August 31, 2022 1123 PM
PRESIDIO — Last week, Presidians braved the rain and mosquitoes to help celebrate the Pink Flamingo’s second anniversary. Each night the trailer offered up a different special, and kids of all ages elbowed each other to get a place in line for their favorite flavors. The dessert institution has been serving up raspas and other frozen delicacies since the summer of 2020, providing a cool place for neighbors to beat the heat in the early evening hours.
Manuela Avila and her husband, Jeremy Velasquez, started their business as a pandemic pet project. “Quarantine was a blessing, because it prompted us to do something,” said Velasquez. The trailer quickly became so much more than a side hustle. Before they came to Presidio, they bounced around bigger cities — trying out a new café and lingering over coffee or dinner is something they miss about urban life. “We don’t do it to make money — we opened it up as a place for people to hang out,” Avila explained.
Before starting Pink Flamingo, Avila and Velasquez knew most people in town through their roles as dentists at the PCHS clinic. While raspas — shaved ice with flavored syrup, typically drenched in chili and chamoy — may not be the most widely dentist-recommended snack, the pair found that it helped their patients in ways they couldn’t predict.
“When we first started, our patients would show up and see that it was us taking their orders,” Avila explained. “After that, they’d come to the clinic and we were just normal people to them, not these scary people in white coats.”
Since their first days in Presidio, the pair had noticed the trailer — a retro 1969 Avion — quietly rusting away behind EditBody Fitness. They wondered if it was for sale. Eventually, they got in touch with the Olivas brothers and made an offer. “I was like, it’d be cute to do a snow cone place because of the trailer and the vibe,” Avila remembered. “That’s exactly what [the Olivases] used to do. We bought it, and there was already all of the equipment inside.”
Avila and Velasquez started out slow — whatever flavors happened to be at Porter’s is what they would sell. “We didn’t even really know how to take orders,” Velasquez said. Still, the neighbors seemed excited, and eventually their business grew to the point that they could make their own flavors. Tiger’s blood — a mix of watermelon, strawberry and a hint of coconut — seems to be the community favorite.
In addition to serving as a gathering place, they’re hoping their business can provide some structure to the lives of Presidio youth. They try to keep their hours as consistent as possible so they can employ high school students for after-school jobs. Growing up in Fort Stockton, Velasquez had his pick of a number of fast food chains to work at on the weekends for extra cash — an opportunity that doesn’t really exist in Presidio. “After school, there’s nothing for them to do,” he said.
In order to work at the Pink Flamingo, teens have to submit a resume and go through a formal interview process. “It’s their first job, their first interview — they don’t really know what they’re getting themselves into,” Avila explained. “We tell them it’s okay, that we’re just trying to prepare them for the outside world. We encourage them to go to college and leave Presidio, then come back and help the community.”