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Houston, TX
Houston, TX
Bryan Caswell
Reef

I grew up in Houston, but spent nine years training and working as a chef in New York City, Bangkok, Barcelona, and Hong Kong. When I returned to open Reef in 2007, I was blown away by the revitalization of the downtown area, which reinvigorated the city.

It's a big small town -- people here are incredibly personable. They make loyal customers, and they appreciate hometown heroes as much as homegrown heroes. A friend of mine has bumper sticker that says, "It's alright that you're not from Texas, as long as you got here as soon as you could."

Because of lack of zoning in major areas, people are much more open to some guy or gal opening a business in a little hallway on a shoestring. You don't have to have a multi-million dollar budget. As a small business owner, I don't have to compete with corporate America low-cutting: in Houston we're not set up that way. Walking around the city, you could come upon a cafe in the middle of a residential street.

The recession hit us like everybody else, but not nearly as bad as in New York and LA and Chicago. At Reef, we're up 25 in sales since last year. -Megan Erickson

See complete data for Houston, TX

NEXT: Huntsville, AL

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