By Laurie Stone: PNT Correspondent
Editor’s Note: This story is part of a recurring series about local business owners who have been with their respective businesses for five years or longer.
Tom and Gail Martin, owners of the Taco Box in Portales and Clovis, have been in the restaurant business for over three decades. Gail works behind the scenes keeping the books while Tom works within the business taking food orders, cooking and interacting with the employees and customers.
Tom’s career as a restaurateur began at the age of 21 when he responded to a notice on a bulletin board at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., during the spring semester of 1969. A franchise called Taco Box International, based in El Paso, was looking for franchisees.
In the summer of 1969, one year before graduating, Tom opened his first Taco Box restaurant in Farmington with his partner, Ron Dudas.
“When I came out to Farmington, I had never been west of Mississippi,” said Tom. “I had never eaten a taco and I thought the mild green chili was the hottest thing I had ever eaten in my life.”
Martin said he has encountered many obstacles, but said he wasn’t smart enough to be afraid of failure because of his age. Instead, he lived through his failures by working them out.
Over the years, he said he has learned to be a more cautious, watchful and diligent businessman than when he first began his career. Since then, due to his charitable nature, he has helped many in the Clovis-Portales microplex.
“He doesn’t do things for people in order to get an award or to be seen,” Gail Martin said. “He does them to fulfill a need within the community to make it better.”
He instrumented an incentive program to encourage good grades called “Tacos for A’s.” He also helped organize “Smoke on the Water” for Clovis, which raised money towards fireworks for the Fourth of July. Other activities Martin has helped organize include “Feed the 5000” at Clovis High School and “Tour De Taco,” a bicycling tour from Clovis to Portales.
According to John Snowberger, Tom’s friend, what makes Tom unique is his integrity.
“He has a great attitude,” said Snowberger. “He donates his time, his money and his expertise to things that build the community.”
The Martins plan to continue operating Taco Box for five to 10 more years, with no plans for expansion at the moment.
“This business has provided me with a nice life and I don’t strive to obtain more than what I already have,” Tom Martin said.