JAMESTOWN – It’s harder to find a full-fledged family-ran business, let alone, restaurant, operate for any length of time in today’s age due to the increase in joint-ventures and other corporate conglomerates.
AJ Texas Hots, located at 824 Foote Ave., continues to be a successful family-operated restaurant. Chautauqua County, in fact, officially recognized the local eatery for its 50 years of service and dedication during an event at the restaurant Friday afternoon.
Sam Colera, President, Co-Owner and CEO, was in attendance. Colera spent some time with WNYNewsNow detailing the history of his establishment, which he founded in 1968.
Colera said he was very appreciative of the County’s recognition, which was delivered personally by Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello and his Executive Assistant and Ellicott Town Councilman, Daniel Heitzenrater.
Colera expressed his gratitude for being able to serve the community for over 50 years.
“It (the restaurant) made a good living for us,” Colera said when discussing the impact his business had on his family, in addition to the community impact.
Colera said he’s learned, throughout the years, how to efficiently own and operate a successful business.
“I learned how to own and operate a business. I had a little experience before because I managed my dad’s place in Brooklyn Square before the urban renewal came,” Colera said. “When that urban renewal came, and I had the opportunity to rent this building, I came up here.”
“We reached a peak at a certain time, and we’ve been good. Business has been terrific,” Colera added. “This year seams to be a little bit better.”
Colera believes, with hard work and dedication from his family, his business will last until at least its 100th anniversary in 2068.
“I won’t be here to find out, but I think it could, as long as the kids take good care of it,” Colera declared.
Colera’s daughter, Vicki Colwell, and her kids now own A.J.’s Texas Hots.
Colera said that he used to co-own the Michael’s AJ Texas Hots, located at 1265 E. 2nd St., but he sold his share in the restaurant more than 25 years ago.
WNYNewsNow also sat down with Borrello and Heitzenrater as they both enjoyed a meal following the declaration. Borrello said the long-term success of small businesses, like restaurants, is a bright spot to Chautauqua County.
“One of the great things about our county is that we have so many small businesses that have survived so many economic ups and downs and have survived and thrived,” Borrello said. “A.J.’s is one of those.”
“I’ve traveled for years, and you go to some cities, and it’s just chain-after-chain-after-chain, and to have a place like A.J.’s, where you can get this delicious meal in a family owned and operated business. It’s really one of the unique and special things about our area.”
Heitzenrater reflected on his childhood memories of frequently eating at A.J’s with his grandfather.
“The loganberry milkshake is definitely a favorite of mine, and when George wanted to do this proclamation, I said I’d love to tag along and help out because, as George said, it’s (AJ’s) a local institution,” Heitzenrater said. “I’ve grown up in this area, and it was a favorite spot to go for lunch after golfing with my grandpa. We’d always come here and get the hot dogs and loganberry milkshakes.”
“It’s definitely an institution.”