Louie Durán, founder of famed Mexican restaurant Javier’s 47 years ago, dies at 88
Louis Durán, whose business acumen began when he sold cigarettes and other items to other soldiers to make money while serving in the Korean War, died Monday at the 88 years old.
Louie — as his friends called him — started the popular Javier’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina in southeast Fresno 47 years ago, with the encouragement of his brother Al, owner of the Los Charros restaurant.
In a 2013 interview, Durán attributed the restaurant’s success to the recipes he used from his mother, Carmen.
“She was a great cook, so I had the basics,” said Durán, who returned to work as a mechanic and after leaving the military. “I consider all of our food to be special.”
A dispute over billing led him to open his own mechanical workshop. Durán then opened his own car repair shop, but soon found that his partner was not doing everything possible.
It was then that Durán, who graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1953, decided to go into the restaurant business. The first site was on Ventura and Clovis. He then moved to Kings Canyon and Clovis.
The restaurant – named after her third child – still closes on Sundays so workers can go to church and spend time with family.
Durán was a major benefactor to many causes, largely students of Arte Américas and Roosevelt High. He graduated in 1953 from Roosevelt, where he played football as a 173-pound left guard.
He also held this position at Fresno City College.
“Louis has provided strong financial support for youth programs and sports teams in Southeast Fresno,” the Southeast Fresno Community Economic Development Association said in 2013 when it presented him with the Trailblazer for Prosperity Award.
“He has been generous with agricultural workers’ organizations when asked to help; and has done his part by blazing trails for himself, his family and others in our community.
Nancy Márquez, former executive director of Arte Américas, was rarely surprised when Durán and his wife Lupe donated to the Latino Cultural Arts Center.
“They were part of our close-knit family of supporters,” Márquez said. “Over the years, they have made many contributions to us. In fact, they gave us a lot of money, but he wanted to do it anonymously.
Lupe Durán volunteered at the center’s La Tiendita. This is how Dolly Arredondo met the couple.
“They donated food for our first Mother’s Day brunch,” said Arredondo, who added that he would also donate food to schools and other organizations.
“He couldn’t say ‘no,'” Arredondo said.
His daughter, Rachel, said her father “believed in donation.”
“He did well in business and he never really frowned on giving and donating for the sake of children,” she said.
In a 2018 interview with Márquez, recalls working in the fields around Firebaugh during the summer. His father, Aurelio, was a migrant farm worker. Duran was born in Firebaugh. Duran helped his father with the social club Sociedad Morelos, founded in 1929.
Durán also chaired the Torreón Sister City committee and helped provide used but much-needed buses and fire trucks to the city in the Mexican state of Coahuila.
Durán, an avid golfer, owned and operated the Fresno West Golf Course between Fresno and Kerman for several years before selling it. The property is now agricultural land.
He bought a bar on Jensen and Chestnut and operated it for five years before selling it to buy the golf course.
Besides golf, he enjoyed growing a vegetable garden where he grew tomatoes, peppers and squash.
“He loved being outdoors and working outdoors,” Rachel said. “He was always doing something outside.”
Durán was the second eldest of four children. He is survived by his wife, Lupe; children Ron, Rachel and Javier; and, three grandchildren.
Benefits are pending.