(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
Q: Today you own an apartment complex, two hotels and two restaurants. How did your business career begin?
A: I started buying rental properties when I was 19 and I realized real quick that I couldn't afford to hire contractors, so I started learning all the trades. I got really good at doing a lot of things. I had to be really versatile. I started buying foreclosed properties and fixed them up. Then I bought Boulevard Apartments with 69 units. I started getting into short-term rentals over there, renting by the week. It seemed like there was a demand for that. After I did that for a while, I came across the Town House Inn (in Cape Girardeau). I bought it about seven years ago. A few years later, I bought the former Days Inn in Jackson. I was filling up on rooms here, so we used that one for overflow.
Q: How did you get the idea to open the Huddle House Restaurant?
A: The Town House Inn did have other buildings in front of it, but the people that had it before me had torn them down and this lot was just sitting here. I was trying to figure out what to do with it. Before the economy went bad, I was renting to a lot of construction workers. The Huddle House was geared to cater to construction workers staying at the hotel. I kept trying to think what to do with this lot, and I just kept coming back to this franchise. It just seemed like a really good fit for the area. I liked the price point, I liked the concept. We pull from so many areas. The college children help out at late night. We have an older crowd of coffee drinkers here in the morning. I'm always trying to find a niche. I try to find an opening where there's not total market saturation. Breakfast was one thing I felt like there was room on around here. We serve breakfast anytime.
Q: How do you like your eggs?
A: Over medium.
Q: What motivated you to open a second Huddle House location in Jackson?
A: Two years ago we expanded into Jackson. We were filling up regularly here and I thought that would help relieve a little of the pressure here. We've got a little bit of a seating shortage here in Cape. I wanted to do it bigger, but at the time they wouldn't let me. Now, the company wants me to expand this one. The building was suited so well for it and it was right in front of Walmart, so I just thought it would be a good location. We had a lot of customers from the Jackson area.
Q: What's the most challenging part of owning your own business?
A: Taxes. Taxes are a big problem. It seems like I'm getting taxed so many different ways. Finding and keeping excellent employees is always a challenge. I really do have the best employees, but it's taken a lot of people coming and going to get what I've got.
Q: What's the best part of owning your own business?
A: I like being my own boss. I like interacting with my employees. I'm at their level. You'll see me in here every weekend, Saturday and Sunday mornings, washing dishes and helping these servers out. If they can turn the tables more and make more money, then I'm going to make more money. On Christmas Day, I'll work a 24 hour shift. This year we're going to try to set a record to be number one in sales on Christmas. Of the 420 stores in the Huddle House group, we've been number two in sales that day for the last two years. I'm ready to get first. We only missed it by like $50 last year. I'm here almost every holiday. I wouldn't ask somebody that works for me to do something I wouldn't do myself.
Q: Describe your dream job.
A: I'd like to run a resort hotel in a tropical place. Just big enough to keep me busy. That would be nice. But that's down the road, after my children grow up.