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1 Columbia Restaurant Oral History Project Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida Tampa Library Interview with: Andrea Gonzmart (AG) and Lauren Gonzmart (LG) Interview by: Andrew ( Andy ) Huse Interview date: February 28, 2007 Interview location: Gonzmart Home in Tampa, FL. Transcribed by: Rachel Lisi Transcription date: March 6, 2007 Audit Edit by: Cyrana Wyker Audit Edit date: March 27, 2007 Final Edit by: Catherine D. Cottle Final Edit date: July 18, 2008 Tap e 1, Side A begins Lauren Gonzmart : For me, it's either Andrea Gonzmart : Usually there's so much crap on the counter that it's their problem, because it's one flat surface. If I had to for designated. LG: Right, I think that's the real issue. Yes, st raighten up a little bit. Andy Huse : Okay. All right, well, it is February 28, 2007. I am here with Lauren and Andrea Gonzmart. And thanks for being with us today. AG and LG: Thank you. AH: Well, we'll just kind of start at the beginning. I guess a good first question for you guys would be, what's it like to grow up in the shadow of the Columbia [Restaurant]? AG: I would say it's probably very easily taken for granted. AH: Okay. AG: Which is awful, but I think it's definitely a blessing. AH: Oka y. AG: It's fun. LG: Yes, this is Lauren, and I would say that as a child, we had no idea we were growing up in any shadow of anything.
2 AH: Okay. LG: We just that we were two kids that got to run around in a restaurant because our family owned it and we never dreamed or imagined the celebrity status that the restaurant would take on, and the importance AG: Or how much it meant to other people. LG: Right, how important it would be to people. AH: Okay. LG: And how much they would admire it, and lov e the food and cherish their memories of the restaurant. AH: So, while we're talking about memories, share some of your first memories, the very first memories of the restaurant. AG: Well, this is Andrea, but I think Lauren probably all of our earliest m emories are the same, because obviously we were always together. It was always going to my grandparents' house and going to the restaurant. But Lauren was a little bit older, so her memories are a little bit clearer, so she's probably better. (laughter) LG: Yes, I would say probably clearest is like Andrea mentions, my probably clearest memories as a child are being there with my grandparents. I've got one very, very early memory and Andrea might have been a baby. I was probably that little. And we w ere going to have lunch. I was with my grandmother, my mother, my sister and I didn't want to go, and I was having a fit. And I didn't want to go eat there. I didn't want to eat there. I wanted to eat at McDonald's [Restaurant]. AH: Oh. LG: And we were in the car AG: A lot like her daughter (laughs) LG: Yes, I sound just like my daughter Isabelle. I wanted McDonald's and I wanted McDonald's, and I didn't like the food at the Columbia. And my mother didn't really know what to say or do. And she 's trying to be a good mother and tell me no, I have to eat at the Columbia, because that's our restaurant and we need to like that food and AH: Okay. LG: and my grandmother was in the car and she said, "Well, just go to McDonald's and get her McDonal d's and we'll take it to the restaurant. And that was the one and only time that I was allowed I can still remember the table we sat at in the Caf. And I
3 think I was still kind of nasty, even though I got my McDonald's, and I sat there and I ate McDona ld's. And my mother was not happy with me, but because my grandmother was there, she allowed it to occur. AH: Okay. LG: So, that's probably my very earliest. But then after that it would probably be with my grandparents AH: I'm sorry, but how old w ould you say you were? LG: I was probably three years old. AH: Okay. LG: it was very early. AH: Yes. LG: And I know she [Andrea] was there. AH: Okay. LG: I can't see her, but AG: I don't remember this. (laughter) LG: But I know she didn't have a Happy Meal [from McDonald's] is how I know that she was there. I remember her being around, but I don't remember her AH: Yes. LG: being involved with a Happy Meal. I know it was just me eating the Happy Meal. AH: Okay. LG: So, that's why she had to have been so little, that she couldn't have been able to eat a Happy Meal. AH: Okay. And when, I'm sorry I have to ask this, but when were you born? What year? LG: I was December of 1976. And she's [Andrea] April of seventy nine . AH: Okay. LG: So we're two years
4 AG: And a half. LG: and three months apart so AH: Okay, got you. All right, so I just want to be able to date that to memory. LG: Right. Exactly. AH: All right, I'm sorry, you were talking about your grandparents. LG: Yes, so then, kind of fast forwarding a little bit would be being there with my grandparents and being there for the show. I can remember being there, little bits and pieces during kind of the Caf and Warehouse days. Not that we ever really stayed there fo r long periods of time AG: See, I don't remember that. LG: but kind of being in there. And I remember that it was such an energetic atmosphere, even just as a child, because one of my clearest memories as a child was [that] our parents went out litera lly every Friday and Saturday night. AH: Okay. LG: Every Friday and Saturday. AG: We would go pick out our like TV dinners and that was our big like woohoo! Saturday night! TV dinners! (laughter) LG: Yes, or a lot of AH: Yes I remember that! AG: Salisbury steak! AH: Yes, I loved that! LG: See, that's even an older memory. AG: That's all I remember. AH: Okay. LG: But before that, what I remember is we would be at home with our mother and our father would be working all day.
5 AH: Okay. LG: And then he would bring home McDonald's or Burger King, whichever one we wanted. He would pick it up and bring it home, come to pick up Mom, so he could just go back to the restaurant again. AH: Oh. AG: I remember the limo picking us up and taking us to get Burger King, get french fries there, I remember the glamour stuff. (laughs) LG: But that's when we were older. Yes, but that's still older. This is like when we were little, little, little. AH: Okay. LG: He would work all day. AH: We'll get to th e limos, don't worry! AG: (laughs) LG: Yes, exactly. He would work all day and then he would come home and bring us whatever and that would supposed to be like, our appeasement, "W e're sorry we're leaving you AH: Yes. LG: and I'm sorry I haven't see n you all day because I've been working, here's your McDonald's AH: Okay. So, when he took her [Melanie, their mother] where would they go, back to the restaurant? LG: Then they'd go back to the Columbia. AH: Okay. LG: Because this this was like earl y eighties [1980s]. I was probably four or five years old. AH: Okay. LG: And it was literally every Friday and Saturday, because I remember as a child I was pretty traumatized by it. And I would always be I remember I was very like hurt as a child.
6 A H: Yes. LG: I was like, "W hy do you have to go, why do you have to go? And they would try to explain, "Well, this is the business we're in and we have to entertain and we have to be there. AH: Okay. LG: And as a child you don't understand that. No w as an adult looking back, I can more understand AH: Yes. LG: and see what they were doing and why they were doing it. But as a child, I just felt like rejected that they were leaving and AH: So, your understanding now is that they were going to ki nd of schmooze and LG: Yes, exactly, yes. You had to be there. It was that kind of business and that kind of it was appropriate for that time in their life and for the business. AH: Well, it also seems like that time period was when the Warehouse th ing was going LG: Exactly. They were there night and day. AH: so the nightlife was a big deal. LG: Yes, exactly. AG: Well, it was a huge money generator for the restaurant at the time, because Ybor [City] was dead. LG: Right. AH: Yes, that's Andre a by the way. AG: Yes, that's me. LG: And this is Lauren again. And I just remember, at times, like during those early phases just kind of going through there. AH: Okay. LG: And kind of just seeing it. We never really hung around there when it was C af and Warehouse, because we were still so little.
7 AH: Yes. LG: And it was not an atmosphere for kids. But I just remember it was just like a larger than life thing, because we would see our mother and we would sit there in the bathroom and we would wa tch her. And she'd get all very glamorous and her hair and her curlers, and she would come out with these beautiful outfits. It was very exciting. Meanwhile, we would be sitting on the bed watching Dance Fever [television show] AH: Yes. AG: Saturday Night Fever . LG: waiting. No, it was Dance Fever AH: Yes, the show. I remember AG: Yes, that's right! LG: You're too young! Saturday Night Fever was the movie. (laughter) AH: It was something like Solid Gold [television show]. AG: That' s right. I thought it was called Saturday Night Fever LG: Yes, we'd watch Solid Gold dancers. AG: I remember that. LG: We'd watch Happy Days We'd watch Dance Fever AH: Okay. LG: And that was our it was like the same routine every Friday and Satu rday night. AH: Well, and of course it didn't hurt that they'd go out and have a good time, too. LG: Oh sure! AH: It sounds like they had a good time. LG: Oh, they did have a good time. AG: Yes, it wasn't like [in disappointed tone], "O h I have to g o to the Columbia tonight. (laughter)
8 LG: Oh no, no! AH: Finally I get out of the house! I'm sure for Melanie [mother] LG: Yes. AH: she really looked forward to it. AG: Oh, yes. I get to talk to adults! LG: Exactly, yes. AH: Okay. LG: Those are probably my next earliest. And then it goes on to when we were probably a little older and more aged appropriate, where Andrea and I could both go and sit at the show and be there, as children old enough to appreciate and enjoy AH: Okay. LG: bei ng there, we were probably more like four and six. AG: Well, see I was at Lauren's age when she was remembering my parents going out. Now I'm like that's my earliest memory, is going to the shows. AH: Okay. AG: With my grandparents I really don't even or my memories of going to the restaurant with my parents and my grandparents, but mostly with my grandparents are my memories as a child. AH: Okay. LG: And then in between there, like when we were like four and six, we moved to St. Augustine. AG: Yes LG: Or three and five. AH: Okay. AG: I guess that's where I have a gap in memory. LG: Yes, because then there's like a whole couple of years there where there's really not a whole lot of memories of being in Ybor, where it's more of us in St. Augusti ne.
9 AH: Okay. LG: And going there literally every day after school. AH: Going to the restaurant every day after school? LG: Every day after school in St. Augustine, my mother would pick us up. AH: Okay. LG: And we would go, basically because again, o ur dad AG: No life. [regarding father working all the time] LG: was kind of the GM [general manager] there at that point. AH: Yes. LG: And he was running it and it was a new restaurant. And he had to be there basically around the clock. So, if we w ere going to see our dad, that was kind of hour we had to do it. AG: Well, and Mommy had no friends. LG: Yes. AG: So, basically it was just the four of us and we were the only people that knew each other so we would go there, we would go to the bakery LG: Right. AG: and get our pastry and we would hang out outside. LG: Yes. AH: Okay. LG: There was a little tiny park right across and we'd go play outside. And we would know the little newspaper boy that sold newspapers on the corner, and we played with him. AH: Okay, yes. LG: And the lady who ran the gift shop, her daughter would be there after school and we'd play with her.
10 AG: We'd go get ice cream. LG: Yes, and AG: And I would eat my ice cream and it would fall on the sidewalk. LG: there were just little things that we would do and my mother would get to see my father in the middle of the day, we'd get to see him in the middle of the day and when it was slower and quieter. AH: Okay. LG: And then, my mom would take us home, she'd do dinn er and my dad would eventually come home as well. AH: Where did you go to school in St. Augustine? LG: I went to a Catholic parochial school called St. Agnes. AH: Okay. LG: And Andrea's first year she was at Children's Village, which was a pre school AH: Okay. LG: and then she went to AG: C LG: C.P.U. AG: C.P.S. LG: C.P.S. or C.P.U. some Catholic Parish AG: But it was basically yes, Catholic Parish School. LG: Catholic Parish School or something. It was like where you went AG: But I was in kindergarten. LG: for kindergarten. Yes, she went there for kindergarten and then she would have gone to St. Agnes. And then when I would have finished at St. Agnes, I would have gone to
11 AG: She would have gone back. LG: C.P.S. so it was all the little parochial school there. AH: Okay, just curious. So, then [is there] anything else in St. Augustine before we let that go? AG: No. LG: Not really. AG: Really nothing ever happened there. LG: Yes, it was a very my mother hated it. AH: I'm sure LG: But, as children, I thought it was kind of a cool place to grow up. We lived right on the beach. You could ride your cars on the beach. I was a six year old with my own surfboard; surfing and we lived in a nice little place. AG: I'm glad we didn 't grow up there. LG: Yes, it was, it would have been a very AG: Different life. LG: different life. But for when we were there, it was a lot of fun. AG: Oh, yes. LG: We rode our bikes and we had our skates AG: Well, if anything, we had our paren ts' one hundred percent attention. AH: Well, that's true too. It sounds like you got to spend a little more time LG: Yes. AH: just by virtue of being to go to the restaurant and things like that. LG: Exactly. AH: Being a little older. LG: Yes.
12 AH : Okay. So, then you guys moved back to Tampa, I take it? LG: Moved back to Tampa. AG: I was in first grade and Lauren was in fourth. AH: Now, was this back in La go Vista [Tampa subdivision]? Were you there yet? AG: Yes, because we lived in Lago Vis ta before that. This is Andrea. AH: Yes, Okay. AG: And then we actually put the house up for sale, because we were going to build a house in St. Augustine. But then our house here didn't sell, then we were going to move back and so then moved back in to Lago Vista. AH: Okay. LG: And well, Mommy hated it so much that we heard about it AG: And Daddy almost had a heart attack, and LG: Yes, the stress and the anxiety of everything. AH: Yes, I remember him talking about that really catching up with h im, and wanting to please Cesar so much. AG: He was so far away; it was hard to do it over there. AH: Yes. LG: Yes. AH: All right, so then you get back to Tampa. Now, let's go through a few more of the early memories then. I want to hear about the fi rst time that you guys remember seeing your grandfather perform at the restaurant. Do you guys have any early memories of that? It doesn't have to necessarily be the very first, but do you remember LG: Yes, I can remember specifically one time, it was actually we were in Tampa, on a visit from St. Augustine. AH: Okay.
