In Episode 12 we interview Berto, Nick and Alessandro of the AOK Family, World Thrift Popup Shop and Kitchen
Transcript at the bottom of this page!
AOK Family, World Thrift PopUp Shop and Kitchen
Furnish Me Vintage
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Kyle: Welcome to “Great Things Tampa Bay” the podcast about great eats, great places and great people in the greater Tampa Bay area. I’m your host, Kyle Sasser, Tampa Bay native and realtor. And this is episode 12 and I’d like to thank you for giving us your time. I know there’s lots of things vying for your attention and I appreciate you choosing to spend your time listening to me and this podcast. I promise I’ll do my best to bring you something great. I did wanna give a little bit of an update to our podcast format.
We’re actually changing it a little bit. This form is a little shorter than usual. So we are shortening up the format, we are going to try to keep it between 15 and 22, 23, 24 minutes. We’re also only gonna do one main segment part and to trade off on that is we’re going to move to a weekly release. Also, in addition to the main “Great Things Tampa Bay” podcast which you’re listening to right now, we’re setting up three separate feeds just in case you don’t really have any interest in some of the things we talk about.
So we’re calling this “Express” feeds and if you look on iTunes or Google Play, wherever you get your podcast feed, you can do a search for “Great Bites Tampa Bay’ and that’s gonna be for, you know, our food reviews and restaurants. “Great Places Tampa Bay” is going to be about events and parks and all sorts of things to do in the area. And then “Great People” is going to be our interview feed. So if you listen to the main feed which you’re listening to right now, then you’re gonna get all three of these.
This is just for people who just don’t have any interest in making a…maybe they hate “Great Food” for some reason and, you know, they can like just to listen to the “Great Places” and the “Great People” interviews that we do. Looking in our website those will be listed under “Express” feeds and we’ll have a little bit more information for that at the end. This is episode 12. We’re calling this World Thrift. AOK Family and Pop-up Shop and Kitchen and that’s segment one, World Thrift.
So I was able to interview some local entrepreneurs by the name of Nick, Berto and Alessandro and basically they run a thrift store and also they do a pop-up shop which, you know, if you’re a little bit older, you might not know, but it’s, kind of, all the rage right now. But basically, it’s just a little booth that pops up. It’s kind of temporaries, a lot of times it’s just part of a larger group of them or festival but it can also just be an event that’s hosted on its own and basically, you know, they set up a little booth, they have some clothes in particular.
They also have food from a great chef in the area here. So kind of adds a lot of interest and value to the area and had a lot of fun interviewing them, hope you enjoy listening.
So I’m here today with the AOK Family and I’m gonna let each of them introduce themselves.
Berto: Hey, how you guys going? It’s Berto.
Nick: I’m Nick.
Alessandro: And Alessandro.
Kyle: They’re some entrepreneurs here at St. Petersburg and nationwide doing some great things.
Alessandro: So as the AOK Family, we’re basically just a collective group of individuals. We don’t like to go by, like, incorporated or anything like that because we feel that any one that’s in this with us is family. So that’s why we came up with the name AOK Family and what we do is just each of us have different visions and we all come together to help each other out and bring them all into fruition basically.
So, I personally have a brand. It’s called World Thrift that we’re all in on and that’s a buy-sell trade business where we buy sell trade clothes, vintage, anything that has a resale value clothing-wise, we want it.
Berto: So basically, I’m a chef and well, we do catering and private chef company. We do creations by Berto and I also work at a lot of the events. We basically bring my own twist on diner classics and Street food…
Kyle: That sounds delicious. What’s your best dish, do you feel?
Berto: We could do best sell. We probably had for dinner our first plate. I made a homemade peanut butter and a strawberry jam, like, deep fried, like, a French toast and topped with banana fosters.
Alessandro: It’s like a good midnight snack, top dish. It was real good.
Kyle: All right, cool. So Alessandro, you got the clothes, right?
Kyle: And Berto, you got the food?
Kyle: So Nick, what’s your key role in all this?
Nick: What do you call it, Alessandro?
Alessandro: The FLO, F-L-O, so Financial Legal and Operations, but on top of that, like, Nick is in it, like, Nick’s in it with the food, Nick’s in it with the clothe. Like, Nick came over yesterday and he had a bag full of thrifted stuff that he went out and got himself, so he does everything.
