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The Light Files - Jerry Lasco

Jerry Lasco

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When life gives you lemons… follow a dream! Laura Max visits with Jerry Lasco, founder of The Tasting Room, Max’s Wine Dive and Boiler House.

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Laura: Hi, everyone. I'm Laura Max, your host of the Light Files and this is Makers.com brought to you by Audi Central Houston. I'm here today interviewing Jerry Lasco, the Founder of the Tasting Room and many other fabulous establishments in Houston. Welcome to the show, Jerry.

Jerry: Thank you. It's good to be here.

Laura: So Jerry, you are not only the Founder of this fine establishment, but also of several others under the umbrella of Lasco Enterprises.

Jerry: Yes.

Laura: So, tell us a little bit about Lasco Enterprises for those in the audience who don't know.

Jerry: Okay, well Lasco Enterprises owns and operates several different concepts. One that you might know about is MAX's Wine Dive.

Laura: Of course.

Jerry: And we're about to open our second MAX's Wine Dive in Houston. That's coming up.

Laura: Fantastic. I'm sure many of my friends are going to be very excited about that.

Jerry: We have four Tasting Rooms in Houston. We have about six MAX's Wine Dives throughout the state, and we're opening up outside the state, for the first time, in the next couple of months. So, we're opening up in Atlanta, in Chicago, and in Denver in the next three months. We have a concept called Boiler House, which is in San Antonio, which is a Texas grill and wine garden. And we have a new concept that we're about to unveil. In fact, you're scooping it right now because I already opened this up. We haven't told the press.

Laura: I'm getting the inside scoop.

Jerry: Yeah. It's called Flow.

Laura: Okay.

Jerry: And it's going to be a healthy juice bar, and that's opening up in Houston.

Laura: Oh, wow.

Jerry: And we want to do a bunch of those.

Laura: I will be your first customer.

Jerry: It's a great concept, so you'll love it.

Laura: That's awesome.

Jerry: We have the Black Door, which is a web-based wine information site and kind of social contact site. What else do we have? I think that's all we've got going right now.

Laura: Well, it's so amazing to hear about all of this because you would think somebody like you had been working their whole lives to build all of these incredible restaurants. But actually, you were a Continental Airlines pilot prior to forming Lasco Enterprises.

Jerry: I was, in a different lifetime.

Laura: Pretty incredible. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Jerry: Yeah, well I went to the Air Force Academy and graduated from there and then went off to pilot training and flew in the Air Force for ten years, and then got hired by Continental and flew with Continental for three years right up until 9/11.

Laura: Wow.

Jerry: 9/11 hit and I got furloughed from Continental, good news and bad news. The good news is I thought I was going back to that career once the industry picked up again. So, I thought this is a perfect opportunity to follow the dream, start a business. I always wanted to start a business.

Laura: And you thought it would be a temporary until you were flying again.

Jerry: Yeah, I thought it would - well, and then I'd be able to do it while I was flying or something, but got so into it and it started growing that when Continental called to bring me back, I had to - I said I was too busy.

Laura: That's - so in the back of your mind, was this something that - you said this was a dream of yours.

Jerry: It was.

Laura: Was this something you were dreaming of doing your whole life, more than being an airline pilot or was it -

Jerry: I think so. It certainly suits me better. I mean it's been a passion. Once I got a foot in the door, I was hooked.

Laura: So now that you're here, now that your foot is in the door, we're actually standing in the location that has sold the highest number of glasses of wine, wines by the glass, in the country, I believe.

Jerry: That's what I hear.

Laura: So Jerry, I have to tell you. Every time I come in here, it's packed and all my girlfriends, every time I ask them, "Where do you want to go out tonight," this is the first place they mention.

Jerry: Oh, I love to hear that. You know it's funny that you say that because when we were planning this, before we opened the Tasting Room, our whole thing was let's try to make this very female friendly. And the concept was if you make it a place that's inviting and friendly for women to come, the men will follow.

Laura: They might.

Jerry: And it sounds like that's working.

Laura: Well, we all hate going to - you know when you reach a certain age as a woman, you're not in college anymore, you don't really want to go a bar. You want to come have wine with your girlfriends, so it works.

Jerry: Yeah, and wine is a little bit more sophisticated. It's not - you don't have people pounding shots at the bars and getting out of hand.

Laura: What are your favorite things about being part of this business?

Jerry: Well, you know I think it's the people. So, the momentum right now is great for us because we've spent the last 10 years putting together this fantastic team of people. And we have about 650 employees right now.

Laura: Wow.

Jerry: And they're the best in the business.

Laura: It's all about taking care of your employees.

Jerry: You know that inspires me all the time.

Laura: That's awesome. What has made you so successful? This is not an industry - the restaurant industry is not an industry where people tend to find as much success as you have.

Jerry: Yeah, it's a tough business. I think one, we're in a good business. We specialize in wine and wine -

Laura: Everybody likes wine.

Jerry: Everybody likes wine and wine is something that you can have - once you're past the legal age, I should say, it's all ages. It's old. It's young. It's newcomers to it. It's people that have been passionate about it for their entire lives. So, I think we've got a good canvas, so to speak, to work with. We're in the business -

Laura: You're not working with just one demographic. You've got the whole smorgasbord.

Jerry: That's it and people come here and are happy because they're with their friends and all we do is we try to provide a good platform for them to enjoy their lives.

Laura: So, I'm taking notes here as you're talking. I hear having great employees, taking good care of them, is really important. Having a really large demographic that you can serve has been really critical to your success. So, do you see this continuing to go on for many more decades for you?

Jerry: I hope so.

Laura: We hope so too.

Jerry: Yeah, I think so. It's really been a fun business. It's been very challenging. We've learned a lot along the way, and hopefully, we're putting those lessons to good use.

Laura: So, you've learned a lot. I know many people my age are in the process of learning that as they either start their own businesses or they're in their first second jobs. What lessons could you maybe share with us? What's your favorite one so we don't have to learn it by ourselves?

Jerry: I think, going back to people, you've got to get the right people and the right mix and the right fit and chemistry and whatnot and start with a good team.

Laura: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for joining us.

Jerry: You're very welcome. This has been a lot of fun.

Laura: It's been awesome to meet you and to chat with you. I feel so lucky I'm in the Tasting Room. Everybody wants to be in the Tasting Room and I'm your host, Laura Max of Light Files. On the Businessmakers.com, you can find us every Saturday and you can find us on the radio News 92 FM on Sundays at noon. We'll see you next week. Bye everyone.

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