iluna@gatehousemedia.com

BROWNSVILLE - It all started in December of 1973 on the corner of Dallas and 15th Street in downtown McAllen, TX where Parra Furniture and Appliance Center and soon to become loan company first opened its doors.

The furniture and appliance/loan store was owned and operated by Jaime Parra Sr. and wife, Maria Alicia Parra catering to the Valley’s needs in basic home furnishing. After operating the McAllen furniture store for some time, surrounding competition prompted closure on the furniture side of business but kept the loan company going which still operates today.

It was immediately after in 1974 that the Parra couple would open a loan company and continue with the furniture side of business in downtown Brownsville, TX - its biggest store to this day, also called Parra Furniture and Appliance Center located on 744 E Washington St.

“We moved in 1993 (after renovating the building) which is where we are currently in downtown Brownsville and we’re still open and very much alive in the downtown area,” said Jaime Parra Jr., now the owner and CEO of Parra Furniture and Appliance Center.

Jaime Parra Sr’s. passing came unexpectedly on November 11, 2013, leaving behind Mrs. Parra, 88, who still drives to the Brownsville store every day and oversees the family’s properties in south Texas stretching from Eagle Pass to Brownsville.

Parra Jrs., sister, Mary Parra-Garza is also working alongside her brother as the bookkeeper of the furniture and loan store as well as his wife, Amanda, as the director of operations and right-hand person.

“My wife Amanda is with the family business as well and she’s the one who keeps everything organized with the business as my right-hand person and I can honestly guarantee you that she is my worst critic because she is on top of everything!” Parra said with heartfelt humor.

He shares that although he accompanied his father at the very young age of 10; taking over the family business was not something he had in mind.

“This is not what I wanted to do growing up,” Parra said with a chuckle. “I’ve been working at the furniture store and loan company since I was a little boy; sweeping the floors, mopping the floors, delivering the furniture, and even went door-to-door to collect,” he adds.

Instead, he wanted to be the “local hero” looking to join law enforcement but as time went on in the family business, he saw how working side-by-side with his father turned out to be a lot of fun and couldn’t have asked for the best boss, friend and critic.

Fast forward to the approaching new decade, Parra was unexpectedly approached with a new business opportunity he says landed on his lap by General Electric’s sales manager, Marc Ingram, and General Electric’s district manager, Orlando Gonzalez. The GE representatives asked if he were to be interested in opening a monogram-line store in McAllen, TX.

“It’s like a SubZERO, Wolf Gourmet-type of product which is probably the most sought after designer line in the appliance industry,” Parra said. “So I agreed to it and six months later I have Urban Signature Appliance by Parra.”

USA is a unique store because of its inventory in households needs ranging from luxury brands to basic lines.

“We are not strictly a designer line appliance store. We are anywhere from affordable to the signature line of appliances, we cater to everyone,” he said.

The McAllen store will carry brands like Fisher & Paykel, Thor, Beko, Elmira and Smeg, an Italian manufacturer brand of appliances along with outside furnishing brands like Webber, Broil King, Traeger, Coyote, Peak Season Inc., CR Plastic Products and Ashley outdoor furniture even going as far into selling fireplaces and fire chimneys being that outside kitchens are a popularity right now, Parra said.

USA by Parra will be operated with the help of cousin, Tommy Parra and will feature chief Elton who will host live cooking lessons once a month or every two weeks - something that is still in the works for customers to enjoy.

The grand opening for the McAllen store is set for Wednesday, Nov. 13 for the one-stop-shop-inside-outside-kitchen-outfitters as Parra likes to call it.

“[The Brownsville and McAllen] locations are for people with an affordable budget all the way to those who can afford signature lines,” he reminds.

Jaime Parra Jr. is proud of what his nearly 50-year family business has grown into, but does not plan to expand anytime soon at the age of 51; however, is happy to serve customers under two roofs now.