As I expanded into the catering business things became a little “tense” with the Davis’s on West Avenue. So, in the early spring of 1991, I went out and started scouting for a building of my own. One day while driving down Brooklyn Road, I noticed that Joe Gallias’s old sign shop was empty. I stopped and talked to the owners. They let me in so I could take a quick look around; the place was perfect! Forty by forty, square, no electric, no plumbing, no nothing! The place would take a lot of work but I felt it would be a perfect home for us.
With less than $500.00 to my name, I moved out of West Avenue and into the Brooklyn Road building in mid-February of 1991. I set-up a temporary office over in one corner and immediately called my old friend Jay D. Rodgers in Roanoke, Texas. Jay was pleased that I was finally out on my own. I told him that I was nearly broke and he said not to worry, he would loan me a little money to help me get started. He told me to figure out how much money I was going to need and let him know. It took me a couple of days to get my figures together but I soon had what I felt was a good, solid, workable plan. When I called Jay back, I told him I would need $20,000.00 to get things up and running. Jay asked if that was enough and I told him, I could make it work if I was careful. He said he’d send me a check. The next day the Federal Express man brought me a check from Jay for $20,000.00. I was now on my way!
My Dad, Howard and I went right to work renovating the new place. We did everything but the electrical ourselves. It took a little longer than I figured and it was one hell of a lot of work, but it sure looked great when it was done. We now had a beautiful new office, a great new prep area and plenty of storage. Now all we had to do was go out and go to work!
We did mostly special events that first year along with just a handful of caterings. The caterings we did were mostly all small affairs, never serving much over a hundred guests. However, it would only be a few years until we were regularly catering groups as large as a thousand guests. It was during this late nineties period that we tried doing some Saturday barbeques at the new facility. We would send out flyers saying we were going to have a “Big Ol’ Texas BBQ” on Saturday the 15th (or whatever) and to please place your order as soon as possible. These Saturday barbeques did O.K., but they never did really catch on and we learned a good lesson; folks want food at their convenience, not ours.
The years 1999 through 2000 were not the best for the ol’ BBQ Man; Chris Phelps and I went our separate ways, Justin joined the Air Force and my right hand gal in the office; Darcy Kennedy ran off to Renton, Washington with a wild man.
As the years went by, we did fewer and fewer special events. They were just too much work and too risky. However, we continued to do more and more of the larger caterings, working for many of Michigan’s largest corporations, we’ve done work for Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation, Eaton Corporation and Tenneco Automotive, just to name a few. In October of 2001, we catered our largest event ever serving 5,000 hungry guests at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor for their 150th anniversary. We have served many other U of M groups as well, including the Law School, School of Engineering, Business School, Life Sciences and Athletic Development. We had become very, very good at catering and it showed!
Change has been the keyword here at West Texas the last few years. While we still consider the catering of larger groups the mainstay of our business. The demands of the market have changed and so have we. We now do a whole lot more of the smaller catered events. Justin surprised me by calling and saying that he would like to come back to Jackson and help with the business. He returned home from the Air Force in early 2007 just in time to help us open the new “BBQ Joint”. The new “BBQ Joint” makes our great food easily accessible to everyone. John Q. Public can now walk in off the street and grab a sandwich, a slab of ribs or a couple of pounds of Beef Brisket.
Our new BBQ Joint isn’t real fancy; it was modeled after some of the BBQ Joints that I saw in Texas. The tables are mix and match and the chairs came out of a Mexican joint but the food and service is outstanding. And it’s just going to get better and better because it’s just like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get.
I can’t believe that I’ve been in business twenty-five years already. Time has really flown by; Justin is all grown up and married, Darcy Kennedy has come back home, Buster the BBQ Dog is old and crippled and I’m heading towards fifty-five! My God, I remember when I thought fifty-five was ancient. Anyway, one thing hasn’t changed, our commitment to providing our customers with Authentic Texas Style Pit Barbeque. I’ll probably work another twenty years or so and then I’ll pass the “torch” on to Justin and his family (better get to workin’ on that family, Bubba)…
Stop on by and give the new BBQ Joint a try. Or give us a call if you’re shopping for Catering or Holiday Specialties; we’re ready, willing and able to help…