Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Open a custom Google map of all the veteran-led businesses in the United States, zoom in on San Antonio, and you’ll find more than 100 small businesses peppering the area in and around Military City, USA.
In time for National Veterans Small Business Week and ahead of Veterans Day, Google has added a new feature that allows businesses to identify as veteran-owned. Businesses that opt into the designation receive a “veteran-led” checkmark in the highlights section of their Google Maps listing along with other attributes about the business, such as women-led or outdoor seating.
Dr. Suzana Gjekaj is among the first local business owners to take advantage of the new feature. A dental surgeon and active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force, Gjekaj owns JUICEssential near La Cantera and hopes other veterans see the veteran-led attribute as a commitment to quality.
“My business is rooted in helping to make and keep a community healthy, as we do for our fellow service members,” she said. “This initiative will help bring exposure to a small business that gives back to the community that most people may not be aware of.”
More than 2.5 million businesses in the U.S. are majority-owned by veterans, according to the U.S. Small Business Association. Those businesses employ 5 million people.
San Antonio restaurateur Bill Lyons served as a captain in the Army. Lyons owns Casa Rio and Schilo’s, which are run by Director of Operations Tom Furgerson, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Lyons’ restaurants provide 10-percent discounts to active military and veterans. Elizabeth Lyons Houston, a spokeswoman for the restaurant group, said Google communicated the new feature to the business, which opted in right away.
“I thought it was important to promote that,” Houston said. “We have a huge military community here, obviously. Graduates are coming through downtown every week, and I thought it would be nice to let them know that our business was led by veterans.”
San Antonio is home to Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, which houses the U.S. Department of Defense’s largest inpatient hospital; JBSA-Lackland Air Force Base; and JBSA-Randolph Air Force Base. About 12 percent of the metropolitan area’s population has served in the military, according to the U.S. Census.
Among the other local eateries and bars to receive Google veteran-led designation are Mexican restaurant Piedras Negras De Noche, Donut Palace, and Schertz-based Anchor Bar. Business owners can follow these steps to add an attribute to their Google profile.
National Veterans Small Business Week took place this year from Nov. 5-9.
Here’s a map of all the veteran-led businesses in the U.S.