James Nuñez wears two distinct hats, career-wise. He is founder of Texas Beef and Cattle Company, the barbecue restaurant on at 1101 W. Third St. in the Wright-Dunbar Historic District of Dayton. And he is an investment advisor for a firm he owns, Agora Investments, located at North Main Street and Monument Avenue in downtown Dayton.
But that’s not all. Nuñez — a Corpus Christi, Texas native who came to Dayton in 1994 — has been a passionate advocate for development in downtown Dayton for the last two decades. And after Hurricane Harvey inundated many parts of his native Texas, Nuñez partnered with the Miami Valley School to set up an account with the Dayton Foundation to assist hurricane victims. And with the collaboration of several other local businesses, he assisted in the effort to put a semi tractor trailer load of goods together to help Texas hurricane victims.
RELATED: Dayton BBQ restaurant hosts grand opening today (June 2016)
Nuñez is our Daytonian of the Week, and we caught up with him recently to find out more about him.
What’s your typical day?
Well, since February 2016, I’ve been working 7 days a week and between 90 to 120 hours a week, much of that on the restaurant. I allow myself a little time off on Sunday evenings, when we close for family night. We usually catch a movie or have a family dinner at one of our favorite haunts. I have a pit master apprentice who gets the briskets, pork butts or shoulders, and beef ribs on and smoking for Wednesday service (We have a 12 hour smoke time and a 4-6 hour cook time on those particular cuts).
RELATED: Dayton BBQ restaurant adds Texas beers, craft brews to menu
I usually swing by in the evening when the crew comes in to prep for Thursday service. My evenings are spent mostly at the restaurant or shopping for odds and ends. I do get a chance to enjoy friends and family at my little place and that is a lot of what gives me pleasure. My kids work with me and Erin, my partner in life, comes in to help periodically and also to enjoy a little bit of what we’ve created. I’m a worker at my core so enjoying the fruits of my labor in the evening is always a plus.
What prompted you to get into the restaurant business?
I had a chance to open a restaurant directly across from the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park and the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop where flight was invented in the historic Wright-Dunbar historic district. It is an under-appreciated part of Dayton that in my opinion should be the crowning gem of our historic revitalized districts.
RELATED: Daytonian of the Week: Bill Castro from El Meson
The venue provides me a place to smoke some meats share some eats from the part of the country that I was raised. I’ve been smoking brisket since I was a young Navy guy stationed in Norfolk, Virginia in the mid-80s when no one knew what brisket was. Today its spread across the country and everyone and their mother thinks they know how to make it. I can tell you with absolute certainty it’s an art, it’s a labor of love and there are no shortcuts.
What has been the biggest challenge in opening and sustaining your restaurant, and how did you overcome that challenge?
Staying focused on your vision and staying within your budget and not overextending yourself in the process. Having a group of good friends, and some good family members, with skills and who are willing to help. I’m not a restaurateur; I just know a little bit about a lot of things and a lot about a few things.
. RELATED: Daytonians of the Week: restaurant founders J.P. and Lisa Perdomo
Knowing when to do the work yourself and when to delegate and when to contract out the tasks is key. Unless of course you just have a lot of money to blow. But then you don’t really have ownership and ownership comes from getting your hands dirty in every aspect of your endeavor. It is true about managing money and its true about smoking meats in a restaurant setting. It’s true about life. I don’t think you appreciate it unless you work for it.
What’s your favorite spot in the Dayton area?
Well, I know a lot of people and many of them own places. I like going to their places and spending time with them. I am also a cyclist and runner (albeit not so much since embarking on this endeavor), and I really enjoy the bike paths and parks along the river: Riverscape, Dragon Stadium, and other places in various parts of town that showcase the skyline.
ICYMI: Inside the Arcade: See amazing interior views as developers continue their push for new life
I also like the (Five Rivers) MetroParks and the Art Museum. I like the people coming back and the fact we have something for them to come back to, and its only getting started. I want to be part of that, and I hope to bring a lot of people along and show them how they too can be part of the change we want to see!
What do you love about life in the Dayton area?
I moved here in 1994. The accessibility is what I like best. Here you can jump in and make a difference. And there are people here who will help you make it happen. I raised my kids here, and it’s a great place to raise kids. This is a great town!
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?
The change is here! It’s happening — the wheels are turning for the people like me who were here 25, 20, 10 years ago and who put in the time in various capacities, such as the chamber, the partnership, the foundation. We cut our teeth trying to get others to invest here, and now we are the ones investing here — we are the change we wanted to see. I can only bring my own flavor of change, others will bring theirs and we will reinvent once again this great place we all love to call home.