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Columbia Business Monthly

Amador Herraiz-Muro Brings Spanish Flavor to the Upstate

Eighth in our series in partnership with the Hispanic Alliance

By Amanda Capps

When you hear the word “tapas,” you may think “small,” but Amador Herraiz-Muro doesn’t believe in doing anything small. He and his partners are serving bigger portions, bigger flavors — and increasingly bigger crowds at Abanico, Greenville’s only Spanish Mediterranean restaurant and nightclub.

Redefining Tapas

When Herraiz-Muro opened Abanico, even some of his staff members had their doubts about a Spanish restaurant’s prospects for success in Greenville.

He joked about the frequent requests he used to get for tacos, but steadily, word spread, and those who ventured into Abanico became instant ambassadors.

In contrast to the mainstream definition of tapas, the restaurant’s offerings are more like hearty, single-item side dishes, which can be bundled or combined with entrees like their celebrated Chicken Pepitoria, a traditional dish in a rich sauce featuring ground almonds.

The restaurant’s formula is simple: value and authenticity. “The word ‘tapas’ has been prostituted,” Herraiz-Muro said. “Typically, it’s too expensive. There’s no reason to pay a lot for little bits of two or three things.”

Patrons can order three tapas for $20 or take advantage of specials like the date night package, two paellas and three tapas for $40. The menu’s countless combinations can make Abanico seem like a different restaurant with every visit, but the quality and culture will never vary.

Herraiz-Muro said the restaurant boasts a lot of talent in the kitchen, and their main goal is to produce the amalgam of flavors that makes diners feel they are in Spain.

“Chicken Pepitoria dates back to the 13th century. I don’t necessarily want to see a chef’s take on it,” Herraiz-Muro said.

Mixing Mainstream Music and International Rhythms

With its generous tapas and affordable prices, Abanico’s food is still unknown to many area residents who routinely head upstairs to the nightclub.

“Some people don’t even know the restaurant exists because of the popularity of the club, but it is gaining a following as well,” Herraiz-Muro said.

Herraiz-Muro said the club has always been an attraction, but the right DJ has made all the difference.

Pleasing a diverse crowd with the perfect balance of Latin music, top 40 hits and oldies, Martin Moro proved that he knew Abanico’s customer base. Soon, his acumen extended to the whole business as he and his wife became Herraiz-Muro’s partners.

“I think we have the most mixed clientele in all of Greenville. I tried a number of DJs, but Martin knows the right way to entertain. Forty-five minutes is the target time for a guest to stay in one venue. We’re seeing that, and it’s an atmosphere that everyone enjoys,” Herraiz-Muro said.

Allying with the Community

Herraiz-Muro believes the most successful businesses and organizations are working to be part of the community rather than existing in isolation. That’s why he applauds the Hispanic Alliance for its initiatives such as the ongoing Wings of the City art exhibit, nine bronze sculptures by Jorge Marín that have become social media sensations as locals and tourists come out of quarantine and once again enjoy public spaces and downtown businesses.

“They used their soft political power to facilitate this massive art exhibit in the middle of town, bringing the work of this magnificent Mexican artist into everyday life,” Herraiz-Muro said.

Herraiz-Muro said individuals must adopt the type of long-term vision the alliance promotes and understand that all cultures benefit one another.

“There are certainly some obstacles to integrating, but sometimes people create those for themselves with an attitude that says, ‘I don’t want to interact, but I want them to accept me,’” Herraiz-Muro said, “That’s why I support the Hispanic Alliance. They put their resources toward things that bring good to everyone.”

Getting Into the Industry

From an early age, Herraiz-Muro enjoyed the bar and nightclub scene, but he was interested in more than a good time. His career thus far has included the gold and diamond trade, but he knew even during his teen years that there was great promise in the places people loved to gather for food, beverages and music.

“Back then, the legal drinking age in Spain was 16, so I was going out, but I was always fascinated by the way the clubs and restaurants ran and made money,” Herraiz-Muro said.

After spending his last two years of high school in the United States, Herraiz-Muro went to London and attended American Intercontinental University. There, he met some people in the hospitality industry from Dubai, which he described as a region experiencing astronomical growth at the time.  

Through his contacts and one particular mentor, he was able to travel to many locations including Thailand on more than one occasion to “steal chefs.”

“Things were so inexpensive over there, we would just go in the restaurants and say, ‘Bring me one of everything,’” Herraiz-Muro said.

With a close-up view of international cuisine and commerce, Herraiz-Muro became less focused on academics but earned a number of credits toward a degree at the University of Wollongong, an Australian institution in Dubai.

“Part of me was saying, ‘I don’t need to be sitting here taking accounting 101,’ but I knew that would upset my mother,” Herraiz-Muro said.

Opening in the States

Herraiz-Muro was really thinking big when scouting locations to open his business a few years ago. The burgeoning entrepreneur had his eye on the Lone Star State, but a contact convinced him that an “up-and-coming” city in Upstate South Carolina was the spot for him.

Without seeing the city or the building, Herraiz-Muro signed a five-year lease and opened just six weeks later in the summer of 2017.

Although he parted ways with his original partner, he said Abanico is going strong under its original concept with his current partners, Moro and his wife April, who have held the line and ensured continuous operation throughout the transition and Covid.

“Martin feels like he’s now chief security officer, plumber, errand runner . . . and many things in addition to DJ. Any restaurant that made it through Covid is doing well just to have gotten through it,” Herraiz-Muro said, “My partners have worked hard to see that we did.”

Herraiz-Muro added that Abanico has not returned to pre-pandemic level, but its books never went into the red. One of the reasons the Moros had to be on top of things is Herraiz-Muro’s location.

Frequently traveling between the United States and Spain, he has been forced to stay in Europe since last spring when President Donald Trump enacted a travel ban, though he hopes to return as soon as possible.

He did not have the celebration he had anticipated for his birthday on June 7, but Herraiz-Muro is looking forward to a welcoming party soon.

“I think I will just show up on a Friday night,” he said, “My bags are packed. We are thriving, and it’s going to be bigger and better than ever.”

Abanico Tapas Bar - Restaurant and Music

21 E. Washington Street, Greenville

Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday 4-10 p.m.

Night Club Friday-Saturday 9 p.m.-2 a.m.

Sunday Brunch Noon-5 p.m.