David Beard, a living testimony of the American Dream, is a self-made man who is as modest about his present state in life as he is proud of the mother, family and friends who helped him achieve his success. From his humble beginnings in Hughes Springs, Texas, where he walked away from high school at the age of 14 because his family couldn't afford to buy him shoes, to his present position as CEO of Great American Foods Corporation. Mr. Beard has stayed true to the lessons his mother taught him as a child. Her early instructions about cleanliness, pride, and hard work are the basis for the success of David Beard's catfish restaurants, which are scattered over several states.
Mr. Beard opened his first restaurant in 1969 in a shotgun style building, which seated 120 people and rented for $150.00 per month. The restaurant was located on Highway 155 near Ore City, Texas. He opened the restaurant close to his home because he liked to eat catfish and was certain he could cook it better than anyone else around who was serving catfish. In those early days, his mother made the hushpuppies from her own recipe, a recipe his restaurants still use today along with their famous tomato relish. Either Mr. Beard, or his brother, Jerry, would haul the live fish from Arkansas or Louisiana in large minnow vats they carried in the back of their pickup trucks. David and Jerry would cut up the fish daily, using a process of hand washing the fish in clean, clear, fresh water, two, three, and sometimes more times, to bring out the flavor of the fish. Mr. Beard also did the cooking, while his sisters and other relatives helped in the restaurant. From the very beginning, the business was truly a family affair.
Back then cooking every night except Wednesday and Sunday, Mr. Beard served his mouth-watering catfish to the people of East Texas and miles beyond, including other states. As his reputation grew, people flocked to the rural East Texas restaurant and stood in line to wait for a seat sometimes for hours in poor weather. He expanded the restaurant twice, but that didn't seem to solve his problem. In 1974, when the owner didn't want to sell the building, Mr. Beard bought 10 acres down the road. To finance the move, Mr. Beard borrowed as much money as he could at the time and built a 13,500 square foot restaurant that would seat 550 people.
The David Beard's Catfish Village continued to flourish, so the Beards bought a bobtail truck to haul the fish, laying the groundwork for today's vertical operation. With lines of people still waiting for some of that mouth-watering catfish, Mr. Beard decided to open his second Catfish Village restaurant in Longview, Texas. When the second restaurant was successful and the original restaurant's business continued to be just as good as before, Mr. Beard elected to open even more restaurants (including fast-casual concept called Catfish King) that continues to this day, and, as they say, the rest is history.
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