13 LG: I don't remember why we were here, if there was any particular reason, but I remember we had come back and we were with Christine Valenti And for some it was this girl, her fathe r AG: She was Lauren's best friend. LG: Well, she wasn't my best friend at that point. AG: Oh, she wasn't? Okay. LG: No, I didn't really know her at this point, but her father was the godson of my grandparents and he had grown up with my uncle and my father. And we knew already that we were going to be moving back to Tampa and we would going back to the Academy of the Holy Names [Tampa private school], and I'd gone to kindergarten with her there, but, kindergarten, you just didn't really I had gone to kindergarten and first grade with her. And my grandmother invited her to come with us, so I could kind of get to know her to feel better about going back to the academy. And she came and spent the night, and we really didn't know her, but she went wit h us. Yes, it was weird (laughter). And I remember going and I am sure I had seen him perform before that, but I guess this is the first real like "wow" moment AH: Yes. LG: where he's on the stage and he's doing the Yellow Rose of Texas AH: Okay. LG: and he's just in his glory and just enjoying it and the crowd is enjoying him. And it was just I really appreciated it at that point. I was old enough to really go "W ow this is my grandfather and he can perform and play this violin and AH: And well, there's something about having an outsider there with you, even though that was a little weird. LG: Right. AH: But having an outsider gives you a different perspective like, hey this is my grandfather! LG: Right. AH: Do you remember that? [t o Andrea] AG: I never had a "wow" moment. No, I definitely don't remember that's the thing I don't have like any specific
14 AH: Yes. AG: I don't know if I flushed my childhood LG: Been damaged? (laughter) AG: Yes. I remember seeing him playing, b ut I just don't have any specific memory. And I thought it was neat. I think maybe I was more involved with the Flamenco dancers. I don't know. AH: Well, I know you were later, right? AG: Yes, but LG: But see, that night, I don't really even remembe r anything specific about the Flamenco show or anything like that. But I just remember being there and her [Andrea] there AG: I don't remember it. LG: and Christine there, and my grandmother and just I remember sitting there. I can again see the tabl e we were sitting at. AG: I don't have one night that I can remember. AH: So, this is the Siboney [dining room]? LG: Pardon me? AH: This was in the Siboney room? LG: Yes, we were in the Siboney, ringside at the Siboney Room. AH: Okay. LG: And I just thought it was so cool. AH: Yes. Okay, well, I guess before we get to your guys' actual involvement, are there any other memories growing up? I guess you were exposed to the restaurant so much that you probably didn't go out of your way to go there, b ut LG: Right. [Melanie Gonzmart walks into the room] AH: Oh, hey! [to Melanie]
15 LG: We had a lot Melanie Gonzmart : Do you want me to get the baby ready? LG: Yes, if you don't mind. I've got pajamas in my car. MG: Okay. LG: There's some in the ba ck, there's some in the front. There's some everywhere. MG: Okay. AH: Don't worry about that, transcriptionists! AG: Well, I think growing up like in between then and now, our most involvement was working in there during the summers. LG: But even thi nking back to our childhood, we would spend a lot of time in our grandparents' home. AH: Okay. LG: Either just one night on the weekend, or a few nights. AG: We were there a lot. AH: Yes. LG: But it feels like a lot. AH: Yes. AG: Well, Lauren used t o love to go and spend the night. I would cry and beg my parents AH: Oh, you didn't like it? AG: not to leave me because I wanted to go home with them, and so we were just very different in that sense. AH: Okay. LG: No, I was very attached to my gra ndmother very much as well as my mom. AG: I was very attached to my mother (laughs).
16 AH: Okay. LG: Right and I just didn't want to leave. And I just assumed and I made it very clear to my mother I wanted to live with my grandparents, and I didn't want to live with her. AH: Oh, no! LG: Oh, yes. I was very (laughs) I don't know how I said that, and I'm not sure how she took it so well, but I would tell her AG: Well, sometimes she would say "T hen fine pack your suitcase! And she'd get her little S noopy suitcase out and (laughter) LG: And I would try to go! AH: Go ahead LG: I remember one time being a little girl, and I was in the first grade at the academy and I didn't feel good. And so I go to the office and was like, I don't feel good. A nd they said "Well, who do you want us to call? And I said "C all my grandmother. So I make them call my grandmother, and she picks me up. And because of course if I would have called my mother, my mom would have been like, "O h you're not sick; you n eed to stay. So I'm in the first grade and [said], "O h I don't feel good ." So my grandmother comes, and picks me up and she takes me back to Davis Islands [Tampa subdivision]. And I can remember her tucking me in the bed and I was so happy. AG: (la ughs) LG: I was like a little princess sitting there in her big bed. And I remember all the light coming in off the [Tampa] Bay and I was just like laying there in her bed like a princess, (laughter) like happiness to me. And I remember I was really not sick. I just wanted to see my grandmother. AH: Okay. LG: No, I felt fine. I just didn't want to be there, and I wanted to see my grandmother. And my mom was pissed. Oh, my mom could have killed me. Oh my gosh, she was so mad. And then I remember a nother time too, this was bad too. They had a thing where the little first graders would hand out roses for the academy graduation. And I was asked to be one of these little flower girls, and it was after the practice. And again this was with Christine Valenti and her mother was supposed to drive me home or back to school or something and I said "O h no just take me to my grandmother's. (laughter) Because they lived on Davis Islands and my grandmother lived on Davis Islands. I'm like, "J ust take me t o my grandmother's. And she did it, and my mother again was ready to kill me.
17 AH: Okay (laughs). LG: And so we had a lot of nights and a lot of weekends when we stayed there with them. AG: A lot. LG: And we would always at least one of those nights w e would go for the show. AH: Okay. LG: And we'd probably fall asleep. And we'd end up sleeping on the chairs. AG: Or they used to put us in my grandfather's office. LG: Yes, he had a really neat office back then. AG: It had a nice couch and a big TV, and just put us in there and it was awesome. And we'd fall asleep, a nd they didn't have to worry about us. LG: Yes, (inaudible) had that office. And then later because when we would go with her we would show up for the early show, but we would stay A G: We would stay all night. LG: through the early, through the late. AH: Okay. LG: We would be there before, we would be there after. And we were little kids, and so we couldn't stay up and we would end up asleep with tablecloths on us, so that would be one of the nights, with them. AH: All right, so now, I'd like a few memories of your grandparents. As young children, these are considered to be kind of larger than life figures. I know they're not behind the scenes, they're just regular people. LG : Right. AH: But like for example, Lauren, what did you love about your grandmother so much? LG: She had just she was just this most kind hearted, understanding, warm, caring you just knew that even if you did something wrong and you screwed up, she coul dn't be mad at you. She just didn't have that in her. And she would always make you feel better about your bad mistake. And she'd always just help you turn it around and make it better
18 and help to carry you through. She just had a way of making people feel so calm and at ease with themselves. AG: And knowing that you were loved. She made you feel loved even if you really messed up. LG: Yes. Yes, she was just one of those people. And to me I sure remember looking at her and she just was always like th e epitome of a lady. Just remembering her as my earliest childhood she just was just this very glamorous, very well spoken, well educated, was able to communicate and socialize with all walks of life. And she would and she did, and just was so kind and everything you want to be as you grow up. If you could have an idol in this world, she was it, she was mine. Because she was just everything, she was sophisticated, she was glamorous, she could speak foreign languages, she could cook, she AG: She was also ahead of her time where she was a business woman LG: Right. AG: and had her own visions and what she wanted to do, and she was so involved in the community and the [Greater Tampa]Chamber of Commerce and she was a true leader. AH: Well, especial ly for a Latin woman too. LG: Right. AG: And especially during that time. AH: Yes. Yes. LG: Yes. So, she was philanthropic, but yet she was had this business sense, plus she had her family roots grounded. She just, I just still wonder AG: Had it a ll. LG: and sit back in amazement of how she did it all. How she kept all these bases covered. How she was making sure her children were cared for, and her business, and her restaurants and her husband and her social obligations. AG: And not be exhaus ted and be frustrated and nasty at the end of the day. She was still happy at the end of the day. LG: Yes. She was never bitter. She was never resentful. AG: Never.
19 LG: She was never and I just, I pray to her all the time (laughs) to help me! (laugh ter) LG: "Lele, give me patience! Lele, tell me how you did it! You forgot to tell me that before you died!" (laughter) AG: "You gave me your recipes, but not that!" LG: Exactly. AG: Darn it! AH: So, you called her Lola? AG and LG: Lele. LG: L E L E AG: That's what she called her grandmother. AH: Lele, okay, got you. And then what about your grandfather? AG: I remember, this is awful when you said what's your biggest memory or you're favorite. AH: This is Andrea. AG: I remember eating brea kfast at their kitchen table, and he would sit there and talk Spanish about us! And you could not understand him and I was [asking], "W hat is he saying ? And it was kind of like "O h man. LG: Well, and see, I had already kind of started to figure it out, like what they were saying. And we would go there and we would eat just a bagel AG: Or Frosted Flakes [cereal]. LG: or we would eat just a bowl of cereal. AH: Yes. LG: And he would sit there and criticize and go [makes fast talking in Spanish sounds] and telling my grandmother "T hey should be eating eggs and ham and bacon and what kind of breakfast is this? This isn't going to give them their energy. AG: And she's giving us caf con leche [strong Spanish coffee], and we're like, six year s old.
20 LG: Yes, he was just and that's kind of how he was. He was just so prim and so proper and wanted everything so perfect and by the book. And you have to put up this appearance and maintain it at all times, and you don't do certain things and you d o do certain things. And I remember one time again this was with Christine Valenti. We had gone to the restaurant earlier that night and come home, and my grandfather would stay late at the restaurant. And this is probably midnight or something. AG: He came home very late. LG: And Andrea is sleeping and my grandmother's asleep. And we're sitting there in her kitchen on the floor. She had a little family room in there. We're sitting on the floor in front of the kitchen. She had this candy cabinet wher e she had all of these little miniature candy bars and she had a bar refrigerator full of Sunkist and Coke, every kind of sugary soda you can imagine. And we didn't have this at home. We weren't allowed that kind of soda. AG: A little kid's crack cabine t (laughs) LG: Yes! AH: Exactly! LG: And so and I'll never forget this, he was so mad. So, he comes home and its midnight and we're like watching Saturday Night Live or something. AH: And Adela is asleep? LG: And my grandmother is asleep. AH: Okay. AG: And I'm probably in the bed with her. LG: Yes, Andrea is in the bed with her. And Christine and I are hanging out and we're probably AH: Oh, I see. AG: Oh, he [Cesar, their grandfather] always got booted to the other bedroom when we were there an d we would sleep with our grandmother. AH: Okay. LG: I was probably eight or nine years old. And we got candy wrappers all over the floor. Empty soda cans all over. And I will never forget his little speech and he comes in
21 and he was like "G irls the re are things that are right and there are things that are wrong and this is very wrong. I don't know what you girls think you're doing. (laughter) And he goes off and we were just like "O h my goodness ," because he had spoken sternly to us, because he had always kind of had that stern, strong presence, but this was serious. We were like, "O h my gosh ," and he was not happy, because number one we were still up and it was late. And number two we had gorged ourselves on soda and candy bars and left all the evidence in very clear view. But AH: And probably shouldn't have been watching SNL either. AG: Exactly! LG: He didn't know. That was like not even an issue because he was so AG: He didn't even know what that was. LG: He was so flabbergasted t hat these little girls had just consumed all this sugar. But with my grandmother it was anything goes. Every time we were with her, we'd go shopping; we'd go to Farner's [Tampa store]. AG: We would take us to Checker's and get Checker's burgers and it w as always fun, fun, fun. LG: Yes, it was always, "Toys R' Us, get whatever you want, as much as you want," and we would go to Farner's and buy shoes and clothes and it was a new wardrobe every time we were with her. And she just loved to do that stuff w ith us. And he was very generous too, but he just didn't have that AG: Well, he didn't have that interaction with us. AH: Okay. LG: Yes, he didn't have that laid back; let's do whatever you want to do! ? And let's just have this wonderful glorious ti me. He just wanted to be so much more regimented. AH: And it sounds like in a way he was like never off the clock, really. LG: Right. AH: He was always Cesar. LG: Exactly. And always dressed to a "T" AH: Yes.
22 LG: He was either like Hugh Heffne r in his pajamas or he was decked out in his beautiful suits. AG: Yes, because he would always wear the full pajamas AH: Yes. LG: Very formal. AG: The slippers, robe LG: Yes, the silk pajamas, the robe, the slippers, perfect hair, perfect glasses, a nd then he would go right from the pajamas at one or two in the afternoon straight to his suit, to go back to work. AH: Yes. So, there was no in between for him. AG and LG: No. AH: He had no casual wear. AG: You never saw him wearing anything, but tho se two things. LG: Yes, maybe a Guevara [Spanish style man's shirt]. AH: Okay. AG: And that was for like Disney World. (laughs) AH: Yes. LG: Exactly. AH: Okay. AG: The one time he went. LG: The fair. AG: Yes, the Strawberry Festival. AH: Okay. An y other memories from you, Andrea? Of either you're grandmother or your grandfather. AG: That's the thing, Lauren and I share so many of the same memories.
23 AH: Sure. AG: Lauren's memories are much stronger than mine though. I don't know what's wrong with me. I can't even say it was because I drank too much, because I was little! (laughter) AH: Well, my older brother is the same way if it's any consolation. AG: Thank you! AH: He's much sharper. Okay, so then let's talk about some of your impress ions of your parents then too growing up. Obviously, your dad was harried and had an incredibly tough schedule. Your mom was with you there a lot. Do you have any memories that kind of typify life, early on? LG: This is Lauren. I would say for me, I w as kind of like always very curious. I would say starting around like nine or ten, I got very curious. I wanted to really understand, well, what does my dad do? Okay, we own a restaurant, but what does he do? AG: I still ask that now. Because I really don't even know what he does in a day. LG: Yes, but that's why as a little girl I was even that much more confused. AH: Yes. LG: And it was around that time that my interest was beginning to peak towards the restaurant and I would start telling him, I want to go to work with you. And he was like, Okay you w ant to go to work with me? All right. And I'd be like "N o I want to go to work with you I want to know what you do. I don't understand. I want to see it. I want to see what you do. And it was probably that summer that I was ten years old when I kind of first got a little well, it must have been before then. I must have been eight or nine. Because by the time I was ten I was working in the office. So, probably the summer I was eight or nine, he would let me go maybe one day a week for half of a day. We'd get up early, he would take me to the produce market, we'd go in, he would check the food into the kitchen, he would kind of go through his little daily routine. At that point we h ad the commissary kitchen. He would kind of go in, show me things how they were doing things in there, check on things and then by lunch time my mother would come pick me up and take me home. So, that was kind of my first way of really kind of getting in troduced into what he did, how he did it, why he did it, because it did consume so much of him that I wanted to understand. AH: Yes, sure. LG: What was it that he was doing and why was it, taking so much time?
24 AH: So, what kind of impressions did you co me away with after going? LG: I thought it was cool. AH: Okay. LG: I wanted to keep going back and my dad AG: He didn't even want her there. (laughter) LG: Yes, I kind of slowed things down. And I could only do so much and be so much help. AH: Sur e. LG: But I thought it was very cool. And then I, of course, "Well, when can I have a job? I want to work. I want to make money and as a little girl. And at ten after probably driving him crazy enough, he told me "F ine you can come to work. And I would go I would ride to work in the morning with him and I was ten years old and I would go in the office and it was very cramped and they were all very patient and tolerant of me and they'd give me like a gigantic stack of invoices and they'd make me file every single one of them and make me do copies. AG: They did that to me, too. LG: And whatever they needed AG: Trying to run us off. LG: but it was neat because and then my mom again I would only work with half days at that point and she would come pick me up at lunch. I would sit in on their marketing meetings when they'd have them. Just, kind of introducing me to how they did things. And it was neat, I really liked it. AG: I didn't get any of that. LG: And then when I was twelve I gradua ted to the point where I could, I was well spoken enough and had enough of a presentation to myself that I could start seating people and greeting them. AH: Okay, this was when? How old were you? LG: Probably twelve. I was able to make the move to beco me a real hostess, and be able to manage the dining room and kind of start judging how to run it and run the servers and seat the tables and I started that at twelve. And then probably by the time I was fifteen or sixteen when I was in high school I was s till working there on the weekends and
25 definitely during the summer. I kind of was able to be more a supervisor role and have a card and be able to do over rings and more of the kind of manager in training stuff. And I enjoyed that. AH: Okay. So let's back up a little bit. What are some of your first experiences Andrea? AG: Well, I think they made me go to work at ten (laughs). LG: Andrea kept getting fired. AH: Oh, really? AG: I would be like "P lease fire me. I'm done! I didn't want to work; I was just happy that he went to work and came home. Life was good. I would file. I hostess for a while and he'd fire me. I'd go back to work the next summer. AH: So, why would you get fired? Do you have any specific memories? AG: Just mainly for sl acking and "D ad, please fire me! I just want to have summer. AH: Okay. AG: It's awful. It's kind of like the table is turned now. I work a lot and Lauren doesn't. Back then, I didn't want to work a whole lot, Lauren did. AH: Yes. AG: But I did the whole thing. I did the hostessing and then in high school, I did the one thing Lauren didn't do was cashiering LG: I did that. AG: which I don't how they trusted me with that. LG: Oh, no. I did that too. I forgot about that. AG: I did it regu larly for a long time though. LG: Yes, where you sat in the cashier booth [makes sound of disgust] AG: There used to be this cashier booth in the kitchen that literally every single transaction, every single server had, had to go through the cashier. AH: Yes. AG: And I can't even fathom them not having their own bank now.
