The Eating...Our Words 100: Brooksy Smith, Owner of JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers
The friendly, calm-mannered Brooksy Smith runs JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers, which means that he has "spent the past year getting them built, getting them open, getting them staffed, developing the menu, developing the pricing and developing the marketing around it." He's referring to both JerryBuilt locations -- the first of which opened in February of 2012 on Holcombe, followed by The Woodlands location in April 2012.
"Since they've been open, it's my job to ensure that we do our job for our customers and along the way adjust our menus and the things we do so that we're taking care of our customers in the way that they want," he elaborates.
For those that aren't familiar with the JerryBuilt concept, Brooksy explains it in a nutshell: "When we first started, the idea was to create the 'Whole Foods of burgers.' In those days we [he's referring to business partner Jerry Glauser, and his son, Chad] used 'great tasting' and 'healthy' a lot, and as we kind of developed the concept along the way, we realized that every concept that led with health or organic missions tended to fail. So we decided to go out and create a burger joint that is delicious first and, second, sources the best ingredients possible. And that is what JerryBuilt has become; we source things that are local and organic, we bring them in here to where people can see them, prepare them in a really familiar way -- burgers, fries and shakes -- and make them delicious.
JerryBuilt also serves things like salads with kale in them, farm-fresh veggie dish specials, and, as of recently, customizable ice cream sandwiches -- you pick your top, your bottom, and even your filling and toppings. "JerryBuilt is the only place where you can pick your bottom and nobody will laugh at you," Brooksy lets out the joke, smiling afterwards.
Why he likes it:
The kind of spread you'll find at JerryBuilt Home Grown Burgers.
"What I've enjoyed the most at JerryBuilt is the fact that we've built a family-friendly restaurant. The times that I'm having the most fun are Saturdays when I am in the dining room, with kids running around, writing on the chalkboard, drinking shakes, spilling shakes, washing their hands and their parents are actually getting a chance to visit. It's my favorite things to see kids having a ball, parents visiting and all those little 'traps' we've put around for the kids -- the chalkboard, the hand-washing machines or the windows to look through actually working. It's really rewarding when you put in a hand-washing machine, hope that kids dig it and they actually do." Side note: The kid inside me wants me to tell you that, yes, JerryBuilt does indeed have the coolest hand-washing machines on the planet.
What inspires him:
"These days, my kids inspire me," says Brooksy. "They both just went through big transitions; my daughter is a freshman in college, my son is a freshman in high school. I get the most daily inspiration from those two. Other than that, if I look at people that are in the retail industry, I'm like every other American that lamented the loss of Steve Jobs, and always loved what he did. Here locally, guys like Phil Romano, who started designing restaurants in San Antonio, and some of the things that he did early on -- he started a burger place called Fuddruckers -- professionally inspire me."
If not this, then what:
"If I weren't doing this right now, I would be selling something. I would find something. I have sold things my entire life."
If not here, then where:
Without hesitating, Smith answers, "Colorado. While I am from Houston, I always like to get away to Colorado. I love the mountains -- in the summer and in the winter. And while my family lives here in The Woodlands, my wife's family is in Colorado."
"We've made a whole bunch of changes inside of the restaurant -- how we serve food and how we prepare it. So now we've got to get really good at executing that, and after we get to our first birthday, it's time to decide if and where we want to put the next JerryBuilt. That's a whole host of challenges because then we have to go back and say, 'We've already built two JerryBuilts (both very different); what should a new one look like?' and 'What do our customers want it to look like?'... 'What have we learned from our two places?' That's going to be a whole set of new challenges that we will have to tackle."
The Eating...Our Words 100:
- Minh Nguyen, Owner of Cafe TH and One of Houston's Best Front-of-House Personalities
- Tiffany Tyler and Aimee Turney of Central City Co-Op
- Ellen Schwartz, Culinary Instructor & Private Chef
- James DeLeon, Certified Sommelier and Craft Beer Nut at Kroger
- Alex Padilla, Executive Chef at Ninfa's on Navigation
- Kevin Strickland, Herder of Cats at gratifi, a.k.a. Ziggy's
- Ron Chen, Owner and "Head Coach" at Rattan Pan-Asian Bistro
- Brock Wagner, Godfather of Craft Beer in Houston and Founder of Saint Arnold Brewery, the Oldest Microbrewery in Texas
- Blanche Kinze, Murray's Cheese Master at Kroger
- Bear Dalton, Wine Buyer & Educator, Spec's
- Sam Ray of Republic National, Houston's Largest Wine Distributor
- Thai Van, Server Extraordinaire at Kata Robata
- Dale Robertson, a Populist Among Wine Writers
- Denman Moody, Author of The Advanced Oenophile
- Benjy Mason, Executive Chef at Down House
Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords