What kind of story do you want to read?
How about one about a teenage football player who comes to the game late, but his explosive athleticism catapults him all the way to a full-ride Division 1 scholarship?
Or one about a guy who is taught to run drugs at the same age most kids are learning to ride a bike? And how he is good at it—driving his own car by 13 and burying cash all around town until the inevitable bust?
How about when he tries his hand at rap music and finds that he’s good at that, too? Soon he finds himself on stage rapping before hundreds of kids, and he looks into the crowd and realizes: Wow, they know every word to my song.
Or how about later, when he becomes a trained first responder to violent crimes in San Antonio and he stays on call six evenings a week amid everything else he’s got going?
What about this one? A serial entrepreneur launches a restaurant just so he can mentor kids in his neighborhood. Hubert Brown—widely and affectionally known as Streetz—has lived all those stories and more. Too many stories to cover in this handful of pages. He’s the “Black Forrest Gump”—and note the quotation marks. Those are his words, not mine. It’s one of his favorite lines.
Brown is 45, a father of six and a father figure to many more. The story he’s living today is making possible new stories for other people in San Antonio.
It’s a lot to cover, but the good news is that you can enter the story by going to BallHoggs BBQ. It’s the closest restaurant to the AT&T Center, where the San Antonio Spurs play 41 nights a year and big musical acts perform and the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo happens every February. You’ll have lots of chances to get there.
Bring your ears, because if Brown isn’t too busy running the place, he’ll chat you up. And bring an empty belly, because his kitchen makes a scrumptious brisket grilled cheese sandwich, and you’re going to want to eat.
The King of Second Chances
Most teenagers who work at BallHoggs “come off the streets,” says Brown, much like he did a couple decades ago. How does he find them? He shrugs. “They just walk through that door. A lot of people in the neighborhood know what I’m doing here with the kids.”
When Brown hires a young person, he often starts them with “prep in the back, make the plates, cut the meat.” Then he’ll move them to the front, where they encounter customers, running the register and waiting tables.
Sometimes this professional development process goes smoothly. Sometimes it’s very hard—because, says Brown, “some of these kids are hard. They don’t got anybody to show them how to live.”
Brown tells the story of an 18-year-old named Jackie. (Her name has been changed for this story.) She grew up in nearby housing projects. “Rough upbringing,” says Brown. “Gang-banging. Selling drugs. Got a baby.”
She was a new mother “when she first came here. Never had a job. Had a bad attitude. I started her off in the back—she wasn’t fit to be with customers.”
Jackie didn’t like the kitchen and kept asking to move up. Brown relented—and soon regretted it when Jackie lit into a man who was upset about his order. Brown heard them arguing from the back and had to come calm things down and take care of the customer.
“You ain’t ready for the front,” he told her later. “But that guy was being a jerk,” she said. “It don’t matter,” Brown said. “The customer is always right—even when they’re wrong. It’s called ‘hospitality.’”