He brings margarita-ville to Lakewood

Plenty of successful entrepreneurs with palatial offices talk about the early days of their endeavors, when they worked from a bedroom or the garage. Later, their badge of success is a big office with a prestigious address.

Restaurateur Mariano Martinez Jr. has tried it both ways, but he decided five years ago that his Lakewood estate was by far the most comfortable and economical place for his office.

Today, the man credited with inventing the frozen margarita and a do-it-yourself frozen margarita drink mix manages his corporate affairs from a remodeled guest house that also includes an office for his wife and company vice president, Wanda, and a small but well-equipped workout room.

“(Working from home) is something I wish I’d done years ago,” says Martinez, who owns three restaurants in the Dallas area and is working on a concept for a fourth.

“I get more done than I ever have before, because I have fewer interruptions. I don’t have any meetings here, and no one ever drops in on me. I love the control of my time.”

Martinez’s few corporate employees also work out of their homes and maintain contact via telephone, facsimile machine and computer. His mother, for example, does most of the paperwork in Dallas, while the controller works from her home at Possum Kingdom Lake.

“We have fewer employees and less overhead, and we’re more productive – just the opposite of what one would expect,” Martinez says.

The couple seldom looks past the front gate of their two-acre property to entertain or be entertained. When the weather is nice, they relax on one of several decks attached to the house or in a gazebo in a far corner of the grounds.

Other times, they screen movies in a compact private theater that includes a bar stocked with hundreds of bottles of tequila and other liquors and an adjoining wine cellar. A music room with a baby grand piano is located downstairs in the formal part of the house, which also includes an upstairs library.

The house, built in 1944, has been transformed during the nearly 20 years the couple has owned it – since shortly after their marriage and about two years after Martinez opened his flagship restaurant, Mariano’s Mexican Cuisine, in Old Town Shopping Center.

Over the years, they have watched as other young families also bought into the idea of Lakewood’s continued viability, restoring and remodeling surrounding homes.

“After I convinced the lender that the area was good and we bought our house, we started to see quite a resurgence,” Martinez says. “The opposite of what the lenders said would happen has happened. From what I see, it’s just getting better and better.”

East Dallas has been the couple’s home for most of their lives. Both attended Woodrow Wilson High School in the late 1960s. Martinez grew up in a middle-class neighborhood and learned about the restaurant business while working at the Lakewood El Chico, where his father was part-owner and manager.

Ms. Martinez’s father was an oral surgeon, and her childhood home is just two blocks from their current home. The couple met as teenagers at Lakewood Country Club and started dating almost immediately. Marriage – and house hunting – came about six years later.

“I felt good the minute I set foot in this house,” Martinez says. “I love living in an older house because it has that sense of having been here a long time and that it’s going to be here for a long time to come. I’ve never regretted my decision – this house and the area fit us perfectly.”

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