Already proven entrepreneurs, Felipe and Celia Morales saw a need in Midland, Texas, for homemade Mexican food. Along with other family members, they operated several other businesses: a beauty salon, a barbershop, a record store and a financial and insurance company. However, Felipe and Celia decided to open a Mexican food restaurant. They traveled across the state to El Paso, San Antonio and South Texas visiting different restaurants. They talked to owners, took menus and worked with cooks to understand the best way to run a restaurant.
In 1977, Casita Gerardo’s opened. The café started with a small kitchen and seats for just 20 customers. Jerry Morales said, “Mom was a cook and Dad was the salesman. Mom was the financial guru and Dad was the marketer. We were the staff – my brother Novert , sister Cindy and I worked in the restaurant when we were not in school.”
Jerry shared that Casita Gerardo’s was a family adventure. His parents would open their insurance company and work there from 8 to 11 p.m. They would stop in and check on the kitchen to make sure things were going well. Dad would work the lunch rush and close the restaurant at 2 p.m. Then he would go back to the insurance business until time for the dinner rush. On the weekends, the boys would bus tables and Cindy would wait on tables. The boys would race to collect the tips, until someone told on them and they got in trouble for taking money from the servers. During the school year, Aunt Paula and Uncle Ruben would come over from closing their businesses for the day and work in the restaurant. Ruben would cook and Paula would wait on tables, enabling Felipe and Celia take care of the kids and make sure they got their homework done.
In 1984-85, Felipe and Celia decided to focus on their insurance business so Jerry’s uncles bought the restaurant. Uncle Art opened another location in Loveland, Colorado, while Uncle Alfred and Aunt Velma continued to run the original Casita Gerardo. Eventually the restaurant closed.
In the meantime, Jerry worked in Columbus, Ohio for a major restaurant company. When it sold, Jerry and his wife Meredith decided they wanted to come back to Texas. Although he acquired his insurance license, Jerry decided to take what he learned and reopen the restaurant his parents first opened. He purchased the building and in 1997, Gerardo’s Casita opened once again. The restaurant was open seven days a week and offered catering. Jerry’s first catering job was for a Chamber of Commerce function for 500 people.
In early 2000, Jerry and Meredith opened a location in Odessa that was quite successful. Although the restaurant did well, it eventually closed due to land costs. Next, they opened a location in Claydesta in One Wall Tower. Several years later, Mulberry Café opened. Meredith and oldest son Chris helped out when Jerry became busy serving on the city council and then as mayor of Midland.
Felipe passed away 3 years ago.; Celia is still supporting her kids and grandkids. In 2023 Jerry was inducted into the Texas Restaurant Association’s Hall of Honor. He is moving on to the next phase of life but says, “I will always be there for support, just like my parents were for me.”
The next generation has taken over running the restaurants and
has plans to buy out his dad. But Chris continues to keep the original family recipes and everything continues to be made fresh from scratch each day.