It’s All in the Family

Frisco has had the outstanding ability to sustain that “small town feel” amidst explosive growth. As many of us have grown up and become accustomed to “big city” life, there is often a longing for that familial closeness that comes with being part of a unique network of local businesspeople. There is definitely something to be said about a smaller, family-owned business. Much of what makes these companies so uncommon is the quality of their products, the legacy behind their businesses and the journey families and owners have taken to reach success. There is a special feeling customers experience when they are served by family members and employees who are so invested in ensuring their business remains successful. This also sets Frisco commerce apart!

Tony Felker, president and CEO of the Frisco Chamber of Commerce, says, “While Frisco has continued to grow at record paces, it has maintained that small community feel and I believe this translates over to small, family-owned businesses. There are so many ways for this type of business to be involved in the community and to develop a strong following from within the area. Also, these types of businesses offer larger companies cost savings, in many cases, while keeping their business in the immediate area.” He continues, “Frisco has a very strong business community for all types and sizes of business. Between this pro-business culture and a very educated community, it is natural that there will be a high number of small, family-owned and home-based businesses in Frisco. Frisco, though continually growing, still has those small, family-owned businesses that pay homage to those legacies of hard work, determination, growth and lasting, quality products.”

The Depot Café

One of Frisco’s oldest and most popular restaurant businesses established its roots here in Frisco some 57 years ago and thrives today as one of longtime Frisco residents’ favorite spots to grab breakfast, lunch or dinner on Friday nights (the only night of the week the restaurant is open). The land where The Depot Cafe now sits started out as Henry’s Supermarket, which served as Frisco’s go-to grocery store and butcher for decades, until the late 1980s, when the big-box, corporate grocery stores began popping up. That was when Henry Francis decided he would go right on along with the changing times. 1987 brought change to the long-standing family-operated business, as Henry converted his supermarket into a convenience store flanked by a small deli that served sandwiches and soda pop. The convenience store and small deli remained a popular place for locals to gather as residents came from all over the city to be customers of Henry’s establishment.

Dennis Francis, the son of Henry Francis, explains the evolution of the business. “We started off, actually, down the block where Manny’s is now, in a tin building called ‘Henry’s Grocery Mart.’ After the lease on that building was up, Dad moved over here and bought this lot where he ran his grocery store. Over the years, as the bigger retail supermarkets and grocery stores began popping up, Dad turned the grocery store into the convenience store it is today.” About a decade later, Dennis and Debbie Francis remodeled the space and built a restaurant that gave patrons more seating and a bigger menu than the current deli. “This space here where the restaurant is now was vacant, and I bought it in 1997 to turn into a restaurant,” he recalls. The Depot Café, named to pay homage to the Frisco train depot that once occupied land just down the street from the restaurant, opened in 1999. While the business had grown and changed over the years, Dennis’ goal was to ensure he carried on his father’s legacy. He explains, “Carrying on the family tradition was important to me. It is something I grew up doing, and after my dad passed away, my mother decided she wanted to pass it down to me to be able to keep it going as long as we could here in Frisco.” He continues, “Family businesses are hard to find anymore, given that many restaurants are chains. We offer a personal touch, as opposed to the corporate types, and since we are family-owned, we take so much pride in what we do and the experience our customers have when they dine here. My family all works here and that pride says a lot about who we are and the type of business we run. The employees are what make this place so special. They help out wherever and whenever they can and really give this place its hometown feel with their own personal touch.”

Friday nights at The Depot Café are as special as the legacy the business represents, as, over the years, it has become a favorite hangout for locals to meet, fellowship and enjoy each other’s company with good, home-style food. Dennis believes these Friday nights are as special as the legacy his father started here in Frisco. The family-owned and operated restaurant specializes in hand-breaded catfish filets, big old-fashioned burgers and plenty of fried okra. The Depot Cafe captures the essence of old-time Frisco, boasting memorabilia from the city’s past on the walls that helps customers understand and realize just how special Frisco really is. As Dennis looks towards the future, the family legacy and his customers remain at the top of his priority list. He explains, “My family is four generations strong here in Frisco, so it has been fun being able to stay put and grow here. I am excited to continue to offer customers a place to come where there is affordable, home-style cooking in a place that feels like home.”

“Charming,” “nostalgic,” “homey” and just “downright good” are words that embody what The Depot Café is all about, and Frisco could not be more proud.

