Business Matters 2020 - Page 11

“It’s hard to make it in a small town but we’ve done really well. If we can last until this (COVID) dies down I really think we’ll be fine. — Tommy Specter / Owner During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic T/R’s Steak and More temporarily shifted operations to all take out with curb side pick up service. In restaurant dining has returned. bacteria, the temperatures and be sanitary but yet they’re sitting at home and we’re left out here to fend for ourselves and that’s very frustrating to me.” The Texas Restaurant Association and Gov. Greg Abbott’s office offered guidelines and TR’s staff followed those rules. “We had to make decisions if we wanted to stay in business and make sure our customers felt safe coming here,” Rose says. “We all wear masks and I wear a mask when I go anywhere. It’s not just about protecting you and your family, it’s about protecting your co-workers and customers.” Years of experience Tommy said as a young man he did not have the opportunity of getting a college education. “My parents couldn’t afford it, I couldn’t afford it,” he says. “I felt the food business was an area I felt I could do well.” He went to work for a chain operation where he worked his way to assistant manager, then manager and district manager. He went to work to work at the corporate office for a vice president for several years before taking a position with Golden Corral as a supervisor. “Golden Corral was originally a small town budget steak house,” Tommy says. Then the buffet concept became popular and the chain headed in that direction. “They ended up selling all the olds stores and franchising them,” he says. The buffet sector of the restaurant business relies on volume to get the desired profit margins and as the chain moved in that direction it started only targeting communities with 50,000 population or larger. Center was one of the Golden Corral operations he was familiar with while working with the corporation as a district manager. They purchased franchise operations in Center and Crockett and have been in Center since 1991. The restaurants did well enough that Rose was able to be a stayat-home mom while their children were growing up. The couple closed down the Crockett Golden Corral store in August 2003. In 2004 they had the opportunity to let the franchise go and did so. “We’ve been on our own ever since,” Tommy says. “It’s hard to make it in a small town but we’ve done really well. If we can last until this (COVID) dies down I really think we’ll be fine. “It’s just a question, and it’s not just for us, but for all small businesses — can we last until then?” Tommy says. Aside from their own income, the Specters know a lot of staffers, including several who have been with them for years, are counting on them. Prior to the pandemic about 10-12 staffers were full time. “But even for our part-timers, this is income they need to help make ends meet, to maybe put themselves or their kids through college,” Rose says. “They’re all like family and it broke my heart when we had to lay them off when this started. Tommy adds that one of the most rewarding aspects of being able to provide jobs is seeing employees use their income to better themselves. While there are a number of examples, one which many residents may be familiar with is former TR’s staffer Mario Osby, who is now the principal at Shelbyville High School, he says. “We work hard and take a lot of pride in what we do,” he says. The Specters hope they are able to continue that 30-plusyear tradition well past the coronavirus pandemic and into the future. Rose says the couple appreciate all the support they have received. “Thank you to those that helped us to stay open, and to those local businesses who helped us with this remodel,” she says. Those include Center Glass, Covington Lumber, Emi-Tech, Tommy Moody, French Electric, Isch Plumbing, Spratley Floors, Intelligent Concepts and American State Bank. “Along with our customers who kept us going during the curbside, and the local businesses who came by and fed their employees,” Rose says. “Moving to Shelby County was one of the blessed things that God has directed us to.” Business MATTERS | 2020 Fall Edition 11