Restaurant owner steps in as employee was on the verge of being homeless

Chris Roark
Waxahachie Daily Light

Being in the radio business, Al Mack is known for his big personality.

But one of his restaurant employees recently found out how big his heart is, too.

Mack, who is known as “Big Al” on the Kidd Kraddick Show on 106.1 KISS FM, owns four restaurants including Big Al’s Down the Hatch on S. Rogers Street in Waxahachie.

It was there that James Mees applied for a job as a cook.

For Mack the decision to hire him was an easy one. At a time when employees were hard to come by Mack said he found a good one in Mees.

“The toughest part is finding people,” Mack said. “But he appears to want to work, so I tried to help him.”

“Sometimes you just have to go with your hunch,” Mack said.

But giving Mees the job was just one of the ways Mack helped him out. Little did Mack know at the time that Mees was in the midst of one of the worst situations of his life.  

Last year he and his girlfriend moved to Waxahachie from Illinois, but two months after they arrived the relationship ended and she moved away.

Mees planned to move back to Illinois and live with a friend, but that fell through, just days after Mees quit his job in Waxahachie.

Suddenly Mees found himself alone, with no job, no car and no money, and the clock was ticking before the hotel he was living in evicted him.

“I’m living in Texas, and I don’t know anyone,” Mees said.

After learning of Mees’ situation Mack decided to help even more.

“He asked if I knew of any place that could help him with housing,” Mack said. “He was living in a hotel and was about to be evicted because he didn’t have enough money for another week. When you start a new job you’re usually a week or two in the hole. He didn’t ask for money, just assistance.”

Mack said he knew a man who rents property, and he was able to locate an apartment for Mees. Mack then paid the deposit and first month’s rent to help Mees get back on his feet.

“I said just pay it forward when you can,” Mack said.

With the new job Mees has found both stability and happiness. He gets to cook, which he enjoys, and he’s surrounded by people who care.

“I love it,” Mees said. “It’s a great atmosphere. This isn’t a job where you hate going into work. I love what I do, my coworkers are awesome and it’s a fun environment. You should enjoy your job.”

Ironically, Mees’ other passion, music, played a part in getting connected with Mack. Mees said he learned of the job opening after coming in to sing karaoke.

For Mees music runs in the family. He said his grandfather wrote music professionally, and he wants to follow in his footsteps.

“Music is in my blood,” Mees said.

Mees said he has written both country and hip-hop songs, and 35 of them are a combination of the two.

“My dream is to write music,” Mees said. “I don’t want the spotlight. I just want to live a peaceful life.”

Mees said his favorite song that he’s written is a hip-hop song called “Showtime,” which is about putting away his past demons and getting himself in the mindset to get on stage and perform.

Another favorite is “I’m a Survivor,” a country song about perseverance.

“I’ve been through a lot,” he said. “You just take it one day at a time. I’ve survived everything I’ve come across.”

Mees said he would like to get to the point where he can record his music, but that, too, costs money.

“I need to get into the studio,” Mees said. “Or be heard by the right person.”

But first comes family, and a way to get to them. Mees said his next goal is to get a car so he can drive to Illinois to visit his children, who he hasn’t seen in over a year. He said it’s important that the car is in good condition.

“It’s a 14-hour drive up there,” he said. “I don’t want to worry about the engine going out.”

Until then he’ll keep cooking at Big Al’s, grabbing a microphone to sing karaoke after his shift ends and being grateful for Mack’s actions.

“He did what a lot of people wouldn’t do, and he took care of everything,” Mees said. “He has a big heart.”