Jason Feinglas grew up in Mesquite from elementary through high school. His wife has worked with Mesquite ISD for 20 years. He was in the finance business before joining Alejandro in 2017, starting his journey in the restaurant business.
Alejandro is the owner of Alejandro's. Growing up in Stephenville, he went to Tarleton State before entering the restaurant industry. After going to culinary school, he moved to Washington DC for four years where he was a regional concept chef. Moving back to North Texas in 2006, he and his brother started the concept of Alejandro's on Dalrock Road. They expanded to Royce City and have opened a new location in Mesquite.
How did you get into the restaurant business?
Alejandro: It chose me. When I was in college, I worked at a local restaurant bar that was the only place in town where you could get a chicken fried steak, a burger and a beer. It was a really hopping place that's still there today. I got involved with that, and people told me I was really good with it, so I just stuck with it. When I graduated, it was either get a coaching career or stay in the restaurant world. I walked into Joe's Crab Shack, and it chose me. I never thought this would take me to a traveling career. Once it became that, I was traveling all over the United States redoing kitchens and restaurants.
Jason: I was in private wealth investment, but I always wanted to own a restaurant someday. Not knowing anything about owning restaurants, I wanted to get in and learn. I knew Alex (Alejandro) and David, and that would be a good way to start learning what I didn't know. We just kind of started working on ideas I had, and it translated to seeing what we can do with the Alejandro's concept. I always wanted to be around food, liquor, drinks, people and live music, which is something we plan to have in Mesquite. To me, it was a way to do something that seemed a lot more appealing to me for the long-term.
What brought you to choose Mesquite?
Alejandro: Our roots. Mesquite's always been very good to Alejandro's. In 2007, when we opened in Rowlett, David, my brother was an assistant principal at Poteet, and we got our first catering gig through Poteet High School. From there, it kept growing and growing. Mesquite has always supported us in many ways. To work with the city of Mesquite as we have, we're very grateful for the opportunities that they've provided for us, and it's a great partnership that we've created with them.
Jason: I wanted to do something in my community that we felt could have more one-off restaurants — an independent establishment instead of these larger chains. It was a chance to do something unique in my community, and we're excited about what downtown Mesquite has in store. I know the vision of city council and economic development is to bring some food and live entertainment. Just to be in the downtown square on the front end of that, we're hopeful that we'll soon see something downtown that we know the community will love downtown.
What has been most rewarding since you opened?
Alejandro: I think being involved with the community, being involved with the schools and working with Beverly have been great. She's great, and she has great ideas. She's there to help us with whatever we need. When you build a partnership like that and you have support like that, you have nothing but positive growth that comes out of it. We're more excited about the future of this.
Jason: I think one aspect is being new to business ownership and building relationships with your staff, your kitchen crew and service, it's been a really unique time starting Royce City in 2020 right through the pandemic. It's been really rewarding going through a unique time and history trying to stay in business and come out on top.
What has been most challenging for you opening in Mesquite?
Jason: Supply chain was the largest issue. We were originally trying to open in January 2021, and ultimately, the issues of getting parts and labor through the pandemic, we got to building late into the year. So, the supply chain issues continued into 2022, to where we were finally able to open in August. That was really challenging.
Alejandro: I think one of the most challenging things in general from what the pandemic has brought to all businesses is the lack of laborers, servers, bartenders and kitchen staff. We're not the only ones dealing with that. It's been something industrywide. It's been a challenge to staff any business. It doesn't seem we have quite the laborers we had pre-pandemic. We were plenty staffed all the time, and we didn't have to run skeleton crews all the time. Now it seems when you go into a restaurant, they're running a skeleton crew all the time. Sections are closed because they don't have the staff. The hours have been changed because they don't have enough people to maintain the restaurant. It can be a whipping. It makes it a challenge because you want to deliver your product to your customers properly, but you can't accomplish that goal the way you want it. I think that is one of the biggest challenges you see when you don't have the laborers to run your business the way you want. It puts a burden on ownership to become more hands-on. We've accepted that challenge because if you want to survive, that's what you have to do.
What has been the public response since you opened?
Jason: The public has been very positive. We opened August 29, and we've had some really strong traffic. Downtown Mesquite tends to quiet down, but as we get more restaurants here and more entertainment, we'll see that critical mass build. The response has been so positive. We get so much support from Beverly, MISD, city council members and other community members supporting us. We haven't blasted out the word, but we can see it growing.
How long have you lived in the area?
Alejandro: I moved here in 2006, so roughly about 16 or 17 years.
Jason: I've been in the area for over 50 years. I lived in Sunnyvale ad Garland, but I went from elementary to high school and Eastfield College here. Now we're back in Mesquite as of last year.
What's your favorite childhood memory?
Alejandro: I guess I always knew I'd be in the kitchen. Growing up in Stephenville, it was the country in the 1980s and 1990s. We lived far out of town, so we didn't go out to eat every night. It was a lot of family dinners. My mother would cook, and I was always in the kitchen with her helping make tortillas, beans, pork chops, salsa or whatever I could do. I grew up wanting to be a chef. I never thought it would propel to what it has. The food I learned to prepare growing up are a lot of the recipes we have in our restaurant now.
What are your hobbies?
Jason: I have a 15-year-old and a 13-yer-old, so most of my free time goes to their sports. I like to play golf, but most of my free time goes to family, and I enjoy that.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what's one thing you could not live without?
Alejandro: If Jason and I were stuck together, and he had tequila and I had a skillet, we'd be good to go.
What's one thing about you that readers would never guess to be true?
Alejandro: My personality is very different at the restaurant than it is away from the restaurant. People would not know that I'm a bit of a jokester and a prankster.
Jason: I'm very active in understanding politics.