Serrano Family

Wedding of Ernie Serrano, Sr., and Eva Felix Serrano, 1952
Chandler Museum Collection, 2005.38.4

A well-known figure around Chandler is patriarch Ernie Serrano, Sr. His second-generation family owned business is a notable landmark in downtown Chandler. The Serrano family name originates from the Sierra Mountains of Spain, but the business legacy of the Serrano’s began in Northern Sonora, Mexico, in 1887. Here, brothers Louis P. and Fernando Serrano opened their first merchandise clothing business, Serrano’s & Company.

In search of other business opportunities and land interests, young Louis P. Serrano moved his family to Los Angeles, California, for a time. After several years in California, Louis became a successful businessman there as well. The City of Los Angeles honored his achievements with a street sign bearing the Serrano family name. Louis returned to Sonora and continued in the family business and mining investments.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Serrano family thrived in Mexico with several prosperous cattle ranches and mining ventures. By 1911, the Mexican Revolution forced Louis P. Serrano to move his family again. The Serranos settled in Tucson, Arizona, to be with other relatives. Tucson offered the Serrano family new opportunities to re-establish their investments and business holdings. Several of Louis P. Serrano’s children attended Tucson public schools and graduated to higher education at the University of Arizona.

In 1919, the Serrano’s came to the East Valley and opened their first business in Chandler. The well-known downtown clothing business was called “The Popular Store.” By the 1930s, the family decided to use the Serrano’s logo that is still highly recognized today.

From 1940 to 1959, Louis P. Serrano’s sons, Albert P. and Louis P., Jr., expanded the family merchandise clothing business by opening other stores throughout Gilbert, Casa Grande, Mesa, and Phoenix.

Albert P. Serrano’s son, Ernie, Sr., was born in Chandler. Ernie, Sr.'s, birth began the second generation of Serranos contributing to more than 84 years of business success in Chandler.

In 1947, Ernie, Sr., graduated from St. Mary’s High School and learned to manage his father’s downtown Chandler store. In 1952, Ernie, Sr., married Eva Felix at the original St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Ernie, Sr., and Eva have eight children: Ric, Theresa, Ernie, Jr., Billy, Lorraine, Stephanie, Carolyn, and Lisa. The Serranos raised their children in Chandler maintaining a strong tradition as family and business parterns.

By 1979, after nearly six decades of business in retail merchandising, Ernie, Sr., and his wife, Eva, decided to close the last Serrano’s clothing store location. Recognizing the end of an era where shopping malls and discount chains became the norm in retail merchandising, the Serranos refocused all of their efforts in the restaurant business. The first Serrano’s Mexican Food Restaurant was opened behind the original Serrano’s store site on Arizona Avenue in Chandler.

Eva and a loyal staff created many of the recipes and menu items. Their efforts and personal touch had a major influence in the preparation of high-quality food, superior customer service, and an enjoyable dining experience. The dedicated hard work ethic of family members and employees make Serrano’s Mexican Food Restaurants and catering service prosperous. Today, Serrano’s Mexican Food Restaurants and catering service have eight locations throughout the East Valley in Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, Ahwatukee Foothills, Gilbert, and Queen Creek.

Ernie, Sr., and Eva celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the San Marcos Resort in Historic Downtown Chandler.

Biography researched and authored by Mary Polanco-Gerlach and Diane Brown