Interview with Ed Bernet

Ed Bernet opened and owned one of the most successful entertainment clubs in Dallas during the 1960‘s, the Levee, as well as the area’s most popular recording studio, Sumet-Bernet Sound Studios. He has been a founding member of several dixie-land jazz bands, and still plays today with the Levee Singers. He also runs an entertainment booking agency.

What method have you found most useful in planning out your many business endeavors? Do you think a business plan plays an important role in starting an arts venture?  

Ed: Yes, I DO believe a business plan is a necessity for any business venture, especially in the area of arts. I probably would have profited by talking to more people, mentors, people who I know and respect who might have had some good input for me that might have helped me sidetrack a few problems in some instances. I’ve come to believe a person should not try to start a business venture without a strong background in that particular business. Not that it can NEVER work without that experience, but sometimes that can be a problem. Sometimes something works well just because it’s such a great idea! But, having that particular knowledge and experience makes the odds for success much better.

What do you believe are the necessary qualities for an entrepreneur in the arts to possess or develop?  

Ed: Be optimistic, but careful. Try to know/learn every little aspect of your new business.  Try to think of everything that might go wrong and everything that makes the business look like it could be good. Being honest and straightforward, attentive to details and the big picture, true to your word, what you say is what you mean, attentive to the needs of those who might be working with you. Be decisive, but only after careful thought.

What are some of the challenges you encountered throughout your career?  

Ed: We had a music venue in Houston that was similar to what we had going at the Levee in Dallas. I made the mistake of opening a restaurant adjacent to it. Had we not jumped into doing a restaurant, our club/music venue operation would have been much more successful. I’d not really talked with anyone or had any experience in an actual restaurant – several things became obvious that could have been done better.

What has been the biggest reward?  

Ed: I would say our club/music venue, the Levee, open for 10 years during the ’60’s, was the most rewarding of the businesses I’ve tried. It kinda launched our Levee Singers (still going strong- 53rd year), it directed me, roundaboutly, into the booking agency business (still going strong) and the recording studio business (sold it about 15 years ago), and way above all, I met your Memama at the Levee one night when she had a date with a friend of a friend. She was just graduating from TCU. I was an “older guy” at 28, I was so impressed, she was so beautiful and real. We met in late Spring of ’62, married in Nov of that year. As a result of that sweet union, God gave us YOU and all the others in our family. There could be no greater reward!

What role has your family played in the development of your career? 

Ed: Memama has been so supportive, always, of everything I’ve tried to do, she’s always right there with me, she’s always interested in what I’m thinking about, always with good advice and lots of love. All our kids and grandkids have been right there with me as well.

What three pieces of advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are entering the market? 

Ed: Pray about your venture, asking God to bless you and your family in it; be honest and straightforward; talk to people, learn all you possibly can, all the “ins and outs”, before you take the first step.

Interview by Emily Bernet, SMU student.

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