26 LG: Yes. AG: It was every credit card and I'm sixteen. LG: Yes, you had to close out every check. AG: Oh, and god forbid if you made a mistake. AH: Oh, yes. LG: And those o ld NCR machines. Oh, my gosh. AG: So, I did that and then AH: Now the NCR machine was that the? [imitates movement] LG: No, it was the big computer we had behind AG: You had to put the piece of paper in there and it would [imitates machine sound] a nd suck it through. LG: Sucked it in. AH: Okay. AG: That was actually, I didn't have that. I had the computer. I had the POSI [electronic cash register] by then. LG: No, I had to deal with it. AG: No, I had POS I AH: What's POS I? Point of Sale? AG: Yes, it's just a touch screen. AH: Okay. AG: It's very up to date. AH: Similar to what you would use now. AG: It's what we use today. AH: Okay, got you.
27 AG: So I did that. And then I kind of skated out and didn't really work there all througho ut college and Dad, I'm in school? So AH: Yes. Okay, so, let's talk a little bit about after high school. Where did you guys go to high school? AG: Academy of the Holy Names. AH: Okay, all right, so then afterwards, Lauren, what did you do? LG: Wel l, I started out at USF [University of South Florida] for my first year and I was going to school and I was working there [Columbia] probably still on the weekends. And AG: You had something to work for. You were saving your money. LG: Yes, I was work ing on the biggest mistake of my life. AH: Would this be what your first marriage? LG: This was my first marriage, yes. AH: Okay. LG: I had met my first husband when I was thirteen years old. And then didn't really start to date him until I was sixt een and a junior in high school. So, then by the time I was a freshman at USF, he was a freshman in law school in Washington D.C., so I really wanted to work, so I could save my money, so I could buy my plane tickets, to go up there. And I was working ve ry consistently and going to school and doing my full load. And then December of that first year, I became engaged to him. And I would move up to Virginia, to Arlington that following summer AH: Okay. LG: And I would do that all without my dad really knowing until the last minute. AG: Really? LG: Yes. AG: I didn't know that. LG: Yes. AH: What, that you didn't tell him that you were moving?
28 LG: That I was going to be moving, yes. AH: And what were you doing at the restaurant right before that. L G: I was doing basically just kind of like I would call it a supervisor position. They didn't call me that at the time. I definitely wasn't a manager, because I wasn't opening or closing the restaurant AG: You were supervising. LG: but while I was t here I was, a supervisor, running the servers AG: The floor. LG: running the floor. AH: So, you kind of worked with the manager on duty then? LG: Right. AH: And who was that at the time? LG: Ephraim who is there now. AH: Okay. LG: He had left for a while, but at that point I think he was still there. Raphael and George and Jim. AH: Okay, so Jim Garris was there then? LG: [sounds in agreement] AH: Okay. LG: Yes, so a lot of the AH: I am still trying to get a handle on where we are at in the w hole chronology. AG and LG: No, right who and when and what area shows up. AH: Okay. LG: Well, maybe Jim wasn't there?
29 AG: I think Jim was there. LG: Jim was ninety four . AH: If it was ninety four, I think he'd be there by then. AG: Yes. LG: Okay, I just didn't know if he was in Ybor by then. AG: Yes, because he was in Clearwater for a long time. AH: Yes, at Sand Key and then Harbour Island. AG: That's right. But Harbour Island closed before LG: I get cloudy on that. AH: About the sam e time that Cesar dies, right? AG: Yes. AH: Or after? AG: That would have been ninety, ninety one LG: Cesar died in ninety two . AG: so yes, he was already in Ybor. AH: Okay. LG: So, that was my role there that first year at college. AH: Okay. LG: I just was working very consistently. AH: And were you going for a business degree or did you have a major yet? LG: I had not declared. AH: Okay. Well, it's not important. AG: Nor would she for a long time.
30 LG: Until they told me "W e are putting a hold on your record if you don't declare. (laughter) AH: Okay. LG: No, I really I started out intending to be a business major. AH: Okay. LG: I really did. That is what I wanted to do because I thought I was going to be AG: And then calc ulus happened. LG: Yes and then calculus happened. AH: Oh, I can relate. LG: So then I picked up and I move away for two years and I didn't really I obviously didn't work or do anything. AG: You went to school though a little bit up there. LG: No, I went to school. No, but here in Tampa as far as restaurant related, I didn't do anything. AG: Yes. LG: And was gone for two years. At the end of that two years AG: That long? LG: Yes, two years. So then, May of ninety seven , I moved back to Tampa. You [Andrea] were graduating high school. And I picked right back up at USF, got myself re enrolled, transferred my stuff that I had done in Virginia back. And immediately, I had to have a job, because my ex husband who was my husband at the tim e was studying for the bar and wouldn't be admitted for the bar for two years anyway. So, I had to have a job and be the sole supporter for him and I. I was going to school full time plus working full time, so I was literally going to school from eight i n the morning until eight at night, two days a week. And then the other five days a week, I was working. And I AG: Probably eleven until eleven. LG: Right, yes. And they started me out in Clearwater in Sand Key. AH: Okay.
31 LG: And I did that with Curt for a while. AH: Okay. Well, it seems like he would have been good to work with. LG: Yes, no and that's why I got sent there. AH: Okay. LG: My dad was like "T his is the guy I want you to work with. This is the guy that's going to teach you. If you're going to learn from anyone, it's going to be from him. You're going to learn to do it the right way. AH: Okay. LG: And he was the best boss I could have ever hoped for. AG: He still is. LG: Yes, he still is. He's just a wonderful guy, a won derful person, a wonderful boss and a wealth of knowledge and information and experience. AH: Okay, so let's stop there. I have to switch. pause in recording AH: Okay. Now, before we get back to Lauren in Sand Key, I want to back up and talk about yo ur experience [Andrea]. AG: Well, I was in high school up until then really. AH: Okay. AG: This whole time I was in high school maybe working during the summers, but AH: Okay. AG: nothing was really going on with me. AH: Okay, so let's finish up wi th you [Lauren] then and then we'll come back to Andrea. LG: Yes. AH: So, Lauren, you're in Sand Key, you're working with Curt. LG: Right.
32 AH: Tell me a little bit about, we understand he's a great boss, but what are some of the things that you were picking up on specifically about the restaurant, the operation, etc. LG: Well, it's a very good teaching restaurant to be in, because it's a smaller restaurant. So to kind of get you into it and, it's as an inexperienced manager, it's a good restaurant to be in. You will learn to manage it, because you're a lot of times you're the only one there. Having to manage the kitchen, the orders, the deliveries, the food, the front door, the back door, Who's running out the door to smoke? Who's not showing up ? You get dealt you get every possible scenario thrown at you, but luckily on a very small scale. At that time, I was not really happy I was out there, but then as I was there, I began to appreciate being there just because I really was learning a lot. And it was kind of like a Reader's Digest version, it's very condensed and you get it all right then and you're not waiting for these things to happen. You're learning how to deal with the computer, which I really didn't have much experience doing a lot of these, updating prices or changing specials. Everyday type of stuff, opening the restaurant, closing the restaurant, scheduling people, everything I needed to learn, I learned in that little restaurant with Curt teaching me. So, what to look fo r, how to deal with customers, with their complaints, with is it appropriate to comp their whole check? Is it something you just send them a free dessert at the end of the meal? How to make those judgments is really how he was able to kind of guide me an d AH: Okay. So what about the whole management thing was the most challenging for you personally? LG: The most challenging is probably the hours. Just looking back AH: Now, were you commuting too at this point? LG: Yes, I'm commuting too. I'm liv ing in Tampa AH: And is that why you were kind of displeased about being there in Sand Key? LG: Yes, probably so, yes. AH: It is a long drive. LG: Yes, there was no really quick and easy way to get out there. AH: No. LG: I'm still a newlywed and I'm going to school full time and it just puts a lot of strain on you, so that would be my biggest because when you're there, I loved to be there. It wasn't like, oh I have to go to work. Because once I got there I was so happy. I liked the staff we had; I liked what I was doing. It was a new thing every day. It wasn't like I'm sitting at a desk and doing the same thing, looking at the same computer screen or
33 looking at the same set of numbers, but just a different combination of them. It was new. It was new people, new customers, new opportunities, new servers to train. Whatever it was, it was new and different every day. So, I always have an appreciation for that, but it was the hours. It was like Andrea said, you might get there at eight in t he morning and you might not leave until eight, nine, ten, eleven o'clock at night. And it's a long day. It can burn you out and it can burn you up. AG: You can get burned out quick. LG: And it probably put a toll on my personal relationship with my husband at the time. And it would probably get a little worse, because at that point, after we kind of finished our run in Sand Key, Curt and I may have brought in a new GM and a new team of managers, but we picked up and were now going to be commuting to Celebration. Because the new restaurant was going to be opening and Curt really wanted me to be there to experience that, my dad really wanted me to be there to experience that. My dad told me "Look, this is your chance. We're opening a restaurant. I don't know when you'll have another chance to be a part of this and do this and see it and understand it. He goes, "I f or when there's another chance, there's no telling what you're going to be doing and we're you're going to be in life that you'll be a ble to. AH: Yes. Well, and it seems especially pertinent because that's where your dad really says he found his own legs LG: Right. AH: in the restaurant business was opening from the ground up. So, I'm sorry if I cut you off there. LG: Yes, no, b ut most definitely it was. And I was excited and I was happy to do it, but again, I'm still going to school full time (laughs). AH: Yes. LG: I'm still trying to be a newlywed. I'm still trying to like figure out how to be an adult now and now I'm dr iving, definitely at least an hour every day back and forth and late nights AH: What year was Celebration? AG and LG: Ninety seven . AH: Ninety seven. Okay. LG: So, I'm twenty one years old doing all this. AH: Yes. So what was your role there ?
34 LG: I was a manager. AH: Okay. LG: I went in before they opened as a part of this whole opening team. And I was working out there before the restaurant even opened. I was conducting interviews, helping to hire and train people, helping to set the re staurant up, helping to get the kitchen situated. Whatever was there to be done as a part of the opening procedure, I did it and I stayed on six months through, past the opening to make sure they were stable. As I got farther into it, they were less in the beginning they were I was definitely a full fledged manager, expected with the full responsibilities of being a manager, but as time went on they kind of weaned me out, I would say, little by little just to kind of get me more back to Tampa because it was a haul. AH: Okay. LG: And so, during this whole Celebration opening was when the whole Cigar Store gift store part was coming about. And they had hired a lady to come in and do it, to do the buying and to kind of AH: Okay, so let's just back up a minute here. Now you're talking about the Cigar Store gift store. There had already been a gift shop in the Ybor location? No? LG: No. AH: Okay. LG: There had been a store there AH: Okay. LG: for years. It was not our store though. AG: We had never dealt in retail. LG: Yes. AH: Okay, so what, someone else ran the store for you? LG: They leased the space from us. They leased the space from us. AH: I see, and they sold Columbia things? AG: Separate, no separate.
35 LG: Well, they had so me Columbia like stuff in there like they might have had postcards and stuff. I don't even remember I didn't even go in there. AG: I never went in there either. LG: Yes, we never went in there. It was just like a little AH: Okay, this was on the city block with the restaurant? LG: The same space where our store is. AG: Where our store is now. AH: Okay, the same place, okay. LG: The Capitano family had run the little store there and done their cigar business and whatever their AH: Now, but I unde rstand that the restaurant had sold sangria mix and black beans and things like this before this. AG: (sound of disagreement) LG: Well, I think that before our time, my grandfather had gotten into the canned soup business. AH: Yes, actually your great g randfather. AG: I didn't even know about this. LG: Our great grandfather, yes, somebody with the Spanish beans and the black beans, but that was the extent of it. AH: Okay. LG: And then our grandmother, before our birth, had had gift stores of her own not affiliated with the restaurant AH: Adela's Gifts. LG: Adela's Gifts. AG: Fine things like AH: Yes.
36 LG: Yes, and she had a store at the Rocky Point location AH: Yes. LG: but that was it, so AH: When did the Rocky Point location go away? L G: I don't know. Before our time. AG: Before our time. AH: Okay. All right, I'll have to ask Richard about that. LG: Yes. AH: Okay, so this is the first time here this will be the late nineties LG: Ninety six , ninety seven . AH: tha t you had your own retail that's incredible. I didn't know that. LG: This came out this was an offshoot really if it wasn't for the cigar boom it probably wouldn't have happened because AH: Okay, so it was research LG: the cigar boom is really we w ere really pushing the cigar bar thing in the Caf. AG: And that's when Daddy started the Gonzalez y Martinez LG: Right and that's it really AH: What's that? AG and LG: The cigar company. AG: I went out to the cigar conventions. My dad was taking me as a junior in high school out to nightclub conventions in Las Vegas. And I made the table of contents of the Cigar Aficionado magazine for three months for smoking a cigar at seventeen. (laughs) No, no, bad influence. LG: Exactly. AH: Well, at l east Sweet tarts [candy] are your crack now!
37 AG: Yes! (laughs) I'm still not a heavy cigar smoker. AH: Okay. Okay, so then back to the retail, this is a huge step then. LG: Right. AH: Because, before you see, I understood that your great grandfather had Columbia chocolate bars, Columbia labeled Spanish nougat LG: Right. AH: all these things, which they sold out of the restaurant. There was no separate retail spot for that. LG: Right, yes, private labeling and all that kind of stuff. AH: So the n, this is the first time that you have a space devoted to that. LG: That we are doing a full scale AH: Okay. LG: Exactly, we are devoting AH: Now were you guys coming up with new lines of products to fill the store with or did you already have LG: Well, that was kind of the odd part was it didn't really have much a plan. It didn't really have much substance to it. It didn't really have much of a theme going except it was going to be cigars and anything related to us and maybe some food products. And then began the development of our packaged food line AG: Importing Spanish ceramics. LG: We didn't even start that. That didn't start for a while. AG: No? Well, we always sold the sangria pitchers didn't we? LG: Yes, but we weren't importing we were getting them from Ceramica de Espana in Miami. AG: Okay. AH: Okay, yes.
