When Hard Work Beats the Odds

By Gloria Vaquera Photo by Bill Faulkner

In Mexico, where Uriel Marquez, Jr. is originally from, paleteros walk the streets and plazas selling ice cream in the sweltering heat of summer. The well-known bell he rings as he pushes his ice cream cart along, is a telltale sign that the paletero is close by and children excitedly look for him to satiate their sweet cravings while looking to cooling down. Although it is not a lucrative profession by any means, paleteros do make many children happy. Perhaps, that was the attraction that young Uriel found in one day being a paletero himself. 

“I wanted the little cart with the bell and everything,” Uriel laughs as he recalls what he wanted to be when he grew up. Luckily for him, when his parents moved the family to the United States, his dad purchased a welder and taught him everything he knows about welding and working with wrought iron. He’s been working in the industry now for about 25 years and spent the first fifteen of those helping his father create what is today Marquez Wrought Iron.  

Uriel was only 16 years old and a sophomore when he dropped out of high school and began to work full-time. And when his dad asked him for his help in the family business, Uriel didn’t hesitate to leave his job and take a cut in pay to help his father get the business off the ground. He remembers that the industry was more laborious back then as he would oftentimes weld from sun up to sun down in a makeshift shop with no walls. “We were out there rain or shine and sometimes we would get shocked when it rained. We also didn’t have forklifts so loading the truck was difficult, a lot of heavy lifting,” he explained.

When the day came that Uriel parted ways with this father’s business, he knew that it would be difficult but he felt it was the right time to move on and start his own business. It was in July of 2007, about a month after he left Marquez Wrought Iron, that he received the phone call that changed the course of this entrepreneurial life. 

A customer, Mr. Martin Shafer, was in need of some automatic gates for a subdivision in Mesilla. It was a sizable job considering that Uriel had no tools, no money, no help and no place to do it. Nonetheless, he committed to the project and asked for half down to start. Mr. Shafer gave him the down payment and with it he was able to purchase the material and the tools needed to complete the job. Once the job was installed, he was paid the second half and it was sufficient to put him on the path to starting his own business, New Mexico Steel Fabricators. 

The first building they rented was an old, dilapidated, adobe warehouse off of Compress. It was in such bad shape that it took them several days to clean out the two feet of debris that covered the floors. But it was the most cost effective way to go as the owner promised to waive the first month’s rent if they cleaned out the place. Around the same time, another customer came through and Uriel negotiated extended terms with his material supplier to be able to complete that project as well. Although times were still tough, things were starting to work in their favor.

When Erika’s aunt and uncle, Lydia and Salvador Baquera, learned that they were struggling they didn’t hesitate to step up and help them out. The money they fronted went towards the purchase of the property on Del Rey where they now have their shop. “Sal sent me a personal check for $95,000 and said, ‘Pay me whenever you can,’” explained Uriel. “He had that money saved up to build a house in California, and he put it on hold to lend us the money. They are amazing people and I’ll never forget that gesture,” he admits. “I’m very grateful to them and I’m very happy that we’ve been able to pay them back and even give them something extra in return.”

NM Steel Fabricators was launched just before the 2008 recession and the Marquez’s feel blessed that they not only survived it, but thrived despite it. Today, Uriel and Erika have been married for 24 years, have three wonderful children and run a successful business. As they prepare to celebrate their 10th anniversary this month, they are proud of what they have accomplished having started with nothing. Their success can be attributed to their hard work, their reputation of superior workmanship, excellent customer service and their vast experience. 

With 20 employees, NM Steel Fabricators specialize in fabricating and welding all types of steel including guardrails, pipe railing, stairways, grating, metal doors, fencing, structural steel and metal buildings. They have done business throughout the state of New Mexico in areas like Artesia, Carlsbad, Hobbs, Gallup, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and here at home in Las Cruces. Some of their most notable projects locally include the Barnes and Noble on University, Ben Archer Clinic on Motel Boulevard and on Del Rey, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Museum of Nature and Science, Natural Grocers as well as various apartment complexes and hotels.

The Marquez’s feel grateful to have so many people who have helped them along the way. “We have really good employees like our project managers Jamie Evans and Lorenzo Alaniz,” says Erika. “They don’t just come to work to get paid; they’ve proven that they really care about doing the job right. We sincerely appreciate their hard work and dedication.”

“To this day, I am very thankful to Mr. Shafer for the trust he placed on us as our first customer and to all of the customers that have been so loyal throughout the years like David and Linda Parmeter of Crestline Building Corp.,” says Uriel.

“New Mexico Steel Fabricators is ultimately here because Uriel is such a hard worker and he is totally committed to every single job, big or small. Without his hard work and dedication, none of it would be possible,” detailed Erika. 

When a young boy dreams of one day becoming a paletero, drops out of high school as a sophomore, gets married at 18 years old and has no intention of ever going back to school, the odds are stacked pretty high against him. But Uriel is living proof that where there is a will, there is always a way. And although he has no regrets, he admits that he took the long, hard road to success. 

His advice to his two sons and daughter: “Get an education so you don’t have to struggle and work so hard.” 

Summer 2017

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