WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — America’s amazing, $21-trillion dollar economy didn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of a lot of hard work by people willing to put their money at risk and put in long hours, starting and building businesses.
Algenon Cash shows people, every day, how that’s done. It’s just that he’s not the most likely person to be doing it.
Growing up on the east side of Winston-Salem, “The only thing I knew about money was, we were poor – we didn’t have a lot of it,” Algenon says, looking back on his youth.
He was raised by his grandparents, Frank Gladden and Irene Wharton, in a small, shotgun house, behind the Zesto Burgers and Ice Cream on Liberty Street, in Winston-Salem. His grandparents may not have had a lot of formal education, but they were smart and had a keen sense of how to succeed.
“My grandparents. I mean, I give complete credit to them – I would not be where I would be, without them,” says Algenon. “They didn’t know anything about business from a technical perspective, but my grandmother was actually very, very entrepreneurial.”
Among other things, his grandmother managed that Zesto. So, when Algenon grew up and began a boutique investment firm that he named after his grandparents – Wharton Gladden – one of his projects was to open a Zesto, again … east Winston-Salem’s first new restaurant in nearly two decades.
As a successful investment banker, Algenon knows that making business decisions on nostalgia can be dangerous.
“You don’t necessarily make business decisions based on emotion but I also think if you want to be a good corporate citizen, every decision can’t just be about making a profit, either,” he notes.
His new version of Zesto on New Walkertown Road will bring back memories of the old one but is definitely updated – reflecting what today’s consumers demand.
“We don’t actually put any food on the grill or in the fryer until somebody orders it, so it comes out very, very fresh,” says Algenon, as he works the grill to make a cheesesteak sub.
Despite his success and the model he hopes it presents, Algenon is not one who insists that everyone start a business.
“Starting a business is something that people really promote really heavy – everybody should go out and start a business, everybody should be an entrepreneur. You’ll never hear me say that,” he says. “Just because you’re a great plumber, doesn’t mean you should own a plumbing business.”
You not only need some acumen for management, but you need a passion for the long hours and the ups-and-downs of business.
See how Algenon operates the Zesto, in this edition of the Buckley Report.