Two years ago, husband and wife Victor and Kelly Garza decided they had had enough of commuting from Pearland to Cypress to work in a cafe where the owner lacked passion.

Driving past 2251 Country Place Parkway, Pearland, one day, Victor saw a vacant building in the strip. He spoke to his wife, and in May 2019, the couple opened Country Place Cafe.

Things were hard in the beginning. Victor was using a griddle no bigger than a placemat to cook for the restaurant, and the couple used credit cards to afford to open, Kelly said.

“We jumped in with basically nothing,” Kelly said. “We did a lot with a little.”

With no money spent on advertising, Kelly said their restaurant felt like a lemonade stand where they hoped people driving by would notice it and stop in.

“It was scary at first,” she said.

However, it was the right move for the couple: They wanted to be their own bosses and build a life together they could love, which they are achieving, the Garzas said.

“We enjoy what we do,” Kelly said.

Victor agreed, noting many restaurants have become too formulaic in their approaches, which prompted him to start his own eatery.

“I think we lost all the heart in cooking,” he said.

As the name implies, Country Place Cafe serves country food, specializing in breakfast. Victor makes homemade turkey sausage, jams and salsas, and the restaurant serves chicken, pancakes and waffles, shrimp and grits, and burgers, among other classic meals.

Victor, a chef for 30 years, said cooking is all he knows, and he will be doing it until the day he dies.

“If there’s a heaven, I’ll be up there doing it, too,” he said.

The Garzas employ their children, which is both a help and a challenge. Each child has their own role in the restaurant, but the family does not always agree with each other.

“Sometimes I don’t know if it’s harder to work with the people you live with or live with the people you work with,” Kelly said.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the business hard, forcing the family to pour all their funds into the restaurant. To this day, the Garzas have an unfinished home bathroom they were in the process of remodeling when the pandemic began.

Regular customers stepped up to help with one even donating $1,000 to the restaurant to keep it afloat. The Garzas have established genuine relationships with their customers, who in turn establish friendships with one another, even sometimes paying for each other’s meals.

“That makes us so proud,” Victor said.

Kelly said her favorite thing to hear is Country Place Cafe, which is located near a gas station, is just a hole in the wall.

“We’re small and ugly, but we’re sweet on the inside,” she said.