By: Rebecca S. Jones African-American News&Issues
HOUSTON– From the age of six, hard labor and working from sun up to sun down is all that owner of Davis Meat Market (Mr. James Davis) located at 2204 Lockwood Dr., can remember. A native of Tangipahoa Parish’s largest city located in Hammond, Louisiana, Davis recalls from the moment he started walking, he started working. “That’s just how it was back in my day”, “I mulched more strawberries than anyone can count during my youth”, stated Davis. As the years continued to fade away, Davis in search of a more fruitful and vibrant future set his sight on a more bounteous ground. With .25 cents in his pocket and a will to succeed, Davis landed himself in the heart of Houston ’s 5th Ward. Being homeless and with no intended place of shelter in mind, nor idea of his next move, Davis encountered one of 5th Ward’s most notorious pimps (Mr. Robert Zoom). It was Mr. Robert Zoom who fed Davis with a delectable seafood platter.
Shortly thereafter, Davis began walking up and down 3rd Ward’s Dowling Street , in freezing weather looking for any type of legal avenue to make ends meet. Although, a great deal of his efforts appeared to be futile, it was Mr. Marshall Jenkins who gave him his first job. Square Deal Cab Lines is where Davis worked for merely $50 dollars a week. He stayed there for three years. In the midst of working there, he continued working any odd jobs that he could find. Davis built a reputation of cutting yards, landscaping, washing cars, working at gas stations, you name it, he did it; all the while saving every penny he earned. He eventually enrolled in school to develop a professional trade and continued to work days and attend school at night. However, through all of the work, skills and trades that Mr. James Davis did, it was perhaps his employment at a meat packing house for 27 years that proved to be one of the most rewarding places of employment that he found. It was there that he begin to seek out a career that would later make him a renown giant in the Houston area.
For it was after a job-related injury and no source of income or assistance from the company, that Davis really thought on going into business for himself. Equipped with $35 dollars in the bank, a car and house note pronging him, no obvious signs of Workers Compensation in sight and a realization that he was approaching 50 years of age; Davis began to, “put all of his ducks together”. Pursuant, he purchased ten boxes of meat from the owner of a meat packing house. Much to Davis chagrin, those ten boxes sold out of the back of his truck were completely gone in four hours and yielded him a $500 dollar return. From that feat, Davis continued the same trend, selling meat in every nook and cranny in the Houston area. This trend resulting in the title of, “Coon Man” which Davis is still known as to this day. Seeing as how the meat business proved to be a lucrative and booming one, he was blessed enough to acquire enough funds to purchase from the infamous Don Robey a small building located at 2204 Lockwood Dr . for $18,000 dollars. Approximately, two years after Davis started selling meat out of his truck, he officially went from wholesale to retail. Hence, Davis Meat Market premiered in June of 1988. The store started from a small room which has since been upgraded to the big red building advertising: hog crackling, ox tails, home cooked meals, steam table, Cajun boudin, homemade sausage, pork chops, beans and rice, and hickory smoked Bar B Q, can be seen in passing 5th Ward’s Lockwood Dr., any day of the week.
In spite of all of Davis achievements, he recollects that it did not come easy. He has been faced with discrimination and many forms of prejudice to state the least. While it was at Baytown Seafood located on Little York many years ago that he was making a delivery and came face to face with racism. With half of his load of meat on his truck and the other half inside the store, he was confronted with a White man who locked him out and refused to allow him to complete his delivery. Faced with many similar situations, Davis perservered through and never gave up and suggests that each obstacle that he met, only served to strengthen his drive as a business owner.
As James Davis was making his way to Houston , in another part of one of Texas ’ sister states Louisiana , there was a young lady named Patricia who was born in Ville Platte. After relocating at the age of six to Louisiana ’s Cajun Country of Lake Charles, Patricia affectionately called “Pat”, recalls living in a segregated community. “As Blacks, we stayed on our side and the White folks stayed on there side”, uttered Pat. She worked 14 years at the Hazel Brothers Grocery Store. After graduating from Boston High School in Lake Charles , Pat relocated to Houston in the early 1970’s. Once arriving in Houston , she began looking for any type of job that she could find. Her efforts provided her with the opportunity to work at Clayton Grocery Store as a cashier. Motivated to better herself, she went to school and became a nurse’s aid. This certification led to her working at Homestead Medical Center for over five years. There she was a nurse’s aid, physical therapist and performed a variety of services for patients that visited the hospital. Pat later worked at an Elementary School in the Heights for three years. Nevertheless, it was one day that she was on her way to church and waiting at a bus stop that she met Mr. James Davis. He offered her a ride and she stated that she has been riding with him ever since. Mrs. Patricia Davis works diligently with her husband and refers to herself as a silent partner of Davis Meat Market. She boasts of one of her greatest successes as a woman, their son Jonathan.
Jonathan has been working for the family-owned business since the age of four. He is now the Manager of Davis Meat Market, and works side by side with his parents. When asked of his opinion on working with and for his parents he stated that, “It is a great privilege, to be able to work in the business with my parents.” Jonathan is a graduate of Wheatley High School where he was elected as Mr. Wheatley and became the captain of the football team. He has since graduated from the University of Houston where he majored in Finance and minored in Economics. He is a certified Financial Planner and owns his own business as well. Tentatively, he plans to graduate from Rice University with a MBA in Finance. He has two small children who may also be seen working just as hard with their father and grandparents.
Davis Meat Market is a location frequented by many Houston residents. Long-time patron, Mr. Cliff Hall noted that Davis Meat Market is an exceptional place to purchase meat from. He further added that, “I’ve been buying meat for over 40 years, and it is still one of my favorite spots in the Houston area.”
The meat business has accomplished the Davis ’s with much success. The dynamic duo have two additional restaurants inclusive with: a restaurant in Texas City and another which intersects at Bennington and Lockwood. In addition, they have purchased several rental properties throughout Houston . With a proud stare, Davis informed that, “We don’t owe anyone a dime and we are a 100% Black owned operation”. When asked of words of inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs, Davis stated that, “You must be willing to work hard, if you want to run a business.” He further added that his day starts at 3-4 o’clock in the morning and that on a weekly basis, he dedicates at least 80 to 90 work hours toward his businesses. Davis takes pride in the fact that in all of his years as operating as a proprietor, that he has only missed one day from work. Mrs. Davis stated that, “In operating and running a business for yourself, you must be mindful that you won’t always see immediate financial results”. “I believe that it takes at least three years before you really generate a profitable earning, because most of your proceeds have to go right back into the business if you want to keep it running”, stated Pat.
Concluding, Patricia and James Davis together have become icons in the meat industry. Having being acknowledged and commended in several publications including: the Houston Chronicle, Houston Press and Houston Forward Times, the Davis ’s have really built quite the resume of being noted as one of Houston’s Best Kept Secrets! The Houston Chronicle denoted that, “Patricia and James Davis have been married to each other and the meat business for over 27 years.” Thus, African-American News&Issues, salutes the dynamite partners who have definitely made their mark in the African-American community; and we encourage our African-American News&Issues audience to support one of Houston’s Best Kept Secrets.