said.

Adair says the promotions have kept people coming back to his restaurants during tough economic times. For him and his customers he says it's a win-win situation.

"He's nice to the school and community, so we try to be loyal to him," Paul Shaklovitz, St. Thomas parent, said.

Adair agrees with this sentiment.

"If it's good for you at the end of the day, it's going to be good for me."

For Adair at least, giving away money has been a good way to make it.

Several local businesses are known for giving back. Academy, Chick-Fil-A, and Kroger also all have programs that help out local schools and Little League teams.

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