Kyle: So on the food front we have American Street food.
Berto: I’m like classically trained, so like French and Italian cuisine and I work at the Birch & Vine now. So I do a lot of fine dining, food and good plating and stuff there. So, I do that twist on, like, say you’re walking around New York or in L.A., like, any other street food you have out there, all the little bodegas and stuff. I put my own little twist on it, my flavor and I try to bring, you know, a little bit higher end touch for a little price.
Kyle: Yeah. Well, I will say, speaking of Birch & Vine, my wife and I went there a few months ago and had the Carpaccio with the gorgonzola ice cream [crosstalk 00:05:13].
Berto: Yeah. Oh, God.
Berto: I like that place, it’s delicious.
Kyle: So how did y’all meet? How did y’all get started?
Alessandro: So Nick and I met at the bus stop when we were in middle school. I was in sixth grade and he was in seventh and me and Berto met…I still work there actually part-time at the Brown Boxer at Madeira Beach. I’ve been working there since I was 18 but Berto was just working there. One day I just said hey to him basically. We had never met. I had heard his name. He had heard mine. We had mutual friends and stuff.
So, I don’t know, the connection…Like, our friendship just really kicked it off. We actually only met maybe like four years ago. So it’s pretty crazy that we are as close as we are.
Nick: We’re all really close but this whole venture didn’t really start until March actually getting things down brass tacks, working out the numbers and figuring things out, that’s when it all started, March of 2017.
Kyle: Also, I was kind of an onlooker I guess, you could say, because Alessandro, I had kind of known you around that time, we’d meet a couple times. And yeah, I just saw y’all kind of take off from, you know, just a few little blips on social media and then basically a flood of stuff, y’all went all over the nation, right?
Kyle: Doing shows and stuff.
Nick: We were out in New Orleans, we just got back from L.A. not too long ago.
Alessandro: Yeah. We were in Los Angeles in June, we went to New Orleans, I think in May and those were like back-to-back events. And New Orleans we did a couple like small pop-ups just in the area but in L.A. we did a couple different ones. We were out at Venice Beach. We did one in downtown L.A., like a rooftop pool area, and then we did one at a clothing store, which I’ve got their shirt on, it’s Good Mood and so that was actually…
We held like a pop-up shop and kitchen there and it was actually the first time I was ever able to do a fashion show, which I really liked, and we just did another one this weekend at Furnish Me Vintage. So that was the second one I’ve ever done.
Kyle: Yeah. So who does the social media?
Berto: We all help.
Kyle: Because I gotta say, you all do a really good job and it’s very interesting. I mean, I know I’m not exactly your target demographic, being an older…
Alessandro: Actually, believe it or not, you are. You guys have more money to spend on us because we have friends that, like, they’ll support us till the death of them but, you know, they might only have $43 in their pocket and we always want all of our events to be for everyone. I have a lot of girls that are like, “Oh, I can’t come because I have my son that day or a guy.” “Oh, I have my daughter.” Bring them along. We always try to make it all inclusive and fun for everyone.
Kyle: And just for the record, your ages are?
Berto: I’m 27.
Kyle: All right. And your lovely host here is 38 years old. So we have the American food, right, with the artisanal touch I guess you could say, right?
Berto: Let’s keep American, but like I said, since I’m Italian-French, like, trained, I bring a lot of the elegance the Italian food brings but with like a grilled cheese or like a cheese cake or something, you know.
Kyle: Like, how would you describe the clothing?
Alessandro: I just watched a couple other brands and different people selling stuff online and everyone has their markets. So if you go online, I have some friends, they specifically only sell jerseys because that’s just what they specialize in. Some people only do vintage. Some people just do band tees. With our concept of world thrift, I want to try to have everything. I want to be able to appeal to everyone and then, also another thing that goes into is I’ve always really loved to travel, you know.
A lot of people they’re like St. Pete vintage or San Francisco vintage and they’re only thrifting out of that one area whereas anytime we’re traveling, anytime I go out of town, I’m grabbing stuff. So that when you buy something I can maybe let you know where it came from or…
Berto: Give it a little background story.
