Going strong: Brownsville restaurant celebrates 85 years - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Going strong: Brownsville restaurant celebrates 85 years

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Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 8:30 pm

The Vermillion Restaurant & Watering Hole, which at some point in its history transformed from a mere restaurant into a Brownsville icon, celebrated its 85th anniversary with a brief parking lot ceremony on Tuesday.

The eatery at 115 Paredes Line Road started life in 1934 as a tiny, wood-frame hamburger stand on what was then the outskirts of town. Fred Vermillion, the original owner, sold it to G.L. “Gib” Davidson in 1951. Dan Davidson, his son, took the reins in 1971 after returning home from the military.

In January 2016, Davidson handed the keys to protégé and longtime manager George Perez, who started at the restaurant in 1980 as a 13-year-old dishwasher and gradually worked his way up. Davidson, who still comes in a couple of days a week to help out, said the Vermillion was ready for “new blood” and that selling the business to Perez and his wife, Iselle, was the right thing to do.

“I am so proud of them,” he said. “They have done a fantastic job. They run the place just like I would have done it, only better.”

Davidson, who nursed the business through two brutal peso devaluations, said he still loves the Vermillion, addressing similar heartfelt comments to the employees present, all of whom were clad in black T-shirts made especially for the occasion.

“I tell you what, I love ya’ll,” he said. “I maybe haven’t told you that over the 44 years. Sometimes I had to be the mean boss.”

Davidson marveled that even in its 85th year the Vermillion is as popular as ever.

Iselle Perez described Davidson as a mentor and role model, while also praising the restaurant’s employees and customers.

“We are well aware that to have a great place we must have great employees,” she said. “All our employees bring so much heart, hard work, dedication. We want to say thank you to our customers for giving us the opportunity to be here today.”

Perez recognized longtime employees Yolanda Garcia, Mary Lou Nieto, Tina Sauceda, Fide Vela and Tammy Villarreal, each of them receiving monogrammed, long-sleeved, button-front shirts in recognition of their years of service.

Taking his turn at the microphone, George Perez said “my employees are the greatest.”

“We have 52 employees that work here at the Vermillion,” he said. “Of those 52 employees, 50 percent have been here longer than 15 years. That is something that I’m real grateful for, them sticking around. ... I’m grateful for all their hard work.”

Perez said he felt “honored and proud” to be celebrating the restaurant’s 85th anniversary.

“I love the fact that Dan’s still here,” he said. “He gives me a sense of security. He’s only here once or twice or week. I know he’s going to be here. It’s like my dad being around and I’m good with that. I love it.”

Perez said the transition has been smooth, since it involved simply doing what he’d already been doing for years. The Vermillion’s continued success he attributes to not changing anything since taking over from Davidson.

“As long as we continue doing what we do, we’re going to be just fine,” Perez said.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com

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