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Meet James Langley of Empress Capital Investments

Today we’d like to introduce you to James Langley.

James, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve never been a stranger to hard work. In fact, I was ten-years-old when I got my first job. Most kids get their first bicycle when they turn ten, but I guess I just wasn’t like most kids! I grew up without my father in my life, which meant my brother and I had to step up to help support our mother. Cleaning hotel rooms and landscaping didn’t pay much, but it was something. Growing up in the outskirts of Northern California, there wasn’t a ton of options for work, so I eventually found myself putting in long, arduous hours in logging, roofing and electrical – all of which were the most exhausting jobs I’ve ever had.

Going into high school, I knew education was something I needed to focus on. So, I chose a job that could accommodate my hours away (and was frankly much easier than my previous work): the restaurant industry. I had to take a two and one half-hour-long bus ride to school every morning at 5 am. I spent the day in class and then went to baseball/basketball practice for an hour or two afterward. I then made my way to work where I washed dishes, oftentimes not getting back home until midnight or sometimes 2 or 3 in the morning, and then had to start all over at 5 am to catch the bus to school. During my time as a dishwasher, I knew my skills could be applied in other ways, so I tried my best to learn from those around me. It was there where I learned just how important every single person’s job is in the restaurant industry, from the person cleaning toilets to the executive chef. I worked in the restaurant business for eight years, working my way up the ladder.

I credit my year’s bussing and waiting tables for helping me develop important life skills I now use every day, like how to read people and prioritize tasks. I worked my way through high school and college where I attended Point Loma Nazarene University, majoring in business administration. Today, I wear many hats. I am a partner at LDG Commercial Real Estate, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Resident Brewing and President and Founder of Empress Capital Investments, but I’d have to say my most important job is father to my two young daughters. Everything I do, I do for them.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Whatever the far opposite (plus some) of the word smooth would be; that is the word I would use to describe my path. Many people assume that everything has come natural and easy for me, which is so far from the truth. When I played baseball, I would double my workouts add swim and film review time. When I got hired in commercial real estate, everyone told me I would be making six figures within two years, it took me seven.

We started Resident Brewing Company three years ago and it just got profitable. With Empress Capital Investments, we failed at almost every venue in the beginning. The best part is that it never stops changing. I have learned that if you want to be different and the best, you have to be humble and embrace constant change and constant grind. It becomes a way of life, and if you don’t like that then don’t own restaurants.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Empress Capital Investments – what should we know?
Empress Capital Investments was founded in 2017 when we identified a need other investment companies were not meeting in the restaurant industry. Traditional investment firms often concentrate solely on large businesses, leaving smaller companies to fall to the wayside. Empress Capital Investments was created to assist emerging, established and mature boutique restaurants develop successful business strategies, encourage growth and increase revenue.

Additionally, under the Empress Restaurants Family name, we own and operate three of our own North County San Diego restaurants: Madero’s, Wokou Ramen and Yakitori (Pacific Beach location coming soon) and California Native. Empress Capital Investments is different than other investment firms because we were founded on authenticity and honesty and created with the business owner in mind. Our approach to clients is always in their best interests. If we do not feel we can help a client, or if we think there is another company better suited for their situation, we are upfront about it from the beginning.

LDG Commercial Real Estate was founded in 2018 by myself and two partners: Scott Dickson, and Barrett Geenen. We are a relationship-driven firm who strongly believes in loyalty, integrity, innovation, and trust.

Where do you see your industry going over the next 5-10 years? Any big shifts, changes, trends, etc.?
Food and hospitality are changing faster than most folks would like to admit. People want healthier food that fits a wide variety of diets, organic, locally grown and farmed, and they want it fast and with a smile. Market rents for real estate continue to increase, and in California with minimum wage increasing, it will be very difficult for restaurants to be profitable. For many restaurants, the answer to this problem is to spend more money to create an “Instagrammable or taggable” atmosphere. We personally are choosing to spend more money on our food and staff so we can create a better experience for our customers. We want to be a place you come to once a week not once every six months.

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