38 LG: So, it was like it was very like I don't want to call it rinky dinky, but it was rinky dinky. AG: Yes, it was. LG: We were just we were carrying we were selling whatev er cigars we could get our hands on which weren't necessarily very good. AH: And now this was what's the Gonzalez y Martinez ? What's that? LG: And that didn't even start for a while. AH: Okay. LG: Gonzalez y Martinez is our private label that we rol l there. AG: I thought it was ninety seven  that it started though. AH: Okay. LG: Yes, but the store happened first. Because then, they would break the hole through the wall and go into the next thing. AG: And open it up. AH: Okay. LG: So, rea lly it was this little cigar store. My dad had this really pretty humidor made to hold all the cigars. AH: Now I just want to get this clear. Gonzalez y Martinez was the name of the company that was making Columbia cigars? LG: Gonzalez y Martinez is a brand. AG: My father he developed a separate company AH: Okay. AG: that actually it's underneath it's not even in the Columbia Corporation. AH: Okay. AG: Columbia Restaurant actually comes payroll nothing, it's completely separate. AH: Okay.
39 LG: The Columbia just purchases the cigars from them. AH: Does that still exist? LG: Yes. AG: It still exists, but they are actually trying to my dad is talking to Dennis Fedorovich about trying to combine the two entities because now it's just not really a profit the only people that are buying the Gonzalez y Martinez cigars are the Columbia's. AH: Yes. AG: Because we sell it as a Gonzmart is Gonzalez and Martinez put together. AH: Yes, of course. AG: So, it's basically the Columbia house cigar. AH: Okay. AG: But you can say it's a local cigar, which is nice. AH: Yes, but like the wine for example, is a separate company supplies you with that wine right? AG: Right. AH: And it's not affiliated directly. AG: We purchase that from them. AH: Yes, so this is AG: But no, this is we purchase the tobacco and we make the cigars. AH: Make the cigars, Okay. AG: And we have a humidor where we age them. At one point the cigars there were ten thousand cigars in there that we were aging. AH: Okay. So I d idn't know anything about this. AG: Yes. AH: So, where physically is that company?
40 LG: It's physically contained within the gift store. That's why they're like AG: It's the corner. LG: Yes, like one half of the store. AH: Where are these cigars pro duced? AG: In the corner. LG: Right there in the little in the store. AG: We've hired a few rollers. AH: Okay, so the guy who is rolling them, he isn't just for show. He's actually making your cigars that you sell in the store. LG: Yes, he is the on e producing them. AG: Exactly. AH: Okay, all right. I understand now. Interesting, all right. LG: Yes. AG: That's how rinky dink but it was actually a very for a long time it was making a lot of money. AH: Yes. AG: When it got attention, because I was actually running the company for a while for my dad and it produced the money, but it has no attention, it gets no love, and so it's just kind of AH: Yes. LG: Right, and AG: And cigars are over. LG: Yes, the cigar craze really died down and co oled off. AH: Yes.
41 LG: So, we were in there when it was really good and that's why that cigar thing was a great idea. Ninety percent of our sales in the store were cigars. AH: Okay. LG: At this point, it's probably forty or fifty [percent] maybe? AH: Okay. LG: And so, ninety seven . I guess there was like a period of maybe about a month between me working in Sand Key and working in Celebration, and I was stuck in the cigar store, like opening it. I was the first employee that worked in t he cigar store. AH: Okay. LG: And that was my job. And I worked there whatever days I didn't have school. AG: You would take Tinkerbelle [Lauren's dog] to work. LG: And I would take my dog and I would sit in there from AH: What kind of dog was i t? LG: It was a basset hound. AG: She was so cute. LG: She was really cute. AG: I bet (laughs). LG: But me and my poor dog would sit there from whenever we opened to whenever we closed and I would be stuck in there. AH: Yes. LG: And it was not reall y good, but AG: I'd go and visit. LG: Yes and I [inaudible]. AH: Well, and it kind of seems like it was kind of a waste of talent too. LG: Yes. But it was kind of like they needed somebody there.
42 AH: Sure. LG: And it was a little bit of a break for me from having to not commute to Sand Key and not commute to I really wasn't ready to go to Celebration yet. So, I was like in this little limbo. And then, they had hired this new lady to sort of oversee the stores and do the buying, and I guess she was supposed to be some really sharp lady that knew her retail stuff. And at this point they were already talking about doing a retail store, or cigar store is what we were calling them, in Sarasota. And so, they bring this lady in. And now, I'm at this po int in Celebration, and we have a retail section designed into the plan of the restaurant to sell our retail goods there. And I could see her come in and she is like flighty and ding batty. She's selling these Macanudo cigars that should be like thirty s ix dollars apiece for like twelve dollars apiece, and she just wasn't all together and she was not doing a good job. And I watched this happen for a few months. [Lauren's children enter] And for the six or seven months that I am in Celebration, I see th is happening. I just see her, and she's just not doing a very good job. And I can already kind of see there could be so much more to this retail business and this cigar business as they kept wanting to call it. And I wasn't really sure what was going t o happen to me when I was done with my time in Celebration. I knew Celebration was not going to be a permanent spot for me, nor did I want it to be, and I started talking to my mother and I'm like "M om I really would like to do that retail thing. And she was like, "O h Lauren. And I kind of mentioned it to my dad and my dad was like N o, absolutely not. You don't know what you're doing. You don't know anything about retail, y ou can't do it. He really burst my bubble AG: He had more experience than all of us (laughs). AH: Really? LG: He really burst my bubble. I was so defeated. I was like this sucks, and I really think I can do it. AH: Yes, well, especially after seeing this lady who was a supposed expert. LG: Yes, I saw how incompete nt she was. I'm like if she knows what she's doing well, I definitely know what I'm doing. And so I kept talking to my mother about it. And that is usually always the best way to my father is through my mother. And I kept talking to her and so she ki nd of kept talking to my dad, and I don't know how it was kind of finally how he kind of finally told me, but I guess they fired her and they really didn't have anybody else to do it. And I guess at this point we're still in the very developmental stages. [Lauren's children come in again]
43 pause in recording AH: Okay, all right so LG: So, at some point my mother has now convinced my dad the business is not really doing much of anything and I guess he kind of figured, well, what's it going to hurt? It' s not going to get any worse really, maybe it'll get better, maybe it'll just buy me some time to figure out what else I'm going to do with her. It just kind of fit at that point. It was going to provide me with some normalcy to my life and kind of give me a chance to maybe be a little bit more of a normal married person which even that obviously wouldn't save that marriage, which is fine (laughter), but AH: It all turned out for the best. LG: Yes, it all worked out, but it let me work in Tampa AH: Okay. LG: and it let me out of the office. AH: Now, before we start digging into that material I just want to go back really quick to Celebration and your father said this is important that you LG: Right. AH: Do you, in retrospect are you glad you did it? LG: Oh no, and I knew at the time when he told me this is what I want you to do and I want you to go. AH: Yes. LG: I was kind of thrilled that he would think that I was capable and ready to go and do something like that. AH: So, what did yo u take away from that experience? Are there any specifics of? LG: There wasn't really anything specifically. It was more just the whole energy and the process of what goes into preparing a restaurant, right before we opened, the chef we had hired to be the lead chef quit. Just dealing with those types of issues and dealing with employment issues there. It was very hard to find people to work; it's a tough town to find people in the service industry to come work for you. AH: Is it that they can't af ford to live there? LG: They can't afford to live there.
44 AH: Yes. LG: And they've all got really good jobs and they're so many good jobs and good restaurants and good hotels and places to work at that why are they going to leave these good, stable jobs they have to come try some new guy in some little town as Celebration. AH: Okay. LG: So, it was interesting. And my specific training area was with the hostesses. And so I got to work with all the hostesses and deal with getting them ready. And it was just; it was very neat to see how everybody kind of worked together to get us ready to open our doors. AH: Okay. LG: And it was nice to meet the people that you continue to meet beyond the opening that would keep coming back and would be important player s to building your business and sustaining your business. AH: Okay. LG: The familiar faces that would continue to come in and so AH: Oh by the way, a note to our transcriptionists, young Maximilian [Lauren's son] has joined us and so that's not Andrea [referring to baby noises] LG: It's not Andrea! (laughter) AG: Thank you Andy! AH: She had a glass of wine, but not that much! LG: She's not blathering yet! (laughter) AH: Okay. All right, good, now let's what year are we leaving off at then here? LG: That is ninety eight . AH: Was when you LG: Was when I moved over to the retail side. AG: I was still in college. AH: Okay, now were you [Andrea] involved in the Flamenco yet while you were away?
45 AG: Oh no, I did Flamenco when I was in ei ghth grade so that was a lot earlier. No, earlier than that. AH: Okay, let's talk about that then. How did you get involved there? AG: I was always the piano, ballerina, tap dancer, all the girly girl stuff. So, I don't know. I guess Lauren and I sta rted taking Flamenco lessons together, right Lauren? LG: Yes. AG: And Lauren wasn't into the all the fina. LG: Too much coordination (laughs) AG: Yes, so I kept on doing it and that's when I did my big debut at the restaurant and then I joined the Ba llet Folklorico which was wonderful and I learned more and I did the hooka and all that fun stuff. AH: Now, okay, the debut, tell us about you joined the Columbia Flamenco dancers for their show? AG: Well, yes, the Flamenco dancers or the leader of the troupe at the time who was Gisela, Lauren, right? LG: Yes, Giselita and Gisela. AG: Yes, well, Giselita taught me or she created a dance just for me. And then, of course I learned with Sevillanas. And so, I danced with the dancers and then I did my o wn solo. I think I was only ten when that happened. LG: Yes, you were young. AH: Wow, okay, yes, younger than I thought. AG: And it was kind of sad because I did it and then it was like, okay, you did it LG: And she like, no, didn't keep up with it o nce she did her performance. AG: And then it wasn't an option to continue and I kept on doing my ballet and my tap and my piano, but AH: So, you mean it wasn't an option to continue at the restaurant. AG: Well, I just thought it wasn't, yes
46 LG: Well, it just kind of ended like she had done it and that was it and it was kind of weird. AG: And they were like, Okay you're done with your Flamenco! AH: Okay. AG: So that's when I did the Ballet Folklorico and I did the Flamenco with them. AH: Yes, t ell me about the Ballet Folklorico because this is in the collection at the university and everything. How did that whole thing come about? Now, your mother AG: I was really young. AH: your grandmother LG: Helped found it. AG: Was one of the foun ders. AH: She was one of the founders of it, okay. AG: I just remember I was definitely the baby out of everybody and out of that the group that actually, that Jennifer who is one of our dancers still today, she was in the beginning when I started danci ng. I danced with her at the beginning. And I did the first big production they did and then that was it. AH: Now Ballet Folklorico basically was founded to preserve Spanish tradition. AG: Well, it was Latin though, I think they brought the Italian in a nd they brought, right Lauren? LG: All the different, yes it was kind of all the different ethnic AG: All the Ybor yes, everything that was brought to Ybor came into it. AH: Yes, so it was a Latin thing. AG: I was only involved well, obviously, the S panish part of it, but it was an honor. AH: How big of a troupe was it? AG: It was pretty big. LG: It was pretty big, because they did the Cuban
47 AG: The first couple of shows were like two hours long. LG: Full scale productions. AG: Like full scale like recitals, LG: Costumes, Performing Arts Center AG: It was wonderful. LG: Yes. AH: Yes, Okay. AG: So, lots of fun. That was a lot earlier than that when that happened. AH: That must have been exciting for you, though. AG: Well, I loved it though. AH: Yes. AG: I was definitely the performer and AH: Oh sure. AG: the ham out of the group. I think in the first cookbook, I was labeled as "the ham." (laughs) AH: Okay. AG: So, but it was fun. AH: Yes, Okay. All right, so then after that just kind of life was normal through high school? AG: Well, yes and I worked throughout high school and once I got into college, then I just basically did college. I went to school year round basically. AH: Where was this? AG: University of South Florida. AH: Okay, what's the date?
48 AG: I started in ninety seven , the fall of ninety seven and then I graduated in the spring of 2001. AH: Okay, and what was your degree? AG: Business Management. AH: Okay, and was this a B.A.[bachelor of arts ]? AG: Yes AH: Okay. AG: No, B.S [bachelor of science]. AH: Yes. AG: Because a B.A. requires a language and I didn't have a language (laughs). AH: Well, B.S., B.A. they're both the experts right? AG: But yes, so no, it was a B.S. AH: Well, now I'm curious about this, obviously you probably could have gone both of you could have gone anywhere more or less you wanted to right? AG: Yes. AH: At least from a monetary point of view. AG: Well, honestly though, yes, I applied to FSU [Florida State Univ ersity], I'll be honest, I didn't get into FSU. AH: Okay. AG: I didn't want to go to UF [University of Florida], so I didn't apply to UF. I got into UCF. AH: Why not UF? AG: I don't know. I just always would rather be Seminole than a Gator. AH: Ye s. AG: I guess it comes down to that.
49 AH: Yes. AG: UCF was a very big strong contender and then Loyola I got into Loyola. I really wanted to go to Loyola. AH: Okay. AG: My parents didn't want to pay for me to go to private college. AH: Oh, okay. L G: Well, not to party it away Tape 1, S ide A ends; Tape 1 S ide B begin s AG: Well, yes, they're like well, if you get a good GPA [grade point average]. I was never a very good student. AH: Okay. AG: By choice. AH: Yes. AG: So when it came down to it, UCF or USF. I had a very serious boyfriend. I stayed. AH: Okay. Got you. AG: And also probably because I probably would have been so home sick. Honestly, my first night that I was supposed to stay in my dorm at USF I cried, because I wanted to go home so bad. AH: Really? AG: I called my mother. I'm like "P lease can I just come home? She's like "N o you have to spend at least one night there. So, then she said she cried all night long, because she wanted me to come home. So, I went to my boyfriend's house. (laughter) AH: Did you ever stay in the dorm? AG: No! AH: So, you guys paid for a semester AG: No, I had empty shoeboxes so they thought I lived there, but I really didn't.
50 AH: Okay. AG: Awful. So yes. LG: And I think that's why I never wen t away to college either. I had like this fear of living in dorm. AG: It's too sweet to stay at home. AH: Of course. LG: So, I never she had an apartment and did the whole nine yards. AG: But even when I had an apartment never stayed there. LG: So, I just I was a big baby. I was very attached to my parents. AG: (sounds of agreement) AH: Okay. So, (inaudible) went to stay with her parents when she was younger. AG: Well, I was always like, "O h I'm going to go to Hawaii to go to college. I always t hought I was going to go far, far away. And then they couldn't get rid of me. They still can't shake me. I live next door. (laughter) AH: (inaudible) both of your choices. AG: I'm like a disease. LG: Exactly. AH: One with very good symptoms. AG: Yes. AH: So, okay, so then University of South Florida. You graduated. Now you weren't working at that period? AG: I think I got away with not working at all. AH: Okay. LG: Yes, she did, because you were in your sororities. AG: Well, yes, I was in my soror ity thing. And I was into college, and it was just milking it for all it was worth.
