Lindsay Flores hopes to turn another page in two recovery stories – her own and that of the former Matera Paper Company.

On Friday, Flores opens Matera Bar & Grill in the former home of Sockdolager Brewing Co. in the South of Downtown Abilene district. Yes, it’s Cinco de Mayo, which hopefully will mean a big crowd. But seasoned in the restaurant business, Flores is reining in her first day. There will be a limited menu, for starters, to better ensure a smooth operation.

Then again, Texas country singer Bri Bagwell, who performed at Mark Powell’s Farm Raise concert in August 2020, will be on the downstairs stage with several other local performers, including Jackson Hatch. Live music will be offered at Matera.

Cinco de Mayo is all about celebrating, and Flores will be doing just that

Finding a new life in a new home

Flores is upfront about her life.

She came to Abilene in 2016 to enter an outpatient recovery program at Serenity House. She found a second home – maybe even her first home – here and has gone from needing to turn around her life to most recently serving as general manager of Lytle Land & Cattle, an east Abilene restaurant.

“I found a home here,” she said. “I was welcomed with open arms. It was a life-changing experience for me.”

She grew up the daughter of a single mother in Shreveport, La., and, she admitted, she took did not keep life between the lines.

“She was a great mom and we had a great home, but I took advantage of that. I was a product of my own mass destruction,” she said without hesitation.

Flores came to Abilene for recovery and eventually worked with New Beginnings founder Missy Denard to head a halfway house. New Beginnings is a transition program for women who have been in jail and prison. Thankfully, Flores said, she has been in neither.

Flores is employing some New Beginnings women at Matera, giving them the same chance she was given after she straightened out her life.

“When I came here, I found a community. I found the home I had been searching for all of my life,” Flores said. She laughed because she’s now almost apologizing for being from Louisiana because Abilene is going to be her home.

She entered the food service business, briefly working at Betty Rose’s and then Miguel’s in Abilene. She moved on to Lytle Land & Cattle, starting as a server and then becoming a bartender. In two years, she was front of house manager and within three years she was GM.

“They gave me the chance and opportunity that I never had before,” she said.

She met her her husband of three years, Gabriel, there. He will be heading the Matera kitchen.

“He ran the kitchen and I ran the front, kind of like a dynamic duo,” she said. “We found a passion for food, and that’s what we bonded over from the get-to. He bribed one day with steak.”

Seeing something in her

Flores already has given back to her new home by serving organizations, which is how she met SoDA District founder Tim Smith.

She also got to know him at Lytle Land, when he’d come with his friends at least once a week.

She said she always talks to her customers, and they struck up a friendship over a table full of food.

What did he see in her that led him to ask her about running a restaurant?

“I think it was God. Some people laugh when I say that, but mine is mighty and omniscient. It’s this overwhelming feeling of gratitude that I have,” she said.

Smith cited her experience and called her a “hard charger. She decides and moves forward.

“I’ve always seen her as a very positive, high energy person. And I knew she was excellent at the restaurant business.”

She has been involved with American Cancer Society, Abilene Sports Alliance and Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau board, with Smith.

“I’m very involved in our community. I wanted to give back what was freely given to me,” Flores said.

It was Smith who offered her a chance to open a restaurant at the Sockdolager location when it closed for good in February.

“I had been praying about something,” she said. She knew her life would focus on service and she was in the right industry. “But there had to be more to what I could do.”

Smith talked to her as early as December about a restaurant. He had wanted to add a restaurant to the south downtown footprint and while some seemed intrigued by the idea, “no one would pull the trigger,” he said.

“I literally walked up to her and said, ‘Hey, aren’t you ready to open your own restaurant?’ And she just looked at me, with this big smile on her face, and said, ‘Actually I am.'”

Flores looked over Sockdolager site.

After initial hesitation, she listened “to the feeling that was welling up inside me.”

Smith challenged her to draw up a business plan. She and her partners did.

“I’ve always seen her as a very positive, high energy person. And I knew she was excellent at the restaurant business,” Smith said.

Said Flores on Wednesday, laughing heartily, “And here we are.”

If she is nervous about opening a restaurant, she wasn’t showing it Wednesday while her staff huddled outside to review a soft opening the night before.

Flores said she like orange, and Aggies, Red Raiders and other faithful will have to get used to burnt orange T-shirts worn by staff. There’s a sign on a wall with a burnt orange longhorn from that college in Austin.

She laughed and said it’s not because they’re fans. She likes the color.

She picked orange in the color scheme to represent flames and also turquoise.

“We’ll have different colored shirts but that’s what I wanted to start out with,” she said.

Their logo is shaped similar to the original Matera building, with a flame above.

She and the site, which burned in February 2012, are like the Phoenix, she said, rising from the ashes of destruction to a new life.

“It’s symbolic to us,” she said.

Matera basics

To read more of Lindsey’s story, click here. Thanks to our friends from the Abilene-Reporter News for featuring this story.

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