Banker’s Business Savvy Rooted In Mother’s Corner Grocery
Roy De Leon’s 35-year banking career and a lifetime of being involved in business and entrepreneurship all began in a neighborhood grocery store on north Texas Avenue in Mercedes – just blocks away from the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show grounds.
De Leon’s Grocery Store with Lydia De Leon as its owner, manager and chief executive gave her son the early grounding in business and customer service that has served him well in a three decades-plus banking career.
De Leon saw how his mother knew her market and adjusted accordingly. During the weeks the Livestock Show was running, Lydia De Leon extended her store’s hours, increased her inventory of beer and soft drinks, and added plates of hot food to her offerings. The holidays found the De Leon store stocked with toys. She gave credit to trusted customers and kept close track on collections.
“This was before the days of Stripes and 7-11s,’’ De Leon said of her mother’s business hey days that ran through the 1960s and 1970s. “In her own way my mother knew about target marketing.’’
De Leon recently reflected on his youth and lessons learned from his parents from a corner office at BBVA Compass in Mercedes, where he serves as a senior vice president and branch retail executive. His life beyond banking has been steeped deep in community involvement. De Leon has been on the board of South Texas College for over two decades, representing Mercedes, La Villa, Edcouch-Elsa and parts of Weslaco, as an elected official. He has helped guide the college from its infancy of one main campus to having multiple campuses in Hidalgo and Starr counties.
The community college today has a combined enrollment of over 30,000 students. The college’s growth gives De Leon great satisfaction in knowing so many Valley youth have opportunities in higher education far beyond what he knew growing up in Mercedes decades ago.
“My biggest thrill is seeing our (STC) students and the caliber of graduates,’’ said De Leon, who is also a former Mercedes city commissioner. “We’ve added so many programs over the years and developed our (STC) reputation and made higher education much more accessible to our communities.’’
The changes in higher education locally are more than matched by the changes De Leon has seen in banking over his long career. The days of what he calls “old-fashion banking’’ are long gone and loan decisions today are not based on personal relationships as much as potential customers needing to meet complex factors and formulas to be loan eligible. De Leon today acts a seasoned counselor, advising those seeking loans and assistance on how they can shore up their personal and business finances to increase their chances of being loan eligible.
“You always show respect and demonstrate dignity for all customers,’’ said De Leon, who has also worked in management positions for International Bank of Commerce and Laredo National Bank. “You try to help them find solutions.’’
Those lessons in business and life were learned long ago at the neighborhood grocery on north Texas Avenue.
“My Mom use to say, `the more you give, the more you get back, and she wasn’t always referring to it in just monetary terms,’ ’’ De Leon said. “I’ve seen that in my life. I’m the type of person that enjoys giving back to my community. I’ve never forgotten where I came from.’’
- Ricardo D. Cavazos