Aaron Peña: The Man Behind The Squeezebox

So, according to the Collins English Dictionary, a squeezebox is defined as “a small hexagonal musical instrument of the reed organ family in which metallic reeds are vibrated by air from a set of bellows operated by the player’s hands.”

Why am I telling you this? Well, we recently had the chance to chat with Aaron Pena, the co-owner/bartender/DJ of The Squeezebox, a live music dive bar, on St. Mary’s Strip, in San Antonio’s Tobin Hill neighborhood. 

The Squeezebox is located at 2806 North St. Mary’s Street, inside the former home of Laura’s Floral Design Boutique. The dive bar has been dubbed, “The Sounds & Soul of San Anto on the St. Mary’s Strip.” Prior to his work at The Squeezebox, Aaron Pena was a bartender at The Friendly Spot Ice House, as well as The Brooklynite.

Besides Pena, who oversees the establishment and its mission statement, The Squeezebox is co-owned by 4 others as well- Danny Delgado (who also owns Faust Tavern and Hi-Tones), Julio Lopez, and Osvaldo Ordonez.

LFTSS- “So, you grew up on the South Side, right?”

Aaron- “Yes, I was born and raised on the South Side, near Zarzamora Street and Gillette Boulevard. My parent’s house is still there, which is a constant in my life. My sister, Amy, still lives in my grandmother’s house.”

LFTSS- “So, tell me about your business venture.”

Aaron- “So, my business venture started in 2015, we started building The Squeezebox. We opened on July 1, 2016 and just this last month, we turned 4-years-old.”

LFTSS- “What advice would you give to a fellow entrepreneur during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic?”

Aaron- “I would advise people to look for that next thing or next dream that they can sink their teeth into. Or something that they can look forward to because there’s nothing positive happening for a lot of people right now.” 

LFTSS- “Do you have a big family?”

Aaron- “No, not really. I have two older sisters and my parents.”

LFTSS- “Where did you go to high school?”

Aaron- “I went to McCollum High School.” (Note: McCollum High School is a public high school that is part of the Harlandale Independent School District). 

LFTSS- “Who are some of your greatest influences throughout your life?”

Aaron- “Honestly, it starts with music. A lot of my idols and my influences go back to music. I’ve been playing music my whole life.”

LFTSS- “I really like how you stay true to where you came from. And I think people really look up to that and respect that. How does that make you feel?”

Aaron- “It’s something I had to learn how to accept, I guess. Sometimes you don’t feel deserving of that much admiration. It’s something I now use for good. So, if I have something that I’m passionate about, I want to share that.”

LFTSS- “What do you think the South Side needs more of?”

Aaron- “The South Side needs more people who are going to vote. The South Side is abundant with rich history, working class folks and those people need to be represented and represented well, and that all starts with voting.”

LFTSS- “Well, thank you so much for your time. I was great talking to you.”

Aaron- “Thank you so much for having me.”

So, after our interview was over, I was poking around on Aaron’s social media sites and I came across something where Aaron really deserved that respect that we were talking about in the interview. It really shows how much he values and cares for his staff at The Squeezebox.

On The Squeezebox’s Facebook page, Aaron posted a video on March 27, 2020, talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, how The Squeezebox was forced to close, leaving his staff displaced and out of work for the foreseeable future. 

He asked people for help in supporting his staff by purchasing one of The Squeezebox’s new t-shirts ($20) or koozies ($5). Alongside the video, Aaron Pena also posted a very touching note- “We completely understand that so many people are in this same situation and not everyone is in a position to help. Our hearts go out to our friends and family in the service industry and know we can get through this together. We love you and thank you all.”

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