From Coffee Emporium barista to SpringBoard diarist to budding entrepreneur, Megan McAuley loves sharing stories with Soapbox. This time, she tells the tale of a highly anticipated start-up—one that is not her own—and shows how entrepreneurship may at times get messy, but even then, it’s an inspiration.
Prior to and following the completion of my SpringBoard course, I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the eight-month journey of a new local business from idea to fruition.
On Friday, June 15, the owners of La Poste
, along with my significant other, Tom Stephen, opened Django Western Taco
More than a year ago, when I first met Tom at Coffee Emporium, he was just another customer in the line. He was actually one of my least favorites as he would regularly show up before we were open, rush in as soon as we unlocked the doors, and grumpily rush out.
It wasn't until a few months later when he randomly showed up at the cafe in the middle of the day to read that I actually discovered his story.
After snarkily commenting about his late arrival, he told me that he had just quit his day job and was about to begin the process of opening a local restaurant with one of his best friends.
Up until that day, Tom had been working an office job by day and a bartending job by night. His unhappy demeanor was suddenly a little more excusable. We soon began chatting at the coffee shop on a regular basis.
Long story short, after rejecting me several times, we finally started dating and are still together almost a year later. (Sorry Tom, facts are facts.)
Tom’s new restaurant, Django (pronounced JANG-go) sits at the corner of Blue Rock and Hamilton in the space formerly known as Slim's. With the addition of the "Blue Rock" beach behind the back patio, it's quirky in the way most Northside businesses are, but exudes a down-and-dirty feel inspired by the old Spaghetti Western after which it was named.
The owners called in help from local artists and friends—Chris Hennig on art and Tess Hammons on soundtrack—to add a Cincinnati flair.
Before I knew either one of them, Tom and Bryant (owner of La Poste) started talking about the idea for Django. Bryant was running a fine dining restaurant, and Tom was selling high-end wine.
Tom explained that the goal for the restaurant was to "bring our level of service and product to a bar setting, where we would want to hang out."
Their idea revolved around "loud music, and a simple menu with few choices, because the things we have are the right things."
Though there are single tacos on the menu, the way to go is to order bowls of different proteins, sides, and the “pickled six,” building your own tacos however you want. Tom calls it "grazing and drinking in a very relaxed setting."
On opening night, the Al Pastor and Beef Tongue were both the most unique and tasty choices, in my opinion.??I will leave the restaurant review to Donna Covrett, but as both the girlfriend and a hopeful entrepreneur, the experience of watching this all progress from idea to business has been one of the most beneficial and educational opportunities I have had, aside from SpringBoard.
The amount of time, passion and energy put into this restaurant was more inspirational to me as a prospective entrepreneur than the hesitation I experienced while witnessing all the stressful moments and potential road bumps.
Between November and June, the restaurant was projected to open six different times. In addition to working with a very small team, there were difficulties involving everything from city permits to structural problems, the kind common in old buildings. At times it seemed like nothing was ever going to go right, and I often wondered if each new obstacle would be the breaking point.
For the last couple of months, the amount of time I had to spend with Tom was minimal, but the amount of respect and admiration I have for what he has put into this restaurant assures me that it will be worth it.
On a personal level, I want Django to succeed because I care about Tom, but on a business level, I want it to succeed because I've seen how hard everyone has worked, and hope that someday I can say the same thing about myself and my climbing gym.
By Megan McAuley