If you’re in the mood for food and drinks that are off the beaten path, the Roberts Family businesses offer up plenty of dining, snacking and sipping options. But how has one family been able to foster four successful businesses beloved by locals?
“We’re all about the specialty stuff,” says Jeremy Roberts, owner and founder of 903 Brewers in Sherman. “We’ve seen what’s worked for other people, but we’ve expanded on it with different ingredients and approaches.”
Before founding 903 Brewers in 2013, Jeremy and his wife Natalie spent 15 years building and running their own financial coaching business. The couple’s work took them across the country and put them in touch with many small business owners and entrepreneurs, but it was Jeremy’s passion for beer that would lead him to pursue it professionally.
“Being a home brewer myself, we always just found ourselves at a taproom at the end of the day,” says Jeremy. “Sometime around 2010 or 2011, we started seriously considering opening a brewery of our own. We thought that was something Sherman would support.”
Jeremy says he only brewed about 1,000 gallons of beer in the business’s first year, and the beer itself was only sold in the 903 taproom and in kegs for the first 18 months of operations. But five years later, Jeremy says his colorful cans of craft beer are now all over the state and the brewery’s figures are far higher.
“We’ll probably put out 125,000 gallons this year (2018),” Jeremy says. “We’re statewide in Texas and pretty much wherever craft beer is sold. And with the recent change in Oklahoma’s beer laws, we’re spreading our distribution up there, too.”
Pop Pop Popcorn and Downtown Grilled Cheese Company
After seeing his son’s brewery succeed, Gary Roberts took his sales background and he and and his wife Regina set out to start their own business by opening Pop Pop Popcorn in 2015.
“Regina and I were looking at the growth of downtown Sherman and decided that there was enough opportunity and local support to open up a popcorn store,” says Gary.
The business goes through roughly 4,000 pounds of popcorn seed each month and boasts more than 50 flavors, which range from the familiar caramel and cheese to exotic blends like hot chocolate, dill pickle and even banana pudding.
But Gary says a successful concept kitchen that followed allowed him to continue his culinary creativity, and he opened the Downtown Grilled Cheese company in Sherman in early 2017. The restaurant is open six days a week and offers everything from its signature, gourmet grilled cheeses and sandwiches to soups and salads.
“We started a niche restaurant in a town of less than 45,000 people,” says Gary. “Everybody told me I was crazy and that it would fail in six months, but it has really taken off. And even though we are niche, and that is a risk, we have a flavor that’s unique to us and nobody else will ever be able to duplicate it.”
Pop Around the Corner
Not long after his father’s popcorn shop opened, Derrick Roberts and his wife Emily began running a sister store in Denison under the name Pop Around the Corner.
The shop opened on Main Street in late 2015. It was named by the city as one of downtown Denison’s best new businesses in 2016 and earned the title of Downtowner of the Year in 2017.
“You’ve got to have a good product and friendly service that people are going to enjoy,” says Derrick. “That’s something we pride ourselves on, and I think that’s played a big part in our success.”
Pop Around the Corner churns out batches from roughly 21,000 pounds of seed each year and offers the same flavors found in Sherman. Speaking less than a week before Christmas — the store’s busiest time of year — Derrick says his business’s simple mission of providing patrons with unique snacks requires more work than one might initially think.
“It’s not easy,” says Derrick. “I mean, just recently, my wife and I were waking up at 7:00 in the morning and working all the way until 2:00 the next morning. Five hours later, we’d get up and get right back to it.”
But Derrick says all that work has paid off, and the the business is looking more and more poised for expansion.
“We actually just opened a commercial kitchen because we outgrew our spot here in Denison,” says Derrick. “And we’re hopeful that we can increase our number of locations in the future.”
The Roberts Family Support System
Gary says while Jeremy and Derrick both found success in the craft food and beverage industry, his youngest son Ryan has done just as well for himself and has worked his way up to become the general sales manager at Holiday Chevrolet in Whitesboro.
“Even though he doesn’t own his own business, the fact that he’s running a multi-million-dollar operation gives me just as much pride as I feel with my older sons,” says Gary. “And I think he could even be making some entrepreneurial moves of his own here before long.”
But with three of the four Roberts family businessmen dabbling in food and drink, Derrick says there’s a unique opportunity to support one another. Derrick says by co-marketing and complimenting their products with the others’ flavors and ingredients, all have been able to drum up new ideas and new customers.
“We brainstorm all the time with each other to see what has and what hasn’t worked in our different types of industries,” says Derrick. “And we’re always trying to see how we can get our three different customer bases to visit each of each others’ stores and generate business for everybody.”
But no matter what line of work he and his brothers are now in, Jeremy says it was his father’s example and words of encouragement that showed them all that they could be successful.
“I’ll never forget those conversations I had with him as a kid and him teaching me to believe in myself and that if I want to do something and set my mind to it, it can be done,” says Jeremy. “He did that for all of us.”
At 63 years old, Gary says he knows he’ll have to slow things down eventually. As Jeremy looks to begin building a new 903 brewery and restaurant in 2019 and as Derrick eyes even more popcorn shops, Gary says he knows he’ll turn his reins over to his sons and they’ll go on to do even greater things.
“I want them to know how to do everything so that when it’s time for me to wind down, they’ll be able to continue,” says Gary. “From there, they’ll be able to take what we’ve invested in and built, and make themselves successful beyond anything I was ever able to do.”