51 AH: Yes, sure, sure, like any red blooded American kid. AG: Yes. AH: Okay. So then, when you're done with your university, what then? AG: Well, at that point I was li ke, "Dad, I want to go work in the kitchen. And he was like "T hat's great ." I love cooking, the bustle of it. And so they ordered me all my little chef jackets, Andrea Gonzmart fourth generation very hip. Got all my little pants, little shoes. And then so my dad's like, "H ow do you feel about making seven dollars and hour ? I was like "W ait, I've got a college degree. AH: It says fifth generation. AG: I'm like hello meanwhile like he's like, Andrea there's people in this kitchen that have been wor king here for twenty years that are making $7.25. I can't pay you more than that. I'm like "Well, how long do I have to be in the kitchen? I'm like "Well, how's that management option? AH: Yes. AG: So, I worked in the kitchen, it was either six or eight weeks. I loved working in the kitchen. AH: Okay. AG: It was nice working with the people who I worked in the Columbia in Ybor and it was when the kitchen was brand new. It was 2001. So literally, it was those first few months. It was brand new A H: Air condition. LG: Wait and she says she loved it, but she would come over after work AG: I stunk. LG: And collapse at my desk, Lauren ( inaudible ) AG: And she's like "Y ou smell like onions. LG: It was just like her skin was saturated with bec ause all they would have her do is cut onions and green peppers. AG: I was like, "I cut two hundred pounds of onions today. And she's like, I can smell it
52 LG: So, she can say she loved it, now in retrospect, I'm sure it all looks fun AG: Well, no, once I got off the prep, because I had to work prep for like two weeks AH: Okay. AG: which was basically just chopping onions and green peppers and AH: What did you do about the fumes in your eyes? AG: Well, it didn't bother me. AH: Okay, it didn' t bother you. AG: The people who I worked with were so nice and they spoke [little] English. But they were so nice to me because I don't speak a word of Spanish. So, I worked there, and finally I got promoted to working on the line at lunch. And then I g ot to work on the and Lauren would come over and say, "Can I get you to make me this?" And I remember when I was working in the pantry, she's like "C an I have a shrimp cocktail? I was like "Y ou don't eat shrimp cocktail. She's like, I just feel like e ating a shrimp cocktail. And a couple days later she's like I'm pregnant. I'm like "N o wonder why you are eating shrimp cocktail. AH: Because normally you don't eat seafood right? LG: I had never eaten shrimp cocktail in my life until I was pregna nt with the twins. AH: Okay. AG: Weird. LG: It was just like weird, like on day I was like AH: You just wanted AG: And I was working in the pantry that day. LG: I didn't know what it tasted like, I just wanted it. AG: Or maybe it was right after you told me. LG: Yes, I think it was right after. AH: Okay.
53 AG: And I was like, "Y ou don't eat shrimp cocktail AH: That's a good story, I like that. AG: So, no, I really loved working in the kitchen. That's what I really enjoy. It's like my medi tation. It was almost like my grandmother was. So I did that, like six weeks and at which point then I did my training at Celebration for four weeks. AH: Training for what? To be a manager? AG: Yes, to be a manager. So, that included the whole process o f being a server, working behind the bar, following the manager, taking your own shifts, the whole deal. So I did that and then I took my position in Sand Key, the same place Lauren started. I personally found Sand Key to be this place that would suck you in to all its bad habits. AH: Okay, like what? AG: Every one was very lackadaisical and at this time the general manager there was Garrett, bless his heart, he's very wonderful man AH: He's still around, right? AG: He's actually in Ybor, an assistant manager. He just love him to death. I don't want to say anything bad about him. AH: I think I met him the other night. AG: Bald guy, red beard, biker dude, like yeaaahhhhh! He's always just like you've met him. I know you've met him. AH: I think so yes yes. AG: So he was my manager LG: Harbour Island. AG: Yes. AH: Okay. AG: Very, very nice man. So I worked underneath him. AH: Lackadaisical. Anything else? Any other bad habits you can remember? AG: About him?
54 AH: Well, no, not anything spec ifically but just Sand Key. LG: Sand Key. AG: Well, everyone in general. It was just kind of like, it was the beach attitude. People would show up late, "O h well, you're at the beach. And it was like well, o kay. And I was trying to make a change. I thi nk that's one of the big problems in all the restaurants when a manager tries to (inaudible) and tries to make all these big changes and they get sucked in. AH: Oh. Okay. Yes. I could see how you could [have] the beach mentality, though it's not uncommon in any restaurant on the beach. AG: Well, yes, not that any of us were not doing our job. But it was like okay. AH: Yes, (inaudible) top priority. AG: Yes, I only lasted there about six months then I got transferred. AH: Okay. AG: So then, I got tr ansferred to St. Pete, which was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. AH: Really? LG: She was getting a little lackadaisical in Sand Key. AG: Oh, yes. AH: Okay, what so, people recognized this and said? AG: No, no, no, no. LG: Andrea was married at the time. AG: Yes, I was married at the time. And then the whole restaurant lifestyle that you get sucked into. AH: Yes. LG: Fraternizing. AG: You sleep into 11 o'clock in the afternoon
55 AH: Yes. AG: you don't get off work until elev en and then you go out till four. And the only people I knew that were doing this were the people I worked with. AH: Of course. AG: I was like, "Well, hey where are you guys going tonight? Called my husband "H ey I'm going to be a little bit late; I'm going out with the girls. AH: Or bringing them back to your place, right? AG: A couple of times. AH: This is the story I've heard. LG: Yes. AG: Yes but where it all started was, "Well, where are you guys going? Yes, I'll go out with you guys. So I went out. And then Curt, bless his heart, "Andrea, I heard you were going out with crew ." "No, Curt, no." (inaudible) Fraternizing is a very bad offense in the restaurant. AH: Oh it is. Okay. AG: Oh no, definitely frowned upon. LG: Management was so AH: Well, I can definitely see that AG: Well, anyone that you're working with even if you are manager manger working in the same unit; can't happen. They'll transfer you out. AH: Okay. AG: So, I was having a little bit too much fun. AH: But you were AG: Also ruining my marriage, which was a good thing in the end. AH: You were how old? AG: I was twenty one.
56 AH: Yes. AG: So, I was like college extended like party time, let's go, woo hoo AH: Okay. LG: Now I have my own money and not just my hu sband's, to play around with. AG: Exactly. AH: Yes. AG: Woo hoo. So, then I got transferred to St. Pete, which was like a rude awakening. AH: Yes, now tell me about that, the contrast there? AG: Well, when I got transferred there it was Rob Minisci w ho was the manager and he was less than accommodating to me. AH: Okay. AG: At least Garrett would be like, "O h you got the night off in Ybor. Oh yes you can have the night off [referring to Rob]. Rob I was afraid to even ask. So Sherrod's trying to get in the house. Will you open the door for him, Lauren. Can you? AH: I can do it. Here. AG: Oh there, he's got it. AH: Oh he's here. Okay. AG: So I showed up on the scene there, and at the time they had just lost a manager to going on maternity leave Elisabete. And AH: Oh, she's the one that's still there now, right? AG: Yes, I'll get to her eventually. I love Elisabete. AH: Okay. AG: And I kind of took her place along with another manager they had traded out, whom they were trying to get rid of anyways. And so I stayed there and through the process Rob (inaudible) eventually got fired. I saw many assistant managers come and go. Elisabete then came back and ironically Elisabete and I were like hated each other. And up against each other as assis tant managers. Once Rob Mi nisci was fired that's when John Pedaggi came in who was b asically like my Curt Gaither to Lauren, whom I adore, John
57 Pedaggi. I hated him at first and I was trying to figure out how to get him fired and I'm like [gesture?] Becaus e he was such a jerk and he'd make Elisabete cry. So then, Elisabete and I became very, very good friends. I think Elisabete taught me a lot, because now she's a general manager and I worked underneath her when she was a general manager and I was her number one fan trying to get her that position after John left. And she really actually John and both her taught me really it doesn't hurt to work. I would go at 8 o'clock in the morning and leave until 11 o'clock at night, but I would go in the morning s o they didn't have to work as long because they worked so hard the rest of the week. AH: Okay. AG: And John taught me the in's and the outs. He's make me go talk to the table that no one else wanted to go talk to, that I didn't want to go talk to. And he 'd send me. And I think in St. Pete is where I really developed then. AH: So, if someone was complaining or there was a difficult situation AG: Well, he would say, Andrea this is the situation what do you think? AH: Yes. AG: I don't know. What do you think John? I want to know what you think. And I'm like (gestures). So I would give him the input of what I thought and he goes, "Well, o kay watch me handle it. And he would go approach the table. I remember there was this on table where they were complaining because there were children screaming and carrying on. And I'm like, "Well, John what do you do, it's a guest, these children, and there are people complaining. And he's like "J ust watch me. And he would always handle it so gracefully and s o classy and so then, "Y ou understand what I did? He would make sure that I understand. And it's things like that. I think that was Curt trying to have him groom me to be a GM. They would always say, "D o you want to be a GM? And I would say "Y es, I wa nt to be a GM; I want to be a GM. And then once John and them got transferred because John went to St. Augustine and kind of, the option came up. Well, at one point the option came up in Sand Key and I was ready to step up to the plate then, but no one offered it to me. They sent me over there and then pulled me out and I was kind of bummed out. But so then the option came up in St. Pete, but Elizabeth deserved it more. So I started feeding through my mom "M om, Elizabeth really deserves the job, this a nd that, dah da da dah, you should tell D ad, this and that And she really did deserve it. AH: So, it sounds like you matured a lot in that location. AG: Huge. From the moment I got there from the moment I left, I was a completely different person.
58 AH : Well, what really clued me into that was the fact that you would go in early to try to save other people work. It was like you had a different kind of comradeship. You had the comradeship before, you were fraternizing after work but then this is a diffe rent kind. AG: (inaudible) Elisabete. When Elisabete was a GM, I was like, "Elisabete let me open on Saturday. Because I know she would open and stay until one o'clock in the morning. I could open and leave at 11 o'clock and be okay with that. But she so I know she could come in at, at least eleven and stay until one. She wouldn't be able to leave; I could leave. AH: Sure. AG: And she has a little girl, she had a husband. And my main concern was getting out to go out. AH: Yes. AG: But I didn't min d doing it for her. I adore Elisabete. AH: Well, then it sounds like that you guys needed a bigger enemy. AG: Yes. AH: Before you guys teamed up, which was Rob right? AG: Well, what finally happened AH: Was it Rob or John? AG: No it was Rob. Wel l, no, what happened was finally this is so stupid we had a few servers who'd been there a long time, who Elisabete was friends with. And these servers had teamed like high school stuff had teamed up against each other where we hated each other. And finall y she sat me down and she goes, Andrea if we're going to work together, we need to get this worked out. I was like whoa And we worked it all out. And from that day on we were best friends. And we knew that as long as we stood together and we communicate d no one could ever mess that up. So, until this day we consider each other the best of friends. AH: Okay. Great. Yes, because I know, a lot of times, not just with men but especially with women, can get kind of territorial. AG: Well, Curt would always say I don't know about putting two women in the restaurant. And I'm like hey. AH: You proved him wrong.
59 AG: Well, the restaurant went so smoothly and people loved and I don't think they just said that, I really think they did love working there. Yes, w e could be tough but we were still females and we could be soft. And it was a happy atmosphere. I used to love going to work, granted I was always like [sigh] god, another long day but I used to love going in the office sitting down and saying Okay so w h at's been going on Elisabete, fill me in. When I left the restaurant and I went to the corporate office, I missed that the most. AH: Okay. AG: That human contact of going in and talking to her and saying "W hat did you do this weekend or what did you d o on Sunday, your one day off this week?" It's just the constant interaction. LG: There's not the same camaraderie in the corporate office. AH: Yes. AG: No, I hate my job, because I miss that but I don't miss the hours. LG: It's like when we work in the restaurants, people accept us as like a co worker of theirs. AG: Eventually. LG: But like when we get into the office, I don't think they ever really accept us as a co worker. There's them and there's us. AG: I always feel like they're eavesdroppi ng and AH: It's not the same kind of thing, the restaurant, it's like this baptism of fire, you have to (inaudible). AG: You have to trust each other, exactly, it's like AH: Yes, you have to work as a team. Okay, and we've heard some about the charac ter of the Sand Key location, a little bit about Celebration, tell me about St. Pete. How would you typify that? AG: Well, St. Pete initially, when I got there the restaurant, was running itself. It was very blah. No one was excited to be there, there wer e no parties happening, and then once John showed up, Pedaggi, then all of a sudden you would have these shift meetings. Okay this is the program. He would say it very sternly and he didn't mind using the F bomb and "N o one's goin g to fuck this evening up and everyone's got to be on their game. And he was like whoa. So for a while we were all kind of walking on ice. Then even tually everyone respected that and we all love John for that. And then it was a very structured it was structured chaos.
60 AH: Ok ay. AG: When it was the craziest night, it was so under control and just structured. And Elizabeth has carried that on, she learned everything from John. So, it runs probably the smoothest out of any of the units. I think that's why Curt uses that as his training unit. AH: Okay. AG: Because it is so just regimented, and playing by the Columbia rules. Not, oh well, because Ybor can kind of be like well, it's Ybor, you get that a lot. It's Ybor. AH: Yes. AG: But St. Pete is wonderfully structured. AH: Yes, well, and it's funny, I don't really [use] too many anecdotes during interviews but one of the interesting thing about that you say, Ybor is Ybor. Casimiro, Junior hired this efficiency expert to come into the restaurant and study what everyone does. AG: I've never heard this story though. AH: Yes, but anyway so he does all these studies and it says and the guy is like despairing, he's like "Y ou could be so much more efficient if you change this or if you told this person what to do and everything. And first of all, you had the union at the time so there was a lot that you couldn't and I want to talk about that in a minute. But the fact that at the end of it Casimiro decided, and he wrote this up in a column [and] said, "T his is a human institution and we are fueled by human (inaudible) that's what keeps us as good as what we are. So he didn't take any of the recommendations basically just said "O kay well, it was fun, you can go now. AG: Yes. AH: Which I thought that was interesting because that's Ybor, it is what it is. And you can control it to some extent but AG: But the thing is, each individual restaurant whatever it is, it will suck you in and you will become it. AH: Yes. AG: And that's the thing with St. Pete, it was something tha t you got sucked into until the whole anatomy of it got changed. And it became something else. And that is completely owed to John. AH: Okay.
61 AG: So, I saw it go from one thing to another thing where there were no banquet sales to now it is a huge just p eople come back year and year again because they love their experience; they love Elisabete. AH: Yes. AG: Oh, your Christmas party was so wonderful last year ; you've got to come back. It's so wonderful to see what happened in that three year period, t he change that the restaurant made and that I made, and it's just AH: From going to no banquets to having all these banquets and everything, is that just the atmosphere of the AG: It's a matter of the manager, he didn't want to say Okay I'll book t his room ," because he was afraid they were going to be too busy, which there was no such thing as that. And he didn't want to deal with it and there's a lot of work and really it's so easy. And I remember it became eventually all we were doing was sending banquet menus out because it became just so busy with it. And it's a given, it's easy. Sure, it gets a little tricky around Christmas time, but when it's July it's going to be slow, book as many parties as you can. AH: Yes. AG: And even if it's not fo r what the menu price is take it for whatever it is, business. AH: And with the view it's a natural. AG: Without a doubt. AH: Okay. So, all right, then, you coming to the corporate office, what year was that? Just trying to figure out where we are at on our AG: I've only been at corporate office for a couple of years. AH: Okay, so maybe 2004 or five ? LG: I thought it was 2004. AG: Yes, 2001, two, three, four, 2004 or 2005. AH: How long were you at the St. Pete? AG: I was there for three a nd a half years.
