Hispanic Entrepreneurs Oral History Project
Summary of Interview
Ricardo Villarreal parlayed the knowledge he gained working as an electrician for the United States Navy during the Vietnam War into several successful El Paso businesses. Under the umbrella of Villarreal and Sons Enterprises, a company he began twenty-five years ago, he and his family now operate Villarreal and Sons Electric, Alpha Tech ELP, Alpha Tech C.E., and Greengo Alternative Energy. In this interview, Villarreal remembers his early experiences working as a busboy for El Paso’s Grigg’s Restaurant. After landing the job at the age of thirteen, he so impressed the owner with his work ethic that within a month all six of the other busboys had been terminated, leaving Villarreal as the sole busser. Villarreal maintained this tremendous work ethic when he entered the Navy after high school. Calling his military service a “tremendous experience,” he took advantage of every opportunity to learn. Eventually, the Navy assigned Villarreal the position of small U-boat electrician during the war. Post-war, Villarreal trained for two years as a Navy SEAL, although injuries from a car accident ended that dream prematurely. After his 1979 discharge, he enrolled in college under the G.I. Bill to study electrical engineering, ultimately completing his degree at the University of Texas at El Paso. Although NASA offered him a job at their Goddard Facility while still a student at UTEP, Villarreal chose instead to stay in El Paso, his birthplace and hometown, and start his own business. Villarreal goes on to describe his companies’ many services and functions, as well as his own passion for training and teaching top-notch electricians. He also discusses his employment policies, and talks at some length about the business climate of El Paso, the “hardest market in the United States.”
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
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Interview with Ricardo Villarreal by Edmundo Valencia, 2009, "Interview no. 1524," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.