Potstickers & Boba Tea and Sandalwood Massage & Facial Spa

Adu Liu, the owner of Potstickers and Boba Tea and Sandalwood Massage and Facial Spa, and her family are the quintessential essence of the American dream. Having grown up in her parents’ restaurant in China, Ms. Liu knows the value of family, hard work and achieving goals. She explains, “As a young girl, I often did arduous tasks for my parents’ restaurant in China. The work was hard, but it was worth it to see the people we were feeding smile and compliment my parents’ cooking. As I grew older, those values of hard work and the fruit that it bore stayed with me and continued to grow as I became a mother of two beautiful children. Cooking for my kids brought back old memories of an industrious, happy childhood and the benefits that sprung up from an early work ethic.” After seeing her parents for the first time in two decades after immigrating to the U.S., Ms. Liu realized they were no longer fulfilled by their lack of work in America. That is when she and her parents decided to begin Potstickers, located here in Frisco. She recalls, “Originally, it was a tiny little hole-in-the-wall, but the help of a great many customers and their returning pleas to open a bigger location gave way to even greater heights, and I have never regretted a moment of it.”

As if one business is not enough, Ms. Liu continued to seek success after Potstickers and she opened Sandalwood Massage and Facial Spa. She explains, “When I immigrated into the U.S., I had already gained the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree as an esthetician. So, that was actually what I set out to do again in America. After a few years of schooling, and a few years after that of working under bigger estheticians, I eventually had enough clients to start my own business. It was important for me to run a business independent of the family, as Potstickers was cared for by the group. I wanted to prove to myself, and to others, that an immigrated Asian woman could be strong and resilient in the face of an overwhelming market of already-established firms.”

Ms. Liu and her family were Frisco residents before they made the city the home of their businesses. She attributes Frisco’s diversity and all-around greatness as the leading factors as to why they chose to raise their family and venture into the business world here. “Out of all the prospects in Texas, and in America, Frisco is the most amazing and well-diversified place to raise a family. After spending multiple years in this beautiful town, and with the insistence of my parents, we decided on running a restaurant here,” Ms. Liu says. “Family is the key component in life, as well as in business. Regardless of whether your family is assisting you physically in the business, they always have your back and are willing to provide you with emotional support and love. There is no way this would have worked without my family consistently helping me, especially considering our cooks are my parents! It also gives a real quality to our business. We are different from big corporations or huge chains, as we are the face of the business. The way we conduct our business is more relatable and genuine because we want to serve people good food as a family, rather than making money as a family.” Ms. Liu’s children are also actively engaged in the family’s business success. “My kids actually work at the restaurant. Never in a million years would I have believed someone if they had told me that the two kids I would go on to raise would both care so much about the business and sacrifice to help their mother. Seeing them do something for me, for the family, is everything I could have asked for and better.”

As Frisco continues to boom, Ms. Liu looks forward to more customers visiting their charming little restaurant. “The most exciting part of it all is learning about other people, knowing their stories, backgrounds and life. With so many different cultures and ideologies flooding the city, I am ready to explore new ideas, see concepts I have never experienced before and befriend those who come into our lovely city.”

Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta

Tucked in a suite just off Preston and Lebanon Roads, Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta has been serving fine New York style pizza and Italian food for more than 20 years. From back east to Dallas in the early 1980s, Eddie and Merita made a name for themselves owning and operating some of the best restaurants in the metroplex. Keeping it in the family, their kids have taken on the legacy and operate most of the operations at the current locations. “Our family has been in the business since the early 1980s, and this was a wonderful, new challenge because Frisco is a place where the mainstream is expanding and the family-owned business is dissipating,” Luigi’s owner, Sebian Bardhi, explains. “We love Frisco because the infrastructure is growing, but also the culture of Texas has not been too effected. The people are amazing in Frisco, and our customers are the best we have ever had.”

Ms. Bardhi attests that family is at the forefront of their business and that it is what helped them begin their culinary adventure years ago. This still remains a largely-important aspect in their daily lives. She says, “I believe the business is an example, or a projection, of that ideology. The customers we have loved since owning the business always bring in families and it is apparent how much they value it. The family we have operates on sincerity and I think the customers can feel that and appreciate it.”

As Frisco continues to grow and thrive, Ms. Bardhi looks forward to being able to offer customers the same affordable, familial and appetizing experience Luigi’s has always given customers. “We are excited to welcome new people who are moving into the area and let them come in to the restaurant and absorb our profound love of food and making them happy,” she says.

C4 Roofing, Inc.

Much like the Francis family, Chad Cunningham’s family-owned business, C4 Roofing, Inc., has evolved over the years calling Frisco its home and keeping family at the center of its day-to-day operations. Mr. Cunningham, the president of C4 Roofing, takes much pride in calling Frisco home and in keeping his family’s tradition of hard work going strong. He explains, “Choosing Frisco as a place for our business never was really a choice, it was a given. I was the fourth generation on multiple branches of my family born in Frisco. My family has called this area home long before it was even officially named Frisco. My grandfather and then my father owned a paint contracting company here. My grandmother and then my mother owned a real estate company here. My office is in the building that my grandmother and then my mother had their offices for more than 35 years. The biggest sense of pride I have in coming to work each day is sitting at the desk that my grandmother and mother sat at in the building they made their mark on in Frisco for so many years.”

