Jack not sure of career plans, but will continue volunteer work with Pride parade, community fundraising events
Kathy Jack, a fixture on the Cedar Springs strip for 20 years, resigned her position with Caven Enterprises on May 4, a month after marking her 20th year with the Oak Lawn nightclub and real estate development company.
Jack, who has worked in the nightclub industry for almost 30 years, said she had been contemplating a change for several months, and had discussed her options with her partner of 10 years, Susie Buck.
“I just felt like I needed a change,” Jack said of her decision. “It was a really hard decision. But I’ve got a lot of things I need to do with my life, and when you do what I have been doing for the last 20-something years for a living, you don’t have much time to have a personal life.”
Jack worked for other GLBT nightclubs in the Dallas area including The Unicorn for about seven years before joining Caven Enterprises in April of 1986, according to Gregg Kilhoffer, Caven president. She quickly worked her way up to a management position with the company, and in 1989 when the company opened Sue Ellen’s now one of the largest lesbian bars in the state Jack was named manager of the club.
Kilhoffer said Jack was named operations manager for Caven about two years ago and has been in charge of all the company’s nightclubs since then.
“In her 20 years with Caven Enterprises, Kathy Jack became one of our most experienced staff members and one of the most accomplished,” Kilhoffer said in a written statement e-mailed on Wednesday.
“Her service to this company has been immeasurable, and she has worked tirelessly in service to our community. We are very proud to have had her on our team, and we are excited and happy for her as she plans for a new direction,” Kilhoffer’s statement said.
While Jack was always familiar to her customers as manager of Sue Ellen’s, perhaps her most visible role in the community for many years has been as one of the main organizers for the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade each September.
Jack began as a volunteer with the parade when the late Alan Ross, longtime executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, was the man in charge of parade plans. After Ross’ death, Jack and fellow Caven employee Paul Lewis took over the lead role in coordinating the Pride parade.
Jack has represented Caven Enterprises in the Dallas Tavern Guild for several years, and last year she became the organization’s first female president. She resigned that position the same day she resigned from Caven.
Michael Doughman, Tavern Guild executive director, said Tuesday that Tavern Guild rules required Jack’s resignation as president.
“You can’t be an officer unless you work for and represent on the Tavern Guild members. Since she no longer worked for Caven, she could no longer be president,” Doughman explained.
“But believe me, if I had my choice, she would not have resigned,” Doughman continued. “She has been a great president. We have worked really well together, and I am very glad she has agreed to continue helping as a volunteer on the Voice of Pride competition in June and on the parade.”
Doughman said he hopes that Jack will continue to be as involved as possible in many different events and activities, as well as the parade.
“Kathy Jack is probably one of the few very unique people who has always been well-respected by the men and the women of this community alike, and at all levels, from club patrons to the fundraising community and more,” Doughman said. “She was so important to so many things we do, and I am sure we will notice the loss more and more as time goes on.”
He added, “I am sure Kathy will continue to contribute to the community. I hope she will because we need leadership like hers. There are not very many people who have given the kind of commitment to the community, to the Cedar Springs strip and to the nightclub business that she has given.”
For Dee Pennington, a community volunteer and a longtime friend of Jack’s, Jack has been “a huge reason our women’s community has blended and worked together so well” with Caven Enterprises over the years.
“For many of us, she was the reason we would go to Cedar Springs,” Pennington said in a written statement e-mailed on Tuesday. “From a community volunteer perspective, she has always gone above and beyond What she has brought to our community table time after time is simply quite invaluable.”
As a patron of Sue Ellen’s, Pennington said she was “always amazed at [Jack's] level of patience with her clientele, including much patience with me. You can imagine that she has seen it all, but even after 20 years, she never seemed weary of any of it.
“She remembered people by their names and genuinely cared about what was going on in their lives. She made you feel welcome and special,” Pennington said.
Jack said Tuesday that she isn’t sure yet where she will go from here. “I’ve got a few things that are maybes, but nothing is set in stone,” she said, adding that eventually she and Buck owner of Susie’s Cuisine will probably retire to Hawaii.
“We got married there three years ago, and we try to go back there every year in February. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary there this year,” she said. “We have a five-year plan that may have just gotten pushed back to a 10-year plan since I left Caven. We are really dedicated to achieving our goals here in Dallas. But when we get everything done here that we want to do, we will probably end up in Hawaii.”
One thing Jack is sure of, though, is that she will continue to be involved in Dallas’ GLBT community.
She said that in addition to helping with Voice of Pride and the Freedom Parade, she will continue to work on fundraising efforts for the Human Rights Campaign, including a benefit golf tournament coming up in June.
“As long as I am in Dallas, I will forever be involved in the community,” Jack said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 12, 2006.