62 AH: Okay, all right, so and then when we left off with you, Lauren, I think it was 1999, was it? And you were just getting into the gift shop business. LG: Yes, it was ninety eight and I was getting into the gift shop, and we, at this po int, had the Ybor location, we had the Sarasota, we had the small retail kind of area in Celebration, and the idea was to eventually display and retail the retail items in all the units. Maybe not on the same scale, but on some level have a retail presence there. AH: Kind of like with St. Pete, it's not a stand alone thing LG: Right. Exactly. LG: But have some sort of little designated space within and at this point its just cigars. It's just some little packaged food items, it's some embroidered tee shi rts, and maybe some odds and ends, some lighters, some ashtrays, a couple humidors. Just really simple really basic, and I kind of at that point started getting into it and improving the mix of cigars, because when I went in the cigars we had were just pre tty bad but it was kind of what we get. AH: The tobacco. The tobacco was no good? LG: It was just such a boom at that point to get the really good ones, it was hard. You couldn't just [say] O h I want to open an account and get whatever you wanted. And so I slowly started to make up little grab bags to clear out the stock we had, so I could turn it over into better and better brands. And just make everything better AH: Okay. LG: was what I really wanted to do. Slowly, I began the process of resea rching the gift industry and how to buy and what to buy and teaching myself a little bit as I went. Because really, there wasn't a lot of corporate support. My dad was supportive of the retail effort, but I wouldn't say from the corporate, financial standp oint of business, they were not in support that we should be directing funds and cash towards this entity of the business. They did not think it was worthwhile at all. AH: Okay. That's pretty amazing, when you think about it. LG: Yes, yes, the C.F.O A G: When you say we whom are you talking about? It wasn't a we it was a AH: Well, I assumed it was Dennis. AG: Dennis. LG: Yes.
63 AG: There is no we in Dennis. AH: Yes. (inaudible) frank here. (laughter) LG: Dennis didn't like it. Dennis didn't want i t. And I'm sure Dennis did not have any faith in me what so ever. And that's okay AG: Dennis does have any faith in (inaudible). LG: Yes, he doesn't. And really, I had no credentials. I had nothing to back up what I was about to do. And I really was jus t kind of hoping, and they made it very difficult for me AH: Yes. LG: first couple years. I had to do I was the retail girl. I was ordering it. I was receiving it. I was repackaging it. I was shipping out. I was doing everything. AG: She would pay me hourly to unpack the boxes with her. LG: Yes. AG: When I was in college, because I was so hard up for cash. AH: You needed help because you couldn't hire someone. LG: Yes, they wouldn't let me hire anybody. AG: She hired me. She was saying, "H ow muc h are you getting paid in the kitchen? I'm like "Se ven bucks. She's like I'll pay you $7.50." I said I'm there! (laughter) LG: I know I'm trying to develop a gift basket side of the thing and I would pay her to come and help me make gift baskets at Christmas. Because I was making baskets for all of the Columbia locations. AG: Mom would come. LG: Yes, I would recruit my mother, I'd recruit my sister, and we would just assemble gift baskets. AG: (sounds of agreement) LG: We would make one hundr ed or two hundred gift baskets, so I could go and give every unit, fifteen or however many baskets just to get them started. AH: Okay.
64 LG: To kind of start to get that idea. AH: What was in these baskets then? LG: I would put the food products. I would put the cookbook. AH: Okay. LG: I would make AG: Different cigar baskets. LG: Yes, I would make little baskets with the humidors. Whatever I could do, I'm trying to be creative. I'm trying to develop this business, because yes, at that point the ci gars were selling like hot cakes. But just using basic common sense, cigars are not going to stay in favor forever. AH: Yes. LG: It's going to die. AH: Yes, it's a fad, yes. LG: And you can kind of start to see it slow down and so at this point, I'm kind of scampering around. I've got to do something because I'm going to be out of a job. They're going to shut the whole thing down. I know I don't have Dennis's support behind it. AH: Yes. LG: I'm sure my dad at some point will get tired of pumping mo ney into this. I need to do something. AH: So what did you do? LG: And so I figured out how to go to Atlanta to the gift shows, to the gift mart there. AH: Oh. LG: And I recruit my mom AH: Is it like a convention type of thing, or LG: Well, they have three free standing buildings there that are open year round with all these show rooms, and they have quarterly dedicated shows where they will have
65 temporary businesses come in and have booths set up. But for the most part, it's permanent show rooms of just giftware. And my mom and I, I book us to go up there, I'm trying to be really economical and not screw this up. So I book my mom and I at a Days Inn and it's like a long walk away. But I'm trying to be really economical, because I know that they're like all going to cut off my head for this. AG: You can't be like, "I'm staying at the Hyatt." LG: Yes, checking in at the Ritz Carlton would not have gone over well. And my mom is like "O h my gosh I can't believe you did this to me. J ust being l ike a real brat. I'm like I'm really sorry; I have like, no budget to do this. AG: That's camping for my mom. LG: Yes, this was like this was a no budget trip. I probably shouldn't even be here. I don't think I really have official permission. AH: W ell, she could always chip in, right? LG: Yes, exactly. And we're thinking, we were going to spend the night. When we got there mom was like "Well,, maybe we can just fly home, we'll go home tonight. We won't even spend the night. I [said], "N o let's do the whole thing. We get there we felt like we where just country bumpkins because we get there and there are three buildings that are like twenty stories high of showrooms. AH: Wow. LG: And we look at each other. And I don't know what I'm doing. I re ally have no clue what I am doing. I don't know how to buy on this level. I don't know about quantities. I don't know about credit sheets. I don't know about credit applications. They are speaking this whole other language that I have had no exposure to. And so we go and we walk all these floors and kind of figure it out. And the first few times I went to Atlanta, I probably made some bad decisions. I probably didn't align myself with the best companies, it's just kind of hit or miss because, again AH: O h sure, you had no one to show you. LG: I had no one to teach me. AG: No guidance. LG: There was no support and I really didn't know how to learn beyond reading trade magazines and going to these things. And so then, I finally had definitely transition ed the business beyond cigars. And I was bringing in [products], whether it be Spanish food products that I could find people that were distributing, which was very hard to do at that point. Now it is Spain and it's [the] culinary side of things has come i nto favor a lot more
66 but back then nobody cared about Spanish olives and Spanish olive oil and all this stuff I was looking for. So, when I could find it, I would bring that in. I'd bring in other, more gourmet type olive oils and vinagers. AH: Now, was t his stuff that you could put a Columbia label on or you were just retailing it out of the store? LG: No, this is just retailing it. AH: Got you. LG: Yes, this is just nice little gifty stuff that I know I'd like to buy and I'd hope somebody else would t oo. And then gifty items whether it be vases, or plates, or little things you put on the wall, almost souvenir type things or gifts you could take back to the neighbor that was watering your plants while you were on vacation or a pick me up for your grandc hildren. I was trying to kind of figure out all those different little angles of people I was experiencing one on one coming in. Because at this point, I was still working in the store too. missing section of interview Tape 1, Side B ends, Tape 2, Side A begins LG: in the store too. I had committed hours to the store and I kind of finally figured it out and got to a mix. And we still sell cigars today. They're not really AG: They don't move. LG: the highlight. AH: Well, let's talk about a couple of the retail things then. You talk about some missed steps, so just give us an example of maybe a stinker. That's like because even Casimiro in these old columns wrote about things like, I don't know why [we have] a hundred thousand of these things. Please come and get one I will give it to you. LG: Right. Yes. I know there was this one company Seymour Man n[to Andrea]. And you probably have some of their stuff in here. AG: You probably suckered me into buying it, Oh this is good stuff Andrea, you buy it. I worked for her and I bought stuff from her. AH: That's a knowing laugh. LG: I know, I know. AG: I know.
67 LG: There was this company, Seymour Mann and [don't know] at this point how to predict these trends and predict how people are goi ng to react. And the problem I was having too, was the purchaser in Sarasota was a different purchaser than that in Ybor City. And still to this day it's a our customer is our customer but our retail customer is not AH: Yes. Okay, yes. LG: consistent through location. And it seemed like frogs were just like this hot thing, these like Asian inspired items with frogs on them. AG: You mean the frog outside that I have. LG: Yes, but this is different. This is like ceramics with like little spots on them. AG: Like my ceramic frog outside you mean. LG: No, that was pretty. Those sell really well. (laughter) But they were kind of Asian inspired and frogs and I figured out Asian doesn't really work for us. AG: We're Spanish, Cuban, a little bit of Asian in there. LG: We buy a lot of it. And it just didn't sell very well,. I specifically remember these candleholders. They almost looked like mushrooms with frogs on them. AG: I think I remember those. The units were stuck with them forever. It seemed like every unit I went to, they had them. And I was like (gasp) oh god. LG: Yes. And it just seemed like such a hot trend. AH: Yes. LG: It was when the Asian stuff was kind of coming in; I was like oh this is kind of cool. AH: Okay. LG: The prices are k ind of good. AH: Yes. LG: And so AH: Okay. So, then I also wanted to get when did you get something it's like oh I'm on the right track?
68 LG: I don't think there was ever any one particular moment. Because there is still moments when I [wonder] why d id I order that? But then there are moments when I'm l [say] shoot why didn't I order enough of that? AH: Yes. Give me a couple of examples. LG: I still don't think I've perfected my buying. AH: Yes. AG: Well,, she'll order stuff and like my mom, me and her, we'll buy it all up before it even can hit the stores. (laughs) LG: Yes, that's a problem. AH: Well, I guess as long as you're buying that's okay. Right? AG: We're not having any profit though. AH: Oh, you're buying at cost. LG: We're not r eally testing the merchandise to see what type of reaction it gets. AH: Yes. LG: And so it's just, I don't know, there is still part of me that wants to be I can still at times lack confidence with my buying. Which I shouldn't at this point, because I r eally do have a pretty good handle. But there are still some times I'm like oh shoot I don't know AH: Well, the public can be pretty fickle too. LG: Yes. AH: And non predictable. LG: Yes, they can be really hot on one thing and then like AH: But I 'm still asking for something that worked, like where LG: Probably the best example and probably one of the things that I was most scared to do was sell jewelry. AH: Okay.
69 LG: I keep having these people come in and they would want me to buy their jewe lry. And they are like, "O h yeah It's going to sell great. And I'm like, "Look, I don't know how to sell jewelry. That's now who we are, that's not what we do, how am I going to display it, where am I going to display it, who's going to buy these chotsky jewelry from me? why. we're not that. Jewelry is not us. Now come on. And it would be these same people that I had developed relationships with and I was buying their other stuff as well,. And they were like two companies particularly, they'd come back Come on, our jewelry, it's doing really great. You've got to try it. You'll see, you'll see. Finally I gave in AH: Okay. LG: and I'd start with a little bit of jewelry. AH: Now, what kind of jewelry? Bracelets LG: Little bracelets. AH: Earrings what? LG: Little rings, little necklaces. AH: Okay. LG: Nothing fancy, nothing expensive. AG: I bought them. (laughs) LG: Yes. I've got them. I've given some to my mother as gifts. Just anything. Just trendy type fashion jewelry. And sure enough, it would sell and it would sell like hotcakes. And I'd reorder and they'd be like "We told you so. And at this point, when I go into Tampa and Sarasota they have a pretty extensive little fashion jewelry section that consistently does very well, and I re member my dad would look at these reports of what was selling and he like, "W hat the hell is a color bar bracelet that we sold two hundred and fifty of? I'm like, "Well, it' s this little bracelet with little beads and AH : Chotskies. LG: they really lo ve them. For $3.99 they love it and they'll buy them all day long. And that was probably my biggest shocker AH: What kind of demographic is buying this? Are these tourists? Are these regulars? LG: It's a combination. AH: Okay.
70 LG: And there's ce rtain little jewelry items that from the little eight year old little girl that's got her saved allowance to the grandmother who just thinks it's cool and her teenage granddaughter will love it, it's everyone in between. AG: But it's the people who go the re that go I've got to go into the Columbia and see what they have. T here's so many people who are like I haven't been in there in so long. I need to go in and look AH: Yes. LG: Right. AG: Because they know I can go in there and find a present f or anybody. And that's the way I feel. AH: Yes. AG: I go Christmas shopping there and it's done! LG: I was in Sarasota on Friday and I was with Alice our manager there, she's been there forever since it was a cigar store. And I was talking to her ab out the Circle [St. Armand's] and how things are going and what the environment retail wise is on the Circle. And she said Lauren, she goes, "T ime and time again people just say they love us. She goes, "They start down circle here and check out every thing we have. She goes, "A nd then they walk the entire circle and they end up here and they say we have the best selection." W e've got the best prices, it's just I can't describe what we sell because it's a real hodge podge. AH: Sure, just like most gift shops. LG: Which kind of upsets me. Because I wish I could say "Well, this is what we sell. But I can't say that because we sell some very high end beautiful AG: We sell lamps, plates, jewelry. LG: I sell home dcor, I sell tabletop, I sell jewelry, I sell gourmet food products. You can come in and buy a three hundred and fifty dollar bronze mermaid or you can buy like a $1.99 plastic ring. AG: But that's why people like us. AH: Yes, that's what gift shops really are about right? AG: Op tions.
71 AH: Yes, okay. LG: So AH: So but how does that make you feel though when someone, when you hear someone LG: Well, that's kind of the part of my life that I miss is actually being in the store. AH: Okay. LG: Which is why I really try especial ly to go down to Sarasota because it's the quickest and easiest for me to get to and it gives me the most gratification in the shortest amount of time. (laughs) But to go there and people and I just listen to people and what they come in asking for and wha t they leave going home with in their bag and what their and who they're shopping for and what they think about what's in the store and how the store looks and to hear people say "O h you all have such a beautiful store or you always have such beautiful things or I can always find just what I want. To hear those things always give me, the reinforcement that, okay I'm doing the right thing, I'm on the right track, people are actually buying the stuff I'm ordering. It's not just like, sitting here. AH: Yes. LG: Because when you're not sitting there watching it going out the door, I still have that anxiety, like, "O h, my gosh are they really buying it? How can I keep ordering stuff? Have they sold what I have already ordered? AH: Well, it must fee l good that you had to fight so much through Richard LG: Yes. AH: through Dennis, etcetera. And everything and learn and then for it to work out. LG: Yes, for it to now be a profitable, full fledged business (inaudible). AH: Yes, tell me about that how is that turnaround happening? When you got there it was kind of flat lining except for the cigars. LG: Right. AH: And how does that compare now? The cigars you said have dropped off, but what about the other stuff? LG: Well,, luckily by the t ime the cigars were dropping off I had already kind of started to prepare myself without anybody saying "L ook, hey, you better watch out, t his is what's going to come, you're going to be faced with a train wreck if you don't do
72 something. And there was probably a little time when there was a little dip. But then I kind of pulled it back up and kind of reorganized things that it would be okay. AG: Well, I know when I showed up on the scene, like one of the first financial meetings I showed up to they were like, "O h and once again the retail is an increase. And Dennis just sat there with like a (makes face). LG: Yes. AH: Yes, well, I want to know that. How does Dennis feel about retail now? AG: He doesn't say anything. LG: Yes, I don't thin k he would still I don't think there will ever be a day that he gives me any credit for that. AH: Okay. LG And that's okay because Dennis doesn't complete me or fulfill my life in any way. AH: (laughs) I understand. AG: Nor do you complete his life, don't worry. LG: No, obviously I am not an issue for him. AH: Yes. LG: But he made my life very difficult. They would set these budgets for me, but they wouldn't tell me "O h by the way you have a budget you need to meet. I still don't know. AG : No. AH: Oh, so they would have expectations that you LG: Yes. AG: Well, then, but no if they suddenly they don't speak to you then that it's they're not really expecting you they're not holding you accountable like a GM, Lauren. Come on. LG: Maybe not to the same level, but Dad would definitely get on my case. he'd be like AG: It's more of let's hope.
