On October 17, 1931, in the tiny village of Itamuri on the banks of Glória River, in the municipality of Muriaé, Minas Gerais, small storekeeper, Antonio Gomes da Silva, and his wife, housewife, Dolores Peres Gomes da Silva, brought into the world their eleventh child, José Alencar, one of a total of fifteen children. Theirs was a typical mineiro home, one of simplicity, cultivation of spiritual and moral values, and an austere but loving family life.

José Alencar started working very early. At the age of seven, he was behind the counter in his father´s store, “more to get in the way than actually help”, as he confesses today. At fourteen, he became more ambition.

He left the family home in 1946, and went to Muriaé to work behind the counter of a textile store, A Sedutora (The Seductress). His father´s parting words were, “Son, what matters most in life is being able to come home”, advice he was never to forget.

For a long time, in Muriaé, he lived in the Station Hotel where he slept on a cot in the corridor. His 300-cruzeiro salary did not stretch to the cost of a hotel room.

In May 1948, armed only with two cruzeiros and thirty centavos, the same wooden case with which he had left home, and no debts, José Alencar moved to Caratinga. As at A Sedutora, it was no long before he became the top salesman at Caratinga´s Casa Bonfim.

As he now smilingly recalls, “I started there earning a monthly wage of 600 cruzeiros out of which I paid 300 to a rooming house. A quality rooming house, definitely of the one-star variety”.

Around this time, his older brother, Geraldo Gomes da Silva, loaned his younger but nevertheless experienced brother 15,000 cruzeiros, and, at the age of eighteen, José Alencar opened his first business. On March 31, 1950, the future Senator and Vice-President of Brazil, one of the country´s most successful entrepreneurs, opened the doors of his first company. A Queimadeira (The Bargain Center) located at Avenida Olegário Maciel, 520, in Barro Branco, Carating. This was the one-man company of José Alencar Gomes da Silva.

And so it was, with 15,000 cruzeiros, that José Alencar opened his first store in Caratinga. Smaller even than a Brazilian “micro-company”, behind two wooden doors, it was not inaugurated – it was opened. His brother Geraldo had unconditional faith in young José, which is why he loaned him the 15,000 cruzeiros; he knew José had planned everything carefully. The young entrepreneur had no money but new his market, all the suppliers, and the entire range of goods available. He knew exactly what merchandise to buy, how much would have to pay for it, and knew that his prices were unbeatable in the local market.

Since he was still a minor, José Alencar asked his father to emancipate him by official deed, a request that was willingly granted.

Living “in the back of the store” and eating cheap food were part of the efforts to keep prices down and ensure that little store remained competitive. It sold a little almost everything: textiles, hats, umbrellas, parasols, notions, etc. His first assistant was Manoel.

“Later”, recounts Alencar, “some of my brothers gave a helping hand. First there was Toninho, then Lucílio and Tatão. Tatão was a partner for a while, but even when he wasn´t, there were always his loans to see me through the tougher times”.

In 1953, José Alencar decided to change directions. At the beginning of the year, he started proceedings for selling A Queimadera. As he sold off his stocks, he also paid off his debts to Geraldo, the suppliers, the banks, and the financial authorities. At the end of the year, with all debts settled, the sale took place. The sale consisted of three promissory notes, falling due on April 30, August 30, and December 30, 1954, all of them duly paid. Nothing more.

Thus ended the first chapter of this history.

A new chapter in José Alencar´s life began after A Queimadera. He received his first promissory note in April and the second in August. During those eight months with no capital, he became a traveling salesman for a major Rio de Janeiro textile wholesaler, Tecidos Custódio Fernandes S.A. and, here in this model establishment, learned the wholesale business.

On receiving his second promissory note, still in Caratinga, he entered the wholesale grains market. There, in association with José Carlos de Oliveira, Wantuil Teixeira de Paula, and his own brother Antônio Gomes da Silva Filho, he bought a pasta factory, another resounding success, the Fábrica de Macarrão Santa Cruz.

Christmas 1959 brought a grievous loss, the death of Geraldo, brother, friend, and counselor. José Alencar was summoned to take over the business that Geraldo had opened ten moths previously in Ubá. The partners in the business were Geraldo, his uncle Heitor Serrano Peres, Manuel Nascimento Moura, Manuel Vieira, all now deceased, and João Batista Magro, who today lives in Belo Horizonte.

The name of the company was União dos Cometas, owned by Geraldo Gomes da Silva & Cia. The company was restructured and, in deference to its principal founder, kept his name and was registered Geraldo Gomes da Silva, Tecidos S.A.

In 1963, José Alencar opened Cia. Industrial de Roupas União dos Cometas that was later renamed Wembley Roupas S.A. This name was chosen to celebrate the Brazilian Soccer Team´s dream of the triple championship in 1966 in London´s Wembley Stadium. Although the team failed to attain its dream, José Alencar´s business flourished.

In 1967, with the support of SUDENE (Northeastern Development Superintendency) and BDMG (Minas Gerais Development Bank), and in association with the distinguished entrepreneur (in the cotton processing sector) and Congressman, Luiz de Paula Ferreira, in Montes Claros, he opened Companhia de Tecidos Norte de Minas, Coteminas.

However, this thread and textile company, the most modern of its day, was only inaugurated in 1975.

Today, Coteminas boats fifteen factories in Brazil, five in the United States, one in Argentina, one in Mexico, and more than fifteen thousand employees. It fully satisfies the requirements of the most demanding customers in the domestic and global market. Company policy is still based on enthusiasm and solidarity as engines of growth, and as the attributes that enable it to meet its commitments to its team, its suppliers, customers, and shareholders, and the communities of which it is a part.


Last Update