Cody Taylor, ’09
Editor’s Note: Cody Taylor and his business partner Harlon Scott will be reopening Valentino’s Pizza at its old location on the square in downtown San Marcos. Plans are underway for a fall 2021 reopening.
On a busy day at Austin’s well-known Café Josie or at Industry, a new San Marcos restaurant, Cody Taylor (B.A. ’09) is just as likely to be busing tables or washing dishes as he is working at the front of the house. That work ethic, and the desire to make people happy, is what turned this Texas State University graduate into a successful restaurateur.
“I like taking care of people,” says Taylor, now 37. Growing up in the South Texas town of Goliad, he worked at a restaurant owned by his father’s friend. Later, he worked in restaurants to pay his way while attending community college. Taylor tried other professions on for size, but eventually returned to restaurants. “There was a year I worked in Mississippi in the oilfields — doing title research as a ‘landman’ — and I spent a semester trying to sell vitamins,” he says.
At 19, Taylor discovered a new aspect of the restaurant world at a Bryan eatery. “I didn’t realize that I was in love with the business until I worked at Café Eccell with my first chef. There was something about the level of respect they demand. The way they work with flavors and the logistics how they did it just blew me away,” Taylor recalls. “You start to see the artistic component of what it means to be a chef. I realized then, there is a story behind each dish and process.”The experience didn’t drive him into culinary school, but it did set the stage for his later return to restaurants throughout his college years in College Station, a brief stint in Canada, and finally to Texas State, where he graduated with a degree in international studies.
Back in Austin, Taylor joined Café Josie, an established restaurant by well known chef Charles Mayes. After going from waiting tables to becoming assistant manager, he went beyond working the front of the house to learn the other parts of the business, including bartending and wine buying. The restaurant was closed on Sundays, so Taylor used the quiet dining
room to study for classes and avoid football and friends.
“He demonstrated efforts, insight, and success beyond the usual,” says Mayes, an Austin restaurateur since 1979 and owner of the new Cielo Bistro Mexico. “Cody had some experience and had an active mind. He respected people and he did everything with lots of positivity.”
Mayes says he was able to step back from overseeing the entire restaurant operation and focus on the kitchen. “Before long, I just turned over the whole front of the house to him. He never failed me,” Mayes says.
The seed for owning Café Josie was planted in 2007 when Taylor mused about one day having his own restaurant. “I flippantly said, ‘Play your cards right and you could own this one,’ ” Mayes says. As the economy went into recession, Mayes told Taylor it wasn’t the time for him to buy, but he would know when the time was right.
On Valentine’s Day 2012, business at Café Josie was trending up from previous years. Mayes recalls that Taylor sidled up and said, “Is this it?”
Eight months later, Taylor took ownership of the restaurant. “This restaurant is named after my daughter. I wasn’t going to sell it to just anybody,” Mayes says.
Taylor says there were still tough times ahead for the restaurant, but it eventually turned the corner and thrived. “It’s gone through cycles where I’ve had to pay myself last or not at all,” Taylor says. “Sometimes you have to keep your head up.”
Success brought new opportunity with the 2018 opening of Industry in San Marcos. Mark Shields, an Austin-area real estate investor and developer, was one of the original investors in Café Josie and dined there frequently. When he was looking for a tenant for a project in San Marcos, he contacted Taylor about possible interested parties. Two months later, Taylor asked if he could be the tenant.
Taylor soon moved to San Marcos to begin the process of launching Industry. “He’s a genuine guy who cares about what he does,” Shields says of Taylor. “He’s really on the ball (getting involved in San Marcos) that way. He knows he needs to stay in touch with the community.”
Industry, an homage to people working in the restaurant and hospitality industry, also lives up to its name with clean lines and an industrial look. Handmade tables of gleaming polished natural wood, however, create an intimate feeling. In February, an expansion of Austin brewery Hops & Grain opened next door with Industry serving as the tasting room’s official food provider.
Taylor’s love for the restaurant industry and the people who work in it drive his philosophy. “It’s a team sport and it’s great when it works and you have a good team behind you,” Taylor says. He treats the team as a family and has a family-first policy in a business that can have a high rate of turnover. “People tend to stick with me when we work together.”