Hi, I'm Howard Partridge.
I'm originally from L.A. (Lower Alabama!). I grew up very poor in Mobile, Alabama and there were 7 kids living in a little 600 square foot shack.
The roof was so bad on that house that when it rained we had to get out all the pots and pans to catch the leaks! At one point, we lived on a hundred dollars a month from the welfare department. I don't know how my mother did it. I still remember getting Christmas presents from the social workers.
When I was 18 years old, I got in a fight with my step dad and got kicked out of the house. I had NO money and a friend helped me scrape up enough for a Greyhound bus ticket to Houston. My real dad (who I had only met twice in my entire life) lived there.
I arrived in Houston with 25 cents in my pocket. Eventually I became a professional waiter. I worked in these restaurants where we did table-side cooking… Steak Diane, Bananas Foster, Caesar Salad – all made from scratch at the table, wearing a tuxedo.
But I always wanted my own business. I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. But I still had no money!
I went to New Jersey to get married to my wife Denise Concetta Antionette Pennella (now THAT's Italian!). While in New Jersey a friend of the family was tooling around in a little red Mercedes convertible.
He was my age (23 at the time). I wanted to know what he did, and I wanted to know if it was legal! I discovered that he owned his own business.
Well, when you marry into an Italian family, instead of getting wedding presents like toasters, blenders or a set of dishes, you get cash!
We got $3,000.00 in wedding money. As soon as we got back to Houston, I spent that money on starting my own business.