Brewpub entrepreneurs not afraid to get their hands dirty

February 10, 2023
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Derek and Lashawn Hubenak enjoy a burger at Steven's Garden & Grill. (Photo by Bobby Quinten)

By Bobby Quinten

Mansfield Record

Growing up, Derek Hubenak wanted to be like his father.  

“My dad was a jovial, caring, big-hearted businessman,” he explained over a Cowboy Burger at Steven’s Garden and Grill. “He loved to make people smile, and so do I. I always wanted to have my own business, too.”

Today, Derek Hubenak owns his dream business with his wife, Lashawn.  Dirty Job Brewing sits in historic downtown Mansfield in a space that once belonged to a bridal shop and a cupcake bakery. Derek rotates more than 60 different craft beers he brews onsite, while Lashawn serves as the brewpub’s business administrator.

Both Dirty Job proprietors have full-time jobs that pay the bills, Derek with Tarrant County College in Fort Worth and Lashawn at Lily of the Desert Nutraceuticals in Lewisville. Somehow, they still find the time and energy to share beer, pub food, and Derek’s dad jokes with residents.

“We hope to be Mansfield’s neighborhood Cheers,” Derek said, referencing the ‘80s sitcom about a Boston bar. “Dirty Job is a place where everyone feels comfortable, a cozy place to hang out.”

Lashawn added, “We have regulars. We have customers who met their spouses here, got married, and bring their kids here.  It’s like an extended family.”

Lashawn Hubenak grew up in Rockville, Md.  Derek graduated from Lamar High School in Arlington. They met at a party near Fort Myer, Va., where Derek was stationed at the U. S. Army base and served on the honor guard at Arlington National Cemetery.  They have been together ever since and have a son. Lashawn moved with her North Texan husband to Arlington more than 20 years ago.

Derek began experimenting with home brewing a decade ago as a hobby.  

“I like to cook. I like to try new recipes. I found that I also enjoyed making my own beer at home,” Derek recalled.

When he entered contests and won medals for his home brews, Derek and Lashawn pondered pursuing a brick-and-mortar side business.

The name “Dirty Job Brewing” came early in the process, according to Derek.

“We call it Dirty Job because we do it all ourselves. I do all the brewing. You will see us mopping or cleaning toilets, whatever it takes. I joke with patrons that I am the janitor who also owns the place.”

One day in 2016 the Hubenaks drove from their home in Arlington down FM 157, looking for potential property for a brewpub.  Their drive brought them to historic downtown Mansfield, an area previously unknown to them.  

“We loved it immediately,” Lashawn said. “It was an awesome neighborhood. It still is.”

Derek and Lashawn leased the empty bridal dress and alteration shop first, donating the floor-to-ceiling mirrors to a local gym. In keeping with the Dirty Job philosophy, the couple did most of the buildout themselves.  Derek used his carpentry skills to build tables from the original wood in the historic building. He said the entire buildout took a while, but “we would not have it any other way.  Doing it yourself keeps you honest.”

Dirty Job Brewing opened in July 2017.

When the bakery space next door became available, Hubenak also leased that space for an onsite microbrewery.  The additional room also allowed for a food kitchen, fulfilling Derek’s dream of owning a brewpub.  Dirty Job began serving food in September 2019, and customers rave about their flatbread pizzas and sandwiches.

The transformation from bar to brewpub could not have happened at a more opportune time for Derek and Lashawn Hubenak.  When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, Dirty Job Brewing’s ability to sell food allowed the business to remain open.  

“Even when we were closed inside, we could keep our food kitchen open,” Derek explained.  “Dirty Job delivered meals curbside. The State of Texas allowed beer to go, and so we stayed in business.”  

The pandemic also allowed the Hubenaks to build their reputation for giving back to the community.

“We handed out groceries to those in need,” Lashawn recalled. “We would put together pizza kits and give them away to families, just anything we could do to help people.”

By not shuttering Dirty Job Brewing completely in 2020, the Hubenaks held onto most of their staff through the COVID crisis.  Today they have 10 employees, including two who have been there from the start.  

As with many small businesses, staffing is an ongoing challenge for Dirty Job. Derek said he works hard to keep talented people.  

“First of all, I lead by example.  Do as I do.  I will not ask any employee to do a job that I am unwilling to do. That’s how you retain good people,” the owner said.  “Show them you care about them. Delegate to them. Show them that you are with them and not above them.”

Added challenges these days emanate from increasing costs and taxes.  For example, the costs of grains used for beer doubled in price the past two years.

“Consequently, cash flow and staying in the black are a constant struggle,” Lashawn admitted. “We always are reevaluating how we do things so we can keep on keeping on while costs are up.”

Owning and running a brewpub does not leave much free time.  When the owners do take time away, they camp, hunt and travel to the Hubenak family farm in Brownwood.

They also love hosting community events at Dirty Job Brewing, such as a book club and regular Trivia Nights.  

“We love giving back,” Derek said.  

A recent Bingo Night for the local Kiwanis Club brought a packed house on a Saturday afternoon and raised funds for the club’s scholarships.  Derek Hubenak took the mike, called the numbers and told a few jokes.  

Lashawn and Derek never regretted bringing their brewpub dreams to historic downtown Mansfield.  When asked where we might conduct this interview, Derek immediately requested another downtown business, Steven’s Garden and Grill.

“It really is a small-town feel, especially downtown,” Lashawn said. “You do not meet a stranger here.  Everyone is super-friendly, and everyone works well together.”

“The people who work downtown get it. They care about this neighborhood,” Derek added. “We all want to see each other’s businesses grow. We understand how hard it is to run a small business with inflation and higher taxes.”

Derek believes that additional marketing and investment for historic downtown Mansfield could help all the businesses there.

For now, Dirty Job Brewing is accomplishing its mission for Derek and Lashawn Hubenak. In fact, the brewpub is doing well enough that the couple is thinking about further growth and possible expansion to a second location. Additionally, Dirty Job’s craft beers like the Sluggo’s Black Eye PA soon could be served in local restaurants through distribution deals.

If Derek and Lashawn Hubenak could change one thing about their journey with Dirty Job Brewing, what would it be?  Food service at the beginning would have been nice, but otherwise Derek declared, “We were super happy when we started this thing, and we are bursting at the seams today.  Everyone’s dreaming until you do it.  We are doing our dream.”

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Mansfield, Texas, is a booming city, nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, but with a personality all its own. The city’s 76,247 citizens enjoy an award-winning school district, vibrant economy, historic downtown, prize-winning park system and community focus spread across 37 square miles. The Mansfield Record is dedicated to reporting city and school news, community happenings, police and fire news, business, food and restaurants, parks and recreation, library, historical archives and special events. The city’s only online newspaper launched in September 2020 and will offer introductory advertising rates for the first three months at three different rates.

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