Next time you find yourself craving Mexican food for lunch or dinner, Skyline Burrito Bowls is the place you need to go. It’s one of Lufkin’s best, winning Best Burrito in The Lufkin News’ “Best of Lufkin” contest three times and runner-up twice since opening its doors five years ago. Whether you’re in the mood for a burrito, taco salad or nachos, Skyline Burrito Bowls allows you to customize your order so you’re getting exactly what you want. Their customer service is nothing but stellar, and the food is so good that you just keep coming back for more. This family-owned business credits its success to God, and they put their heart in every single ingredient they put on your plate. Their food is prepared from the freshest ingredients, and owner Tavo Velazquez says the key is his mama’s secret recipes. You can find me in this place multiple times a week getting lunch or even just a fresh juice. I decided to sit down with Tavo and ask him a few questions about this local favorite.
Q:Tell me how Skyline was born.
A: When I tell people that Skyline is God’s business, they look at me and smile as if it’s the “correct” thing to say. When I was at my former job, I felt as if there was more to my life; I felt unfulfilled. So I prayed a simple prayer, thanking him for what I had, since he’s always provided, and asking him give me a sign if my feeling had come from him. Within a week, three different people told me about a spot set up for a restaurant in the mall. So I made an appointment to view the space. Before going to the meeting I made a list of everything I would need to start up a restaurant. Once I calculated the numbers, it added up to about $70,000-$85,000 and I didn’t even have 3 percent of that in my account. I was about to cancel the meeting since I wasn’t financially prepared, but something told me to go through with it anyway. When I walked in, there was about 50 percent of the equipment I needed just sitting there, waiting for me to use it. Halfway through the meeting, I excused myself and walked in the hallway and prayed again: “Lord, you have provided half of what I need, but I still don’t have enough for the other half. If this is your will, I need you to provide the other half.”
Before I could finish, the maintenance man asked me to walk with him. He took me to another spot in the mall which was a former restaurant, and he said, “If you sign the lease on that spot, you can have anything you want from here.” He then opened the doors and the place was full of equipment, the other 50 percent I was missing! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I ended up selling all the equipment I didn’t need to help with the startup capital for rent, inventory and payroll. Skyline is the first business I know that started out 100 percent debt-free.
I asked God, “why me?” His reply was “tithing and offering.”
I wasn’t always perfect in my tithes and I wasn’t always happy giving them, either, but that never stopped me from giving. I have learned that there is so much hidden value in tithing than just giving the church your money. There is instant obedience, faithfulness, discipline, money management skills and, most importantly, trust. Not you trusting him, but God trusting you.
I may be the owner on paper, but God is the real owner of Skyline. I simply ask for wisdom to run his way.
Q:I love your fresh juices. I admit that they are my favorite in town. What’s your secret?
A: Simple — we only use fresh fruit, no canned fruit, no powder, all natural ingredients with a little bit of sugar and a pinch of love.
Q:In 2012, you took this photo (to the left) of Lufkin firefighters praying at Skyline that went viral. How did that happen?
A: It was a simple picture I took to thank them for stopping in. I didn’t even realize they were praying until I was about to post it. I believe the reason it went viral is because it was such an innocent picture that was powerful at the same time. It was never about marketing or promoting Skyline. It was a simple thank you, and that’s why I never put it up in the restaurant. That picture has been viewed by millions all over the world in places like Mexico, Canada, U.K., Netherlands, Italy, Spain, North Korea, Brazil, Japan, Germany, Philippines, Australia and Africa. One day it will hang in Skyline. God had a plan for that picture; I’m just the one that took it.
Q:Tell me about your food and why you think everyone loves it so much.
A: It’s my mama’s recipes. Who doesn’t like a home-cooked meal? A lot of love and hard work go into food, and people can see and taste the difference when someone loves what they do for a living.
Q:You have such an amazing relationship with your customers. I’ve noticed you know just about all of them. Why is this important to you?
A: They aren’t just customers; they are people. Some are like friends and some are like family. I view them as my audience, as my responsibility. Skyline isn’t just my business; it’s my platform, my stage. My life is an audition, and if I can’t help or take care of the customers I have, I will never be able to handle the bigger dream/blessing that awaits around the corner. Skyline gives me the chance to make someone smile for the first time that day, the chance for them to forget their problems, the chance to give them hope. It gives me the chance to make them feel wanted, appreciated and loved. If I can’t do that for Lufkin, then I won’t be able to do it for the rest of the world. Every day is an audition and every day I get closer the next plan God has for me.