So many things had to go wrong for Judson Sutherland to be standing here today. “It's incredible to think of where we are now, and I feel both undeserving and deeply blessed,” says Sutherland. He started building family-focused hospitality businesses after God transformed his life and marriage. For a considerable part of his adult life, he was consumed by work, alcohol and selfishness. Sutherland meticulously crafted a facade that suggested he had everything under control. This inner turmoil manifested itself in his insatiable desire for more.
Growing up in Dallas, Sutherland became consumed with achieving beyond his limits. He was taught that success equated to constantly surpassing himself. He strived to excel in athletics and play all sports, achieve perfect grades and enroll in the most advanced courses. This toxic mentality was incredibly detrimental to his well-being and contributed to his fall later in life.
Sutherland attended Davidson College, where he received a partial tennis scholarship, an academic grant, a loan and worked to cover the remaining cost of his education. Alongside double majoring in political science and Spanish, he served as the co-captain of the tennis team and was an active member of a fraternity. Sutherland also interned at a local immigration law firm in Charlotte. Despite all his accomplishments, he couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't sufficient — that he wasn't sufficient.
During his time at UT Law school, Sutherland’s mother died suddenly during a routine hysterectomy. Despite being a chance for him to seek comfort from God, he instead poured himself into work and drinking.
Sutherland’s obsession with recognition and a desire to fill a hole grew worse in his professional life. He sought money, trips, alcohol, lust and control while battling fear and inner demons. As a partner at a law firm and bar/restaurant owner, he often came home late and intoxicated, causing marital problems. Feeling the void in his heart could never be filled, he had built a wall around himself to hide what he didn't want others to discover. “If you could have peered inside my soul, you would have seen that I did not believe I was worthy of love, not even God’s love,” shares Sutherland.
In April 2014, Sutherland won the Austin Under 40 Award but the limelight was quickly shut down when his actions collided with the consequences of hitting rock bottom as an alcoholic. Sutherland reached a point of despair, to the point of losing the will to live.
Sutherland says the Holy Spirit took over next. “For three days I heard a voice saying ‘This is it. This is it.’ I knew it was God telling me that I was either going to die drunk in a ditch somewhere, or I could give up and let Him take over. I chose to surrender to Him.” Then with the help of several men, Sutherland developed a relationship with Jesus. Those men have remained his accountability partners in his lifelong recovery.
“Through all of this, my wife, Wendy, stayed. That in itself is a miracle. It’s not human. It’s supernatural. She credits her staying to a decision to trust God in the middle of the storm.”
Prioritizing Jesus’ sacrificial love, the Sutherlands aim to extend it to their two daughters and the many people they serve. The purpose of Sutherland’s work now is to love people through hospitality. Their restaurant, TLC, offers Texas comfort food and seafood boils, while their micro-resort, Camp Hideaway, provides a retreat for families in the Texas Hill Country. In partnership with NOOK Tiny Homes, they offer more families access to explore God’s creation. Oakwood Public Market in Dripping Springs is the latest in the works, with plans of opening in summer 2024. Oakwood — located in front of Headwaters off Highway 290 — will create community and showcase Texas-grown food and goods. It will include a market, soda shop, large outdoor patio and retail space for local purveyors.
“We moved from Austin to Dripping Springs in 2020. We’ve encountered genuine kindness from the community and also appreciate the schools’ emphasis on teaching our children how to think rather than what to think,” said Sutherland. “I’m fortunate to be in a men’s group focused on helping each other stay tethered to Jesus, allowing us to better love our families and teammates at work. I want to be an open book. I look forward to getting to know more of the amazing people who live in this community.”
“Through all of this, my wife, Wendy, stayed. That in itself is a miracle.”