If anyone thinks Snuffer’s, the hamburger restaurant that has been a fixture on Greenville Avenue for more than 20 years, was an immediate success – think again.

“We opened to a rousing round of indifference,” says Pat Snuffer, who started with $40,000 (some of it borrowed), home-made tables and self-installed grease traps in a rundown beer joint.

“It took a full three years to really begin to feel like we might make it in the long run.”

Since those early days, Snuffer’s has become as much a part of Dallas as the Cowboys. There is a second store in Addison, managed by son Mike, and the restaurants are as well-known for the lines of customers waiting to get in as they are for their cheese fries.

“Snuffer’s has provided a stable, clean, well-run anchor to Lower Greenville for 20 years,” he says. “We attract such a cross section of customers that I think we have completely redefined the concept of a neighborhood restaurant.”

And the key to that, Snuffer says, is simple: “We’re only as good as our last meal. The customer in the restaurant right now is our real critic.”

Q: Why did you open this business in this particular neighborhood?

A: I wanted to work for myself, and the area is very stable, relatively crime free, close to Downtown and close to SMU. I saw a real need for a casual neighborhood spot with a simple, well-executed menu.

Q: How did you get started in the restaurant business?

A: My first job, at age 13, was in a neighborhood ice cream store in Houston. I waited tables in college, which allowed me to really enjoy working with people. I had a steak house in Richardson before Snuffer’s that allowed me to do what I really wanted – sell burgers and margaritas. I wanted to simplify from the full-blown steak/salad bar concept.

Q: The last book I read was:

A: “The Last Apocalypse” by James Reston Jr.

Q: My definition of “success” is:

A: Waking every morning excited about the coming opportunities.

Q: I never knew that owning my own business would mean:

A: Enjoying the freedom having your own business continually provides.

Q: The hardest part of running a business is:

A: Long ago over. Now, with all of the great managers we have, it’s fun.

Q: The best advice I ever received was:

A: Find something in life to challenge your abilities and enthusiasm.

Q: People I admire are:

A: My mom, from whom I inherited my work ethic.

Q: My advice to anyone trying to start a business is:

A: Learn as much as you can from successful operators. Observe success first hand, then try it yourself. Get set for the long haul. Nothing that lasts comes easy.