My mom has always owned a business. Her first store was one of those carry-out corner stores in Baltimore. Then, she had a deli. Her thing was always looking for businesses that were undervalued, and then go in and turn them around. I didn’t really have summer vacations; I was always running the cash register. Growing up, you hate it, but in hindsight, I picked up so much about how to treat people. She may have not known everyone’s name, but she knew everyone’s order. It was more of a, “Hello, Mr. Egg Salad Sandwich.” She’d hear customers talking about their kids and ask them to bring in a picture. We had a whole wall of baby pictures behind the counter. That would give customers in line, who may not have anything in common, something to talk about.
I was working in IT and Web development for a defense contractor when my mom bought the Cue Club. I liked my job, but I was starting to see the reality of the corporate world. I had a mentor — just a good guy, a nice old man. He got there early, left late every day. I saw how he was treated at the end [of his career] and did not like it. When you’re working for someone else, you can give and give, but you’re always taking orders. So, I came back home to work with my mom again. When we bought this place six years ago, it was basically a dive, the kind of place parents tell their kids not to go into.