Stanley's owner named top small business person

Published on Tuesday, 6 May 2014 22:26 - Written by CASEY MURPHY cmurphy@tylerpaper.com

Nick Pencis was “floored” Tuesday when he found out he was named the 2014 Dallas/Fort Worth District Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The owner of Stanley’s Famous Pit-Bar-BQ in Tyler beat out competitors in 72 counties.

“That is so cool,” he said when he learned of the news.

In 2006, Pencis, 37, and his wife, Jen, bought Stanley’s and have since expanded it, adding a patio, live music, changing its hours and increasing employees and sales. They are continuing to grow the business and are now renovating the bathrooms.

From 2006 to 2013, Stanley’s has seen a total increase in sales of 833 percent, Pencis said. The restaurant in 2013 saw an increase of 145 percent over the year before.

“This has been a really hard road,” Pencis said. “Stanley’s hasn’t always been busy.”

At one point, the business almost didn’t make it, and its success in the past few years has been a “huge turnaround” for them, he said.

Pencis said they wouldn’t be where they are without the help from Don Proudfoot, director of Tyler Junior College’s Small Business Development Center. From him, they learned how to run a business and get loans from local banks.

“Those guys literally saved us and taught us what we needed to know,” Pencis said. “We have a huge debt of gratitude for those guys.”

He said he has learned to pay attention to the details.

“Make sure the food is good and take care of the customers and you’ll be OK,” he said.

Pencis said they have been getting a lot of attention lately in the food world since barbecue is becoming a “very foodie thing right now.” He said people pass through Tyler to eat there and spread the word in their hometowns.

Stanley’s is shipping food “to both coasts and in between,” Pencis said, adding that he recently shipped food to a wedding in Napa Valley and for a rock star’s beach party in South Carolina.

“We’re all kind of blown away by the attention,” he said.

Pencis said they have a lot of loyal customers who have been around throughout the history of the restaurant, including the remaining members of the Stanley family, who are proud of what they have done. They also are attracting new fans with new college students, as well as people who have lived here their entire lives but never stopped in before, he added.

Stanley’s has 29 employees.

Pencis, along with other small-business award winners, will be recognized during the annual DFW Small Business Awards Luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel in Arlington June 12. The honorees competed with others from across the 72 Texas counties that the DFW District office covers.

“These entrepreneurs and advocates will be recognized for their outstanding work in business and in the community” Herbert Austin, DFW District director, said in a prepared statement.

The SBA’s National Small Business Week will be held May 12 to 16. This year’s events will take place across the country and feature forums discussing the small business landscape, business coaching services and matchmaking events, as well as networking opportunities and award ceremonies. The week’s events will conclude in Washington, D.C., where the 2014 National Small Business Person of the Year will be announced.