Moving Forward, Preserving Tradition Keys for Corona Ranch Director
Alex Corona got his first job at age eight, making popcorn in the lobby of the downtown Orpheum Theatre, at the time called Palace West. The Corona family operated the theater, showing Spanish language films and other entertainment in the 1970s.
Born into a family of entrepreneurs, Corona learned at a young age how to develop a successful business, especially one that specializes in making people smile.
“I saw the look on people’s faces when they were happy, walking out of the movie theater,” he said.
That lesson has served him well.
Today, Corona is general manager of the eponymous Corona Ranch & Rodeo Grounds, a family-owned ranch property in Laveen that hosts events ranging from weddings to corporate shin-digs to rodeos. Established in 1988, Corona Ranch has played host to groups as diverse as Volvo International, Microsoft, and NFL football coaches and owners.
By all accounts, Corona is good at his job.
“I would say he’s one of very few people who understands quality of service,” said Jack Hardy, owner of destination management company Arizona Creative Events. “I have a lot of respect for him. It’s nice to be able to trust him and he’s always got my back. I have nothing but high regards for him.”
Corona is a personable, upbeat, youthful 43 year-old who looks much younger than his age—“people usually think I’m 32,” he said, “and I let them think I’m a go-getter.”
Growing up, he wanted to be an architect “… like Art Vandelay,” he joked, referencing George Costanza’s pseudonym on Seinfeld. But after two years at Phoenix College, the kid who already had years of work experience under his belt felt restless in the classroom and decided to pursue a trade instead.
“That’s it,” he said at the time. “I decided school was not for me. I wanted to work”
His first job outside of the family business was as a “tile helper,” serving as an assistant to a tile setter. It was simultaneously one of the best and worst experiences of Corona’s life—worst because he was accustomed to being the boss, not the lowest man on the totem pole; and best because he learned important life lessons: be humble and do whatever it takes to survive.
From tile helper Corona advanced to tile setter and started his own business with his own crew. A move to San Francisco—“the best city in the world… I miss it so much”—to be with his then-girlfriend, now wife, provided the opportunity to increase his skills as a marble mason.
After three years in San Francisco, his family asked if he’d come home, run the ranch and put his trade skills to work renovating and adding to the property’s amenities—for one, Corona is responsible for the marine blue and white tile work on the outside bar.
“You always want to get away from the family business but it’s in your blood,” Corona said. “You always come back. They gave me another chance—they said, ‘okay, you’ve punished yourself enough.’”
Lucia Madrid, a long-time friend of the family, said she admires that the Corona family is continuously striving to educate others about traditions of the Southwest and preserve the Hispanic culture, especially charreada, a style of rodeo developed in Mexico in which the participants are dressed in authentic charro, or traditional Mexican cowboy, attire.
Alex is “an interesting person because he’s very modern but he’s inculcated in the family traditions,” Madrid said. “I think it’s great when you can have the traditions preserved like that.”
“I’m such an advocate of moving forward—bettering your community and bettering your life,” Corona said.
He is passionate not only for the traditions of the Southwest, but also for the preservation and development of the South Mountain community. Corona has seen so much change, especially remembering going to Carver Mountain as a kid to hunt doves or ride horses or motorcycles.
Now, he said, “we’ve got to make sure this (community) gets built in a positive direction.”
Perhaps one day the South Mountain community will include a Corona family restaurant, too—owning and operating a restaurant is one of Alex’s long-term goals.
“I love what I do,” he added. “I enjoy seeing people from all over the world experiencing Arizona.”