Jack and Jill of all trades: Guard family pursue their creativity through multiple small businessesBookmark this
Who said romance doesn’t pay off?
The Guards are responsible for not only nearly 50 years of marriage, but they also turned their common interests into businesses serving the Kingwood area.
The couple own the fine-dining, Texas-influenced restaurant, The Veranda; Pat and Ray’s Studio, a long-running photography service; and pioneered the local print publication, The Forest Image.
The businesses are a product of their collective creative nature. The Guards first met as neighbors in their teens, marrying after Pat graduated high school. They would spend time together on Pat’s porch singing songs, which would then later lead to a music career, with four albums as Pat and Ray, opening for Ray Charles, Brenda Lee, and American Music Hall of Fame pianist Floyd Cramer.
They moved to Kingwood in 1981, working for Club Corporation of America, with Pat taking photos professionally at 74 clubs and resorts across the Southwest and Mexico. During that time, they started Pat and Ray’s Studio and The Forest Image launched in 1990.
The Guards decided to take their business pursuits one step further, incorporating them under one roof following the buy-out of Club Corporation.
The property now housed their unique, fine-dining restaurant, The Veranda, the photography studio, and served as the central hub for The Forest Image. As they got older, both of Pat and Ray’s children took over chef duties at The Veranda after pursuing culinary arts degrees. Their son James Guard served as chef for six years and now their daughter, Tiara Marenco runs the kitchen with her husband, Luis Marenco.
“I love the service industry, I love to do things that make [people] happy,” Guard said. “We are a very quiet restaurant, mainly couples coming in celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. It’s very romantic and there’s nothing like us around.”
Pat and Ray’s Studio specializes in portraits and commercial photography. Pat, who has her Master’s in photography, shoots weddings, senior photos, newborns, family portraits, and special events.
“I love making people look good and making them feel good about themselves,” Guard said. “You can’t imagine how many people have told me, ‘I hate taking pictures of myself.’ It’s because they’ve never had anyone capture a good image of them.”
The Forest Image magazine is mailed to nearly 40,000 homes each month and includes features about local businesses, profiles on community members, and covers events in the Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita, and Fall Creek areas. It also allows Guard, along with new partners Mike and Layna Netek, to shine a spotlight on local charities such as the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, Family Time Crisis and Counseling Center, and The Village Learning Center.
“It seemed like to me that there weren’t enough accolades going out to the kids in the community that were doing great things,” Guard said. “I had a lot of my seniors that I was photographing that weren’t getting recognition for awards or academy appointments. We started it off to showcase achievements in the community and showcase local charities.”
In other words, it’s never a dull moment in for the Guard family.