Before opening his own business in 2010, Mr. Cunningham was a custom homebuilder for many years, until 2007-2008, when the economy became a real challenge for a small custom builder with several homes on the ground. As a result of the economic downturn, he and his wife, Heather, sought out ways to begin new business ventures while still utilizing their knowledge of construction. “I decided I would learn everything I could about roofing, get every certification I could obtain and train with every major manufacturer that offered it, and we would bring the custom homebuilding mentality to an industry that historically had a bad reputation, due to its lack of licensing requirements and lack of any type of oversight. After working under a large residential/commercial roofing company in Fort Worth for nearly a year, I left and went out on my own and have been since 2010,” Mr. Cunningham recalls. “Many of the people we do business with are children and grandchildren of people my grandmother, my father, my mom or my grandfather did business with,” he explains. Mr. Cunningham is also blessed in that he is able to work side-by-side with his family daily. “My mother does all the accounting for the company, my sister is the head of human resources and my brother-in-law is my chief superintendent. Mrs. Cunningham brands and markets the company and I do my best to steer the ship. Having each of these family members in specific roles over different aspects of the company means I have someone I know who cares about this company and its reputation as much as I do.”

With Frisco’s continued exponential growth, sometimes small, family-owned businesses take a back seat to newer or bigger corporate companies, but Mr. Cunningham sees such growth as a positive for his company and a challenge to make business even better than before. “As Frisco grows, there are so many people, especially in our industry, who think they can blow in and quote the cheapest prices and then roll out without any consideration towards long-term warranties or commitments to the work they performed,” he clarifies. “So many people see price as the only factor. We are not a ‘cheap solutions’ company. We are a long-term relationship, quality first, committed-for-the-life-of-your-roof company.” Mr. Cunningham continues, “Heather and I made a commitment when we started C4 that for every success and every profit we made, we would invest a portion of that back into the communities we served. More work hopefully leads to larger profit, and the more profitable we are, the more we can give back and hopefully impact the lives of parents, children and citizens of the towns and cities we serve. If we are not, in some way, benefiting and leaving a lasting impact on our community, nothing we do here means anything. Much of our pride, too, comes from that long and diverse line of business owners in Frisco. When I tell someone I was born and raised in Frisco, my chest puffs out a little bit. What makes me so proud of being from Frisco is the community and what it had to offer when it was only a town of 2,000 people. What made it so special were the people. It is our hope at C4 to be the people who make it special when it is a city of 200,000 people.”

The Dog House

For many people, pets are an extension of their families. They hold irreplaceably special places in our hearts, just as humans do. Frisco native Shada Ghatrehee has always been an animal lover and currently owns five dogs and a horse! She attended the University of North Texas and went on to manage her father’s hair salon. It was then she realized she wanted to own her own business. Given her love for dogs, she went back to school to become a groomer. She explains, “I originally was going to open a dog grooming, boarding and daycare business, but when I found this perfect building in historical old downtown Frisco, I immediately realized it was the ideal location for retail and dog grooming only. I have lived most of my life in Frisco and I am so proud of how the city has developed.”

The development and fruition of her business was very much a family affair, as her parents and brother contributed to the purchase of the commercial building in which she was able to open her business in 2016. “As the city grows and I continue to grow, I will hopefully have multiple professional groomers who have the same passion and perfection I do for animals,” she says. “I am so excited to see Frisco grow, especially historical downtown Frisco. I am so proud to be part of all the new, quaint businesses opening in downtown near my dog grooming shop. My ultimate goal is to make all my fur babies and their owners very happy with my service so I become successful enough to donate part of my profits to help local dog shelters and network to help re-home rescue animals.”

Not many other growing cities have the rich legacy of family-owned businesses, often passed down through generations, like Frisco does. Mr. Felker sums it up wonderfully, stating, “As the saying goes, Frisco is a city with the heart of a town, but this extends to the local business community, as well. People want to do business with people and companies that they know, that they trust and that are involved in the community. With Frisco being about community and partnerships, there are many opportunities for smaller businesses to get involved and be successful in the area. Our role at the Frisco Chamber of Commerce is to foster this entrepreneurial spirit, help make those connections and provide advocacy and legislative efforts to allow these endeavors to continue and maximize their potential.”

Regardless of how big our little town gets, our pride in what we do and what we continue to become is what makes local businesses such an integral part of our economic development. Frisco is blessed with many small businesses that treat patrons like family, which serves as a testament to the types of residents we call our own.

Allie Spletter
Allie Spletter is a wannabe foodie and lover of all things pink and crafty.