73 AH: Yes. AG: Like it's like shooting for overall budget they have to give you a it's just the way it goes. AH: Okay. AG: Yes. LG: But AG: T hey're doing it more for the company and not for you. AH: Okay. LG: Well, yes, but to have me as a real manager and kind of director of this division, they should have. AG: Okay, definitely yes. LG: Even now, I'd like to have an idea of what they'r e expectations are, because then, they'd be like "Well, you have too much inventory. Well, nobody told me how much I should or shouldn't have. AH: Okay. LG: That was AG: But no, that wasn't your issue though. Actually, they ordered too much Span ish ceramics, which was not her fault. LG: But I'm talking about even before that. AG: Oh. Okay. LG: Yes, recently yes, that's not my fault. AH: Yes. AG: I'm trying to help you out here. LG: No, I know. AG: Making you look good on tape. (laughs)
74 LG: No, I know, but I want to be honest about it and just because that was a struggle of mine. I wanted to do a good job, but nobody really said "T his is what you need to do AH: Okay. LG: this is what you need to stay within, this is what your buyin g budget is. AG: They didn't treat you like a real employee. LG: No. AG: They just kind of treated you like a LG: They just kind of fluffed me off and figured it was my little pet project and [thought] Daddy gave her something to do and we'll let he r play around with it until she falls on her face. AH: Yes. LG: And luckily, I just kind of kept rebounding and trying to kind of pull it back together so that it wasn't a complete disaster because it definitely had the potential to be that. AH: Sure. LG: I could have really just completely screwed it up really bad. AH: Okay. All right, well, that's all really interesting stuff. LG: And so but I'm still here and I'm still buying. (laughs) AG: That's about all she does though. (laughs) AH: Yes. (laughs) LG: With each baby she's a little bit more priority like, obligation. LG: My side of the office setup diminishes a little more and more with each child. (laughter) AH: Yes, So all right, let's go back to you Andrea for a minute. We got you up to pretty late in the game, corporate office. AG: Once I got let into the corporate office I had nothing exciting happening. AH: Okay, what do you do in the corporate office though?
75 AG: Well, when I first got transferred to the corporate office I was in charge of this wonderful new software they purchased, Restaurant Magic AH: Oh great. AG: Which my feeling about Restaurant Magic was they never asked anyone's opinion who actually worked in the restaurant. The decision was solely based upon Dennis Fedorovich and Mark Russ. Which, I love Mark, a little disclaimer there. AH: Now what's his position? AG: He is like the controller, but he's Dennis's right hand man. AH: Okay. AG: But he's also Office Manager, but the thing is they chose this produ ct based upon an accountant's opinion. They're both accountants. And unless you are a hands on person having to deal with it everyday, you have no idea. So as soon as they handed me this project and they told me my father said "J ust make it work. I d idn't believe in the product, so how am I going to sell this product to someone else. And ironically, in the long run it does not work for us. AH: It does not work. AG: No, because it works for like a simpler concept. I'm just going to throw out a conc ept. Like, let's say Ruby Tuesdays [Restaurant chain]. AH: Okay. AG: They have a in all of their examples which I never even saw any of their examples, were based upon one hamburger patty, or one chicken breast. All of our recipes are very complex, b atch recipes which transfer over to individual recipes not very well, which cost doesn't work out which resulted in very odd experiences which they blamed on us. AH: What is it supposed to do? AG: Restaurant Magic is a middle ware is what they call it And the middle ware works with POSI which is our point of sales system with P innacle. And it was supposed to decrease our food cost by two percent as long as I did my job. So my dad's like I'm going to give you a bonus based upon your percentage. And he made it sound so easy. And I'm like, "S ign me up! I'm there! So I started working with the software and one restaurant after another restaurant we ended up only putting it in four restaurants. And we didn't see the results we wanted and it ju st doesn't work with our concept. Our concept is not like it's not a concept, it's a family business. It's not like an Outback or a Ruby Tuesdays or a Chili's. So it worked for all of them, it didn't work for us.
76 AH: Well, it seems like your business is a little more fluid and something like that is so set and regimented AG: Well, yes, it basically wants each's and ounces, and meanwhile we have these batches that we're putting twenty pounds of pork in, but we're only getting fifteen pounds of pork ou t of it. AH: Yes. AG: Or sometimes only fourteen pounds or seventeen pounds. The yields aren't matching. And my father doesn't understand that and he doesn't really understand computers. And Dennis doesn't know anything about food costs so AH: S o you're kind of caught in the middle. AG: so eventually after hearing, "M ake it work, make it work. They said, "W e're dumping Restaurant Magic. So, that was my primary job initially when I got there. And then my job kind of evolved into being like IT [Information Technology] girl, which, I don't even own a computer. AH: Yes. AG: I don't know how. I'm IT girl. I set up the computers with recipes. And that's fine. I feel like I'm almost like an executive assistant AH: Yes, well, it sounds l ike AG: data processor. AH: from St. Pete, which you loved so much, no wonder you miss it, because you're kind of AG: My job sucks. AH: there's not a lot camaraderie going on. AG: But supposedly this year and before the new year happened, my dad sat me down actually Curt Curt brought me to his office, Andrea. I'm like, "Y es Curt. [Curt] You're not happy. I'm like, "W hat are you talking about? And he goes, "Y ou don't come to work. I'm like, I've got nothing to do. W hen it co mes to your Restaurant Magic not working. (laughs) And he's like, "Well, I can tell you're not happy. Because I love to work. I am not afraid to work. I love to work. I love having the interaction. No, I don't want to be working until midnight. I do not e njoy closing the restaurant. I like having a personal life which, who doesn't? And he's like "N o
77 Andrea, he's like, "Y our father and I are going to try to evolve your job. We want to make you happy. And honestly, I think they feel like I'm wasted energy because I'm there. Honestly when they say, "Andrea, can someone do a cooking demo on Channel 8? I' m there. I'm always available. I am always available, because I have nothing. My biggest responsibility is my dog. Sherrod can take care of himse lf. Then Curt told me that. And then my dad said, Andrea, I know you're not happy and we really want to get you involved ," and this and that. And the most discouraging part is so know here we are, the New Year happened. January passed, now February' s over and nothing's happened. AH: Well, what were they talking about? AG: Well, they didn't even really know themselves, but they knew that now for the scariest part, they knew it involved me being in the restaurant, having more interaction and bein g engaged. But halleluiah, Jerry Boyle who I belong to a group called TEC which is for like people who have important jobs, but for some reason I'm in there. (laughs) AH: Now, who's Jerry Boyle ? AG: He's like the TEC [Tampa Executive Group] advisor. L G: The moderator. AG: Yes, he's like the moderator for it. AH: Okay, for what? LG: The group TEC AG: It's called TEC LG: It's designed it's a C.E.O. they deal with C.E.O.s and then the offshoots, like the person beneath the C.E.O. and they have anot her little group. AH: Okay. LG: And it's almost like a like a little focus group where you come in AH: Is this between several companies or what is it? LG: Different companies. AH: Okay.
78 AG: Yes, like I had a gentleman in my group who was with th e Alessi Bakery. AH: Okay. AG: I've got people from all over. I've got a guy who owns LG: A real estate business. AG: Yes, who owns trailer parks. And all of these people who just go basically you just go to the group. You have a speaker who co mes and gives you advice, leadership, yadda yadda yadda. And then if you have any issues to bring to the table you can say, "G uys this is what I've got going on. What do you think? And then they'll interrogate you, "Well, have you done this? What abou t this? And then they'll give you solutions. So they're all getting great value out of it. All right, now I'm like, No I've got no issues. I haven't had issues for three years. So but Jerry LG: She doesn't have issues because she doesn't have an ything really going on. AH: Okay. AG: But Jerry and actually they are going to confront me now at this meeting because we had to do our storyboard in January about our goals and things and what we want to accomplish this year. And we have to bring our b oards back this coming month and say what we've accomplished, and so I know they're going to confront me. And one of my biggest things was, because Jerry offered to come and facilitate development of my next position. Interview my father; interview Curt; interview Dennis; interview any of the main players. See what they see me doing, see what they think I need to do. Interview me and then give me a personality test, what I'm strong in actually Jerry has done it for my dad and for Dennis and for my Uncle Casey and pretty much all of the big players in the company. Determine what my strengths are, what my weaknesses are and then he wants to develop a plan, a five year plan. Because my father's big thing is in five years he wants to retire, which right no w, none of us are prepared for that. AH: Yes, and I do want to talk about this. AG: So Curt could take over the company, great. But as the plans lay, Curt's not supposed to take the company over. AH: Okay. AG: Jerry wants to lay it all out and see wha t I need to do each year, how long he thinks it realistically would take for me to learn what I need to learn, and map it out for us. And so, at this point it's my fault for not making my father call Jerry. AH: Okay. But as of now, you still don't know what that decision is going to look like.
79 AG: No one does. AH: Okay. AG: And that's why Jerry was going to develop it. AH: Okay, got you. AG: Jerry was going to help us who were just kind of like ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder]. Like "Y eah! We'r e going to have these great positions! We're going to do it! Yeah, big plans! LG: Yeah, we'll get to it. We'll get to it. AH: Okay. So then this is a good segue as we start to conclude here. Your father said he wants to retire in the next five years Now, how do you guys feel about that? AG: That scares the living daylights out of me because I feel like I don't know nearly enough and this is where I'm kicking myself saying, "W hy was I not a GM? Why didn't I do this? Why did I not do that? AH: Y es. AG: Like I am so young, but I'm not. And that's the problem. LG: Well, that definitely scares me to death because there's kind of a good side and a bad side to it because I think, Okay, well, shoot. I've kind of gotten myself out of the loop. I' ve been having these babies and getting married and all this stuff And, o kay by five years I will definitely be done having babies. All my babies will be in school, and I'll be okay. But then I'm like, oh shit! Because Andrea's going to need to have babies. AG: Well, that's when I'm like, oh no! Right when I'm supposed to have babies is when I'm supposed to have to do this. LG: Okay, so how am I going to catch myself up to give her the chance to have babies. AG: Well, I'll make it happen. L G: I don't want her to miss out on any of the experience of motherhood AG: Of course. LG: and be at home for at least a little while with her babies. AH: Oh sure.
80 AG: But work becomes first. LG: I kind of hope it doesn't. I want her to have that balance because I really just point blank said work is going to be put on hold. I'll do what I have to do during the interim, but I want to be there with my children. I really don't want to miss that much. AH: But you still manage to make a real pos itive contribution though when LG: Well, I'm trying. I don't feel like I do very much right now. AH: Yes. LG: I don't beyond just doing some buying and kind of checking in. AG: But she does her job though. She does what she needs to do. LG: I do the bare minimum. AH: It was enough though just to get a retail division going outside of cigars. LG: Yes. AH: That wasn't there before, so LG: No, exactly and luckily with what I'm doing it kind of carries itself on AH: Yes. LG: as long as I keep buying stuff to put in it, it carries itself along at this point. AH: Yes, and you managed to shut up Dennis, so (laughs) LG: Yes, you can't really say too much luckily. AH: Yes. LG: But retail is not the it's just some gravy and icing on t op of the cake. It's not really the business. AH: Yes. LG: And at this point I'm so far removed from the business because I've been doing my family life and doing just the little bit of retail stuff that, I've got a lot to catch up on and a lot to get back into the groove with. AH: Sure.
81 AG: But you never had any huge intention of or did you? LG: I wouldn't say I never had any huge intention, but just once I had the twins, my children became my priority. AG: Yes. LG: That was it. AH: Well, an d twins. AG: Yes, two at once! LG: Yes. AH: Yes, that's pretty LG: Yes, I had twins and my marriage immediately fell apart. So, it was a lot on top of me all at one point. AH: Sure. LG: And at that point it also I just had this very strong feelin g that I had to be very stable and very available and accommodating to my children, because unfortunately their biological father would not be the stable and accommodating one and supportive one. So I kind of really focused all on that and did what I had to do with work. And now I have this new baby. And I hope to eventually resume a normal life, where I'm back to my office every day and I'm contributing more and I'm learning more and developing more, but do I think five years is going to be enough for me to get back to a point where I can help be some type of positive leader? I don't think five years is enough (inaudible). AG: I've got no time to kill. I can't afford to have kids at this point. LG: I don't know. I don't see how it's going to be plausible because there is so much that our dad says he wants us to learn and he wants us to be able to do this and be able to do that. AG: But he's not facilitating it for us. LG: Yes, but then again he doesn't want to let go of it. He doesn't wan t to really say, Okay well, let me show you how I do this. AG: Yes.
82 LG: He'll say, Okay go be on this board. Be on the Convention & Visitors Bureau Board. Help me do this. AG: But even me, he'll say, "T ake over the wine list. And then he'll s ay, "O h I forgot to forward you those three emails about the last hundred wines I just added on our wine list. Oh, oops! LG: Yes. AG: And I'm like, Dad. LG: [as her father] I want you all to be more involved. Go show up and do this . noise o n tape, series of beeps LG: television show. Well, we can do all of the TV shows he wants us to do AG: If he wants me to be PR [Public Relations] girl, I'll be PR girl. AH: Yes. LG: yes but we are literally just being face. We are not backing up the business. AH: Sure. LG: We're not learning it. We're not supporting it. We're just being the pretty face that knows how to cook some paella on TV so AH: Okay. AG: Hey, I cooked some good paella on TV, okay? LG: No, I know I'm not saying it's not good! AG: I'm cooking arroz con pollo on Friday on Channel 8. (laughs) LG: That's the thing AH: Yes, well. LG: he hasn't wanted to really pass any AG: He doesn't want to relinquish it. LG: Yes.
83 AH: But it doesn't sound like an uncommon probl em as far as not wanting to let go. LG: No. AH: But also being so busy that you don't have the opportunity to take a moment and stop everything so you can AG: But that's why we almost like, when Jerry comes in he should do it with you [Lauren] too, so he can get a program for us. LG: Right. AG: Because as of right now I don't have a job description. I have the most bogus job title on the face of the earth. I'm Manager of Quality Control. What does that even mean? AH: Yes. AG: I don't have a titl e and people say at my TEC meeting they're like, "Well, what exactly, what's your title? I think that's the worst question you could ask me. AH: Yes. AG: I'm like, "G od! I'm like, I do wine lists, I do food, I do everything. AH: Okay. All right, s o now this is another good segue, and actually let me stop it so it saves it and then we'll do our conclusion here. pause in tape AH: So, let's conclude then. We've covered a lot of ground here tonight. Let's talk a little bit about well, I don't know this is something difficult to talk about and still be diplomatic or whatever. But there's another part of the family. just like you two sisters, there are two brothers [Andrea's and Lauren's father Richard, and their uncle, Casey] who have been running this and I know there has been a lot of concern, over things. I don't want to get too deeply into this and too personal. AG: You can! LG: (laughs) AG: I know exactly how it's going to pan out! AH: But it's really LG: Three or four glasses of wine later Andrea is ready to talk! Oh no! (laughter)
84 AH: But it's really up to you guys, as to how you want to get into this. So, I hear that Richard is going to talk with your Uncle Casey tomorrow, and what are your thoughts on this? AG: The thing is, i n the third generation I guess, it is that there is always a major change in the business. It's either in the third generation you survive or you don't and there's a change. Fifth generation you either survive or you don't, and there's a change. I think there's going to be a change. AH: Okay. AG: I think there's too many of us right now, and the company won't survive with so many of us. AH: It will dilute the ownership too much. LG: Yes and even beyond just diluting the ownership, it really I thi nk is going to come down to leadership, at that point AG: Who you believe in. LG: Yes. AH: Well, and that really is the number one commodity. As far as outside of what you're selling, but within a company it really is all about leadership. LG: Right AH: And sometimes that sorts itself out, between Richard and Casey, to some extent, it's kind of naturally sorted itself out LG: Right. AH: according to their aptitudes and etcetera. LG: Exactly. AH: But, obviously, it's such a as far as a family business, if there's a price to be paid for having a family business, it would be the succession issues, right? Every time it's kind of been a crisis each time. And like you said, the third generation, and really what's interesting, is going into the fou rth generation was your big cataclysm AG: Where we're from. AH: of just a real threat to the entire business.
85 AG: But now, we have Babson College [Business School] studying us, because they don't know if we're going to survive this generation. AH: And I was fascinated by that. AG: I get goose bumps thinking about that. AH: Yes. AG: And it makes me nervous, that I think they're planning on us not succeeding. AH: Now this is interesting for the benefit of the transcript, Babson College, what is t he program? It's a business program is it? LG: Family business. AH: Okay. AG: Family business and the majority of the children I went up there with or the majority of the kids, they're just basically my age. AH: Yes. AG: I went up there with my dad A lot of them are planning on joining their family businesses, but some of them don't. And they have all of these case studies. AH: So the people in this college are a part of family businesses? AG: I think only probably like two thirds. AH: Okay. AG: Some of them are just it's like you have to take a class to fulfill a credit or whatever it is. AH: Exactly, okay. AG: So, some of them said "O h I'm a part of a family business ," or "N o, I'm not but I'm taking this class. And we are one of thei r handful of case studies that they have been studying for multiple years. LG: Yes, for several years. AH: Yes.
86 AG: And, actually the case they have is so outdated. It was when Lauren was still married to her first husband. LG: When I was going th rough the process of the divorce. AG: They had thought I studied abroad and done this. I was laughing my butt off. And they're like, I think Andrea went to Spain and studied for a couple years. I'm like, "F ail! (laughter) So they are predicting what is going to happen with us. AH: Yes, and it's like a lesson plan. It's like, "W hat should they do to ensure? How would you deal with this? LG: Yes. AG: What would you do? But what do you think is going to happen? AH: And I must say, I was ki nd of shocked when I read the document too, because it is so brutally honest. And it talks about the past successions, and although they all worked out for the best, it's not easy when it happens. it's very difficult. AG: Sure, we don't want to be a pa rt of that other half (laughs). AH: No. So I don't know to me you said you get goose bumps when you read this thing and think about it? AG: Well, it makes me very the reality of it is now, my father is taking care of the fourth generation. He has carr ied it through. He has made it more than successful. AH: Oh, yes. AG: He has made it better than it probably ever was. So now, how do we then make it better? Or how do we I know I can sustain it. But sustaining is not progress. AH: No, that's rea lly backsliding LG: Like Dad says, "I f you're coasting your going downhill ." It doesn't work. AG: Yes, I know Lauren and I will always stand together, and that's what we have going for us. AH: Yes, that much is obvious here tonight. AG: But we have t o figure something out here! (laughter) AH: Yes.
87 AG: And it makes me nervous because he's not going to always be there. I'd like to think he would be, but he's not. LG: Yes. AH: Well, and what's interesting about this as an exercise tonight, is th at we have come full circle. The first thing I asked was "W hat was it like growing up in the shadow of the Columbia? And your answer was, "W e didn't know we were in the shadow of the Columbia. But now it is all too apparent. LG: Yes, now it's scar y. Now you're like, "O h shoot, what do I do? AG: And now your shadow is behind you, and you're the full figure. AH: Yes. LG: Yes. You are in the spotlight. Now it's like, Okay, you better dance or you better get off the stage. AG: Yes. LG: And I have these discussions with my mom. I'm like, "M om what are we going to do? How are we going to do this? And she's like, "Well, don't worry. Your dad was not this brilliant this early on when he was your age. AG: But he seemed like he was so far ah ead of us with what he's done already. LG: Yes. AH: I'm sure he felt the same way about Cesar. LG: And he tries to say AH: He couldn't live up to Cesar. LG: I know and he tries to say that he was the same way, but still like experience wise, it ju st doesn't seem like it seems like we've been like sheltered and spared some things. AG: Spenders, products, this like ba da bing like he can throw stuff out. LG: He can go through his financials and [say], "L ook at this and ask, why is that wine like t his and why is this more than it was last year? AG: And I highlight, and make notes, like I am going to go study it tomorrow or something.
88 LG: And like it's like less than helpful, and yet you try to understand it. AG: But I'm like highlighting he n oted this because of this And he promises to sit down and go through financials with me and Dennis has actually said, Andrea I want to go through financials with you. I don't have time, I don't have time. So I'm like well AH: Well, on the other h and, a lot of people in the corporate circle are amazed by your father too. And that it's not just you guys AG: I don't know who's not amazed by him. AH: I guess another question is, how does you being women affect this? Obviously, family has become a permanent thing AG: I think a lot. AH: and there's no precedent for this in the Columbia organization. AG: I think it affects it a lot, because I know, like, my reaction from a lot of general managers, and maybe they're just lackadaisical in genera l, but they don't take me so seriously. But even like with like interaction with people. This is so stupid, but like a couple weeks ago, I had someone from the Chamber [of Commerce] ask me to go have drinks after work and I kind of thought, "Well, how i nappropriate," because I was a woman and he's a man. LG: I thought it was very inappropriate and I'm like Andrea, if he doesn't cut to the chase like within five minutes of being there, you get out of there. AH: Okay. AG: And I'm thinking LG: And w e were like completely kind of fed up like this is weird. AG: Well, no, but one of my big problems [is] as a female. If I were a man, it wouldn't be an issue. AH: Of course not. AG: And I'm thinking, this sucks that I'm a freaking woman, because this w ouldn't be an issue. But I was like I've got to go and just face the music and like Lauren said, if he doesn't get to the chase and then it was exactly what it was, he just wanted to talk about the future of the chamber and I'm like god, I'm a freaking moron! No wonder why women are like light years behind men! AH: Yes.
89 LG: We think he's got like all of these ulterior motives. AG: And I'm like "H e's married ," and Lauren's like, "O h that doesn't matter ," and Sherrod is like, "T hat's just a yield sign. I'm like, "O h no! LG: And my dad's at home and my dad's like, Lauren where's your sister again? AG: She's [Lauren] inappropriate! (laughter) LG: He's like, "O h she should not be doing that! And I'm like I know D ad, I told her not to do that either. I told her it was not good. AH: On the other hand for your dad it's just a matter of course. It's just part of the day. AG: It was the Chamber of Commerce. I was meeting with someone who is on the board. LG: Oh, it was terrible. AG : But it changed the tune because I was a woman and he was a man. LG: And it was a happy hour, let's go to the Green Iguana [Ybor City restaurant and bar]. AG: Friday, after four o'clock. That's a perfect example. Yes, being a woman is a huge problem. Huge problem. AH: Well, on the other hand, I think about all of those days and nights that your dad left and went to the restaurant, left you and your mother or took your mother and left you kids at home. And that's not a luxury that's probably going t o be available to you guys. AG and LG: No. AH: You have husbands that work. LG: Oh yes. AH: Or a husband and a fianc, soon to be husband. AG and LG: Exactly. AH: That they work for a living and they can't put everything (inaudible). LG: Yes, sitti ng at the bar waiting for us to finish our night until one in the morning isn't an option.
90 AG: I know he used to bitch and complain when I was at work. [ Sherrod, her fianc] When are you going to be done? When are you going to be done? I'm like, I'm working. AH: Yes. AG: And that guilt just makes it so much harder. Where John Pedaggi was my general manager, he used to say I love when Sherrod is out of town because you don't worry about going home. Because I don't mind staying there, but it was that guilt, I have to go home ," that made me feel like I had to leave. AH: So, you've been seeing Sherrod for a while then if you just got the job. AG: Four years. AH: Okay. AG: Yes. AH: Okay. AG: I actually, I met Sherrod because of John. AH: Oh, really? AG: Yes. AH: Okay. AG: Sherrod used to work under John. Sherrod grew up in St. Pete. He was a busboy in St. Pete. AH: Okay. AG: Growing up with all his friends and John was his first manager when he worked there. AH: Okay, neat. Well, that's neat, that it kind of brings it full circle too. AG: Yes. AH: Well, I find this especially interesting, because there is no precedent and to mention this before, like, when you guys worked as cashiers in the kitchen and of course probably wo men did that for a long time, but the fact that like working or cooking in the kitchen or something like that, when the union was there it was impossible.
91 AG: I was the first woman to work in the kitchen. AH: You were? AG: There was one woman right be fore me who was an intern. AH: Okay. LG: Yes. AG: that is incredible to think that I even heard that LG: Yes. AG: I think Dennis mentioned that they had to have a couple extra people on hand when they first sent women servers into the kitchen. LG: Oh yes, I remember that. AG: When they started working in the cigar bar because they were wearing the short skirts AH: Okay. AG: and those Latin men were hooting and hollering. LG: Yes. AH: Okay. AG: It was a lawsuit waiting to happen. AH: Oh man. LG: Sexual harassment, yes. AH: Okay. So what, it took awhile for the men in the kitchen to get their manners or what? AG and LG: Yes. AH: Because they were never expected to be held to that standard of the twentieth century basically. LG: No.
92 AG: Yes, there was no sexual harassment LG: Yes, because there were just no women around. AH: Well, and it's also kind of a Latin thing too, right? AG and LG: Oh, yes. AH: They're all mostly Spanish (inaudible). AG: Well, especially the Latin wom en, if they hoot and holler I'm like, "Y es eat it up, go for it. I don't take it, whatever, enjoy it. AH: Yes. LG: Yes because you've grown up around it. AH: But not all employees have that AG: Oh no, a lot of them would be like, "O h my god, I'm f eeling offended. I'm violated. AH: Yes, but to me when I first heard that, I couldn't believe that the union had lasted that long and dictated the way you guys did business for long. AG: Yes. AH: And being a historian and everything and studying, o h unions! There are no unions anymore and look what it's doing to the workingman and all this stuff. And a lot of cases, that's true. But in other cases it's just the opposite. And here is a business that can't even tell a waiter that, "W e want you to toss the salad tableside ." [Waiter] Oh well, I'll do what I want to do. AG: Yes. AH: So and from a female point of view that must have been interesting for you guys to know that it happened so recently. AG: I've really only the known the restaurant as a union free. I remember it being a union restaurant, but I don't remember the effects of it. LG: Right. AG: I remember the first female waitress telling me, I'm not a part of the union. And I was like, "O h I guess that's a big deal.
93 AH: Okay AG: But I never knew the effect that it had on the restaurant. LG: No, I don't think we really understood that. AH: Yes. AG: No one really explained that to us or told us the consequences. So we've always just known it as a union free restaurant. AH: Well, and the interesting thing is, long after the cigar unions were all gone, you still had this union clinging in Ybor City for the waiters. AG: But it only was a handful of people though for a really long time at the end from what I remember. LG: Right. AH: Okay, so what for a while, union employees coexisted with non union employees? AG: Definitely. AH: It was an open door policy. AG: Because the non union employees realized that, there's not real benefit. LG: No benefit. AH: Yes. AG: Wh y are you going to fight your employer? AH: Well, and also when they introduced the bonus structure and all this stuff, it gave incentives to not be AG: Sure. AH: in the union because you were going to be able to reap benefits that you wouldn't. AG: And we offer things like 401k [retirement fund]. We treat our employees like family. LG: Yes. AG: And we expect them to treat us the same way.
94 AH: Help with education and things like this. AG: Yes, without a doubt. AH: Well, is there anything we'v e missed here? Obviously, we covered a lot of ground and this is an unfinished story. The Columbia as long as it survives; Viva Columbia! May it live very long. It will always be an unfinished story and I guess that's one of the fascinating things abo ut it. LG: You'll have to come back and write another one in another ten years. AH: Well, there's always another page to be turned? So, like I said is there anything we've missed? Is there anything you want to add? AG: Well, if there's anything you th ink later on. We're definitely here. We're not going anywhere. AH: Okay. Well, like I said I think we've covered a lot of ground and I really want to thank you for sitting down with me and on behalf AG: Thank you for sitting down with us. AH: of th e University of South Florida Library and the Oral History Program, this is a really exciting series of interviews for us. AG: Thank you. AH: And I can speak for the transcriptionists back at the office, they look forward to every one. LG: (laughs) AG: Oh no! This one will probably be entertaining for them (laughs) AH: Well, I know it will be. Especially because they're all female and we've covered a lot of interesting issues there. And one of them made me promise that she would get dibs on this interview. (laughter) LG: Oh, how funny. AH: So, I want to thank you on behalf of them too. LG: Okay, well, thank you. AG: Well, thank you for doing it.
95 end of i nterview
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Andrea Gonzmart, Lauren Gonzmart
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Andrew Huse.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (152 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Columbia Restaurant oral history project
Interview conducted February 28, 2007.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Andrea and Lauren Gonzmart, 5th generation family members of the Gonzmart family (owner/operators of the Columbia Restaurant Group), discuss their family history. Lauren and Andrea discuss their earliest childhood memories of their parents and grandparents, their college days, and the first jobs they had at the Columbia. They also discuss how the restaurant has changed over the years, including the addition of gift shops at some restaurant locations. The interview ends with a discussion of Lauren and Andrea's current involvement in the Columbia Restaurant Group.
Columbia Restaurant (Fla.)
Ybor City (Tampa, Fla.)
Huse, Andrew T.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS