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Business Top 100: Women-owned business: Puente Enterprises seeks to meet needs of travelers

Top 100: Women-owned business: Puente Enterprises seeks to meet needs of travelers

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Gina Puente was born with expectations of greatness. Her given name is Virginia Ivy Puente so her initials would be VIP, the acronym for “very important person.”

As a child, she stood out in dancing, singing and acting on stage and in television and radio commercials. She received her first paycheck at age 9 for performing in South Pacific at the Dallas Summer Musicals.

While attending Texas Christian University, she chased the spotlight by majoring in broadcast journalism and participating on the Miss Texas pageant circuit.

But soon after graduating, destiny led her to her true path of stardom: business and entrepreneurship.

Throughout her childhood in Fort Worth, her father wedged in time between her dancing and singing lessons and performing to make sure she learned the ABCs of business at Southwest Office Systems, the company Victor Puente Sr. founded in 1964 as a typewriter repair business.

Victor Puente grew his business into the largest minority-owned, independent office equipment dealer in the Southwest but he was always on the lookout for a good investment. In 1989, he purchased three newsstands at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Puente worked at the newsstands during the summer and learned the business. By this point, her older brothers, Victor Jr. “Buddy” and Vince, were involved in running Southwest Office Systems so the newsstands would become her opportunity for success.

In 1991, she joined her father, Victor, in the concessions business.

“It was very exciting,” she said. “But it was a lot of hard work and it was seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year because that is when the airport is open.

“I had my dates come out and meet me there because I was always working,” she said.

Once she conquered the mechanics of managing and operating the newsstands, she tapped into her passion of creating new concepts for concession businesses. She became the owner and CEO of Puente Enterprises Inc. in 1994.

In 1995, she partnered with investors to open La Bodega Winery, the world’s first winery inside an airport, converting an underperforming newsstand of 435-square foot into a tiny on-site wine producing and tasting operation.

But this was just the beginning. Puente’s strong work ethic and her business acumen helped her build a fully independent concession operation with nearly $60 million in annual revenue that employs more than 200 people in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Puente, 47, presides over a business empire of 18 concession businesses in news, currency exchange, quick service food and casual food and beverage, including 14 at DFW. She also operates three concession businesses at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and one at Love Field.

She also owns La Buena Vida Vineyards in Grapevine, which operates as an events venue.

Puente works hard to distinguish her business by introducing original concepts as well as franchise brands.

She tapped into the growing trend of healthy eating, introducing Urban Taco at D/FW Airport, a quick-service brand of national taco chains that offers high-quality, fresh ingredients.

“It has been very, very successful,” she said.

Her latest concept, Sky Canyon, in collaboration with renowned Dallas chef Stephan Pyles, features chef-created Southwestern cuisine with farm-to-table ingredients and a wine bar. She replaced La Bodega with Sky Canyon at D/FW Airport and opened a second Sky Canyon at Love Field.

With a highly diverse management team, she is regarded as one of the most successful, female-owned airport concessionaires in the U.S. She is sought out as speaker and has received awards and recognitions.

But as a true entrepreneur, she is always on the lookout for the next big opportunity. She loves to travel, particularly abroad, where she is able to scout new concepts to bring back home.

“My real passion is creating new concepts to better serve the needs of travelers – needs they didn’t even know they had,” she said.

About Puente Enterprises Inc.

Location: 216 N. Dove Road

Grapevine 76051

817-421-2147 • Puenteinc.com

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