Hard work, timing and patience describe the attributes of an entrepreneur. They also outline the qualities of four-time NFL Super Bowl champion and pro-bowler James Thomas Jr., known to most Pittsburghers as J.T. Thomas.
Since retiring from football in 1983, he has been making plays in the food and restaurant industry within the region. He once owned a Chinese restaurant inside PPG Place, and operated a Burger King. With his former teammate Larry Brown, they owned 14 Applebee’s restaurants and later, a Red Hot and Blue restaurant. He is also involved in a marketing, sales and distribution company called The Black-N-Gold Cheesecake Company with another former teammate, Robin Cole.
“I’ve been in the restaurant business all my life,” Thomas said. “It provides joy and enlightenment to people through their mouths via food. Like football, it entertains people.”
He was approached to develop a Crazy Mocha Coffeehouse in the Hill District, but at the time was not interested. Because communications between Hill House Association officials and the owner Ken Zeff of the Crazy Mocha Coffee Company were not going well, he was approached by both parties to reevaluate his decision. In 2013, negotiations began for him to become a franchise owner. This past April, his latest restaurant venture became a Crazy Mocha, 1836 Centre Avenue in the Hill. Their grand opening occured in May.
Thomas said he changed his mind because he had an interest in becoming a franchise owner, the business was similar to what he knows and he had a relationship with Zeff.