John Jones on Cubby’s Chicago Beef
When I first met Cubby James, the 40 year old food truck entrepreneur I immediately knew he was a friendly guy. He reminded me of the many outdoor-loving people who live in Utah not to just look at the mountains. He was incredibly busy when I talked to him. To the website, Cubby’s is a “cute little sandwich and salad restaurant.” But from his success, his restaurant is anything but cute.
Cubby’s Chicago Beef has acquired a huge following for their consistent four and five star reviews and their amazing cheese fries in a “hipster” environment. You feel cool just by entering any Cubby’s restaurant, and as one critic said, “everything is so healthy!” Starting in the food truck industry, Cubby’s now has grown to busily managing five stores, but still finds time to go back to their food truck roots. He currently owns five stores in Utah; one on Thanksgiving way, in Lehi, another on Highland Drive, in Salt Lake City, his first ever on State Street in Provo, a more recent one in Taylorsville on 5400 South, and his last in Spanish Fork on 1000 North.
“Besides being a husband and a father, this is what I am… I’m 100% beef.” Cubby James encountered some hiccups along the way to starting his first business originally in Chicago. “Being an entrepreneur and a small business owner, you have to protect your business,” he recounted that once, “Chick Fil A had moved their construction fence closer to the stores so only about 20 parking spaces were open.” Sales were down 30% when he called the landlord and found out construction would last about a month. Cubby then called, threatening to buy 3 cars, Junkers, and put them against the wall to prevent them from moving into his parking stalls. He later said “Sometimes you do things you regret.” Cubby threatened on the phone to torch the wall and if they built it again he would torch their store. Of course Cubby wasn’t serious, so when the landowner of Chick Fil A called back questioning, “What did you say you would do if the fence was moved?” and Cubby texted “I said we should hang out sometime.”
Cubby said that there was a lot of stress involved in being an entrepreneur. One day you may think you have everything figured out and the next day something devastating happens, or you find out a hidden fee or that you need special permissions to do a certain thing in your business. “But if you’re passionate about something you have to go for it.”
Cubby talked about the importance of having someone to believe in you, and his wife filled that role. She always believed that he was able to be successful. He went through several jobs in the food industry working all over the country, trying to pursue his dream. His family always supported the belief that you can do anything. “I started Cubby’s because I got fired from every restaurant I worked at. And I decided the only way to keep the job is to start your own.” When Cubby told me that he worked in Chicago, I had the insights of a new entrepreneur constantly worried about his work, and having to deal with one of the most cutthroat business economies out there. It must not have been easy, and he must have learned a lot about failures and success along the way. But Cubby was a determined guy, who wasn’t willing to let the world tell him ‘no.’
A phrase that kept coming up in our interview was Cubby saying, “Just go for it.” Entrepreneurship seems to be, at least to Cubby, a career with a lot of risks and a lot of devotion. But like trying a new food or attempting a new sport, the awards were worth the risks. For example when Cubby was in Chicago, he introduced a salad to his menu, even though the salads weren’t a big thing. “If you believe in it, you have to go for it.”
Cubby commented on the entrepreneurial industry today is more successful when there is the prevalence of social media. Through social media, Cubby’s image of a cow, has been able to bounce around the Internet long enough to garner some attention and get a following. Cubby James seemed thinks that his business would not have been so successful without the presence of social media.
Being a patron at Cubby’s myself, I can tell you that his food worth every cent, and that you won’t meet a nicer guy than Cubby James. Since his success as an Entrepreneur, Cubby has since given presentations in Colleges like BYU, sharing how “Just going for it” is a key element for any Entrepreneur.