Alessandro: Yeah. Give it a little bit more of a story than just, oh, we just found these in the local thrift stores in St. Pete. Sometimes like, the pants I’m wearing right now, like, I got these from Malaysia, you know, so…
Kyle: And a lot of times the story is actually what’s gonna sell something.
Berto: Yeah. And makes it.
Alessandro: Right. So yeah, I guess in short, I try to bring in just the best of everything really.
Kyle: And I’m looking around here, we’re kind of in storage room currently in, you know, I’m seeing some colored shirts and some Umbro jackets. Very ’90s feel would you say?
Together: Yes. Definitely.
Kyle: I was gonna say, this does kind of remind me of my middle school.
Alessandro: There you go.
Kyle: I don’t see a starter jacket around.
Nick: We have members only.
Kyle: Members only. I like it.
Alessandro: A lot of it’s nostalgia honestly, people see something that reminded them of when they were young. Maybe they didn’t have that item or couldn’t get it, now they can so that’s a big thing.
Nick: A lot of our customers are sports fans, just getting a piece that really takes them back like, we have this Dolphins’ shirt jersey 95. Last year, Don Shula, was head coach. If you’re a true Dolphins’ fan you’re gonna love it and that’s what we try to bring to a lot of our pieces, you know, and say, “I have to have it.”
Kyle: So my brother, bless his heart, is a very long suffering Buccaneers fan and I know that he has a lot of lover’s heart for the old Buccaneer, Bruce, you know, from the ’80s. They were breaking all the wrong record, I should say. So y’all are traveling around the country doing shows, doing all sorts of great things. What was the best failure that y’all have experienced so far?
Berto: We kind of split on that one. We had a easy like Sunday morning brunch event at the Green Bench Brewing and it was on the outside looking in it went great. But for like our opinions, like, the power wasn’t working, the band weren’t playing quite the right music we wanted. Everything was like, I had a meltdown.
Alessandro: We all had headaches by the end of the day and we were…
Berto: And it was a long night. It was first like early morning event, like, all of our events…So we kind of, that’s when we get our sleep, you know, I’m up prepping till 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning so I crash out at like 7:00 or 8:00 and get a four-hour nap and this one, like, the event started at 11:00. So like, I got done at like 7:00 or 8:00 and it was just like, all right, shower and it’s pack and it’s [crosstalk 00:11:00].
Alessandro: Let’s get it going, yeah.
Kyle: So that was down at a Green Bench?
Berto: Yeah. They’re doing wrong. We love Green Bench like, they worked great with us, let us host this amazing event. It wasn’t anything to do on them. It was just like small things just kept little domino effect, you know, that butterfly’s wing and whatnot.
Alessandro: That’s a good example of a really good event that, you know, just have like a couple things go wrong, but we’ve also done events where it was just such short planning. We literally tried to throw an event together in like two days and two days later when we get up and get over there and set up, I think like three people came the entire night. So definitely, a couple different ways you can like define like best failures or worst failures but those are some of them.
Berto: I was high on that place, man. Nowhere I was snoopy boy.
Kyle: Those are the one you’ll tell people when y’all are rich and famous?
Alessandro: Our first event was March 8th and we’ve done close to 25 events since then. So one thing we’ve learned is now we’re focusing on bigger events.
Berto: As opposed to, like, when we first started it was like get us a name where we can go.
Alessandro: Get us many more gigs, you know. Let’s do five markets this week whereas it’s a lot easier to just plan out bigger things as opposed to having to move all the stuff downtown five different times in one week.
Nick: It’s kind of like the same concert they did with, like, the McGregor, Mayweather fight. They’ve been talking about it since 2015, you know, just space it out. Let people like plan their day out, like, if this is an event, like, I have to go out to see this and like give me enough time to plan for it.
Kyle: Yeah. It’s true. Y’all have been doing some shows, any other successes that y’all are having?
Alessandro: Yeah. So recently, you can call them retailers, I prefer to call them installations, but we’ve set up a couple different partnerships with some local businesses. One of them being Furnish Me Vintage, we absolutely love them down there, they’re like family to us. And another one is Mesu project. Mesu360 project gallery, they’re by St. Petersburg, they’re on the corner of 6th Street and 1st Ave North. So what we’re doing with those two different stores is providing people with the seven days a week permanent location where they can come and shop and then that way they don’t have to wait for the pop-ups, and what we’re trying to do with each location is have different things.
So at Furnish Me Vintage, we’re trying to have less brand focused items, things more focused on loud colors, loud patterns, just crazy things like you would see on that ’70s show “True vintage” and then at Mesu, because they sell sneakers. It’s more of like a street wear where we’re in a tight place, that’s where I’m gonna have some of these truck jackets, more brand focused things. So depending on what type of shopping experience you’re looking for, you’ll be able to go to those different locations.
And then these we’re in the middle of kind of redoing it now from this used to hold everything to where this is now gonna be private gallery where we’re gonna keep the best of the best and we’re gonna have like a spending minimum to be able to even come back here and see what we have. So you’re pretty lucky.
Nick: For those who really want to be pampered, if you pay an additional amount you can get a personal meal made by Berto.
Kyle: Oh, sweet.
Alessandro: Yeah. We’re working on doing like a couple different things advancing and then guiding more and more experiences for people to come by and check out.
Berto: And for those of you that don’t know, Furnish Me Vintage is a great place. It’s down on Central Avenue, down in St. Petersburg. They have four floors of vintage material. On the bottom floor, I’d say it’s sort of like, Danish mid-century. Second floor, they have that cool, the guy with the vinyl.
Alessandro: Yeah. The second floor is redone to where there’s like a couple furniture pieces but it’s a clothing boutique now, vintage sound, records, so yeah. The second floor is just they’ve kind of just added a couple other things that just go with their vintage theme that just expand their inventory and then third and fourth floor are more great furniture honestly and stuff.
Kyle: And y’all are going to be located…which floor are y’all gonna be located?
Together: We’re on the second floor.
Alessandro: We’re currently on the second floor there.
Nick: The party floor.
Alessandro: Right, and the Mesu360 project gallery will be in the October-ish, November first by the way.
Kyle: So Furnish Me Vintage is located at 1246 Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Mesu360 is located at 578 First Avenue North also in St. Petersburg. Next time y’all are in St. Petersburg looking to check out some cool stuff, come check them out there. I always like to end on this question. What’s the one thing that I didn’t ask y’all that you wish that I had asked?
Alessandro: Yeah. What is the one thing?
Berto: We all have a couple ideas actually, what we kind of where it all should end. Like, I have a menu that I’ve been working on for a couple years now. It’s a concept called Middle Schools. So it’s gonna be like a higher-end version of all your favorite middle school lunches.
Kyle: Are we talking what, like Jello with grapes on it?
Berto: But like, I’m gonna make the Jello and do some molecular stuff to the grapes. That’s like my dream. Alessandro has a couple shops he wants to open.
Alessandro: I really love clothes and fashion and it really is my passion. So like me and Nick we talked about it all the time as we grow, you know, we are gonna have to let go of these things like operational duties, like, being the salesmen in the shop. Unfortunately, that’s not something that I like ever really wants to let go of and so we’ll see what happens, but I just want to keep growing with the clothes.
Again, I really love traveling. And growing up I always wanted to see the world. So I just want to travel, surround myself in clothes and fashion and be happy with my friends and family.
Kyle: Awesome. And Nick, where do you see it?
Nick: You know, I see myself just being able to do what I want to do. You know, to put your all into something. That’s something that I haven’t really been able to do with a lot, but this is something that I’m literally putting in my off.
Kyle: It’s always amazing when you take something from nothing and then just you create a whole cloth out of nothing. It’s like, “Hey, this is our thing.” Like, this is what we’ve made. It’s awesome.
Alessandro: I mean, I’ve always been real confident in anything I do, but when we first started, people were like, “What are you guys doing?” “Oh, you know, we got these like little pop-up stuff.” Some people didn’t get it, but now, like, I love when people ask what I do.
Nick: It’s more defined.
Kyle: It takes a while to get your message down. So awesome and last question, how much for the Buccaneers helmet over there?
Alessandro: We’ll do $30 for you.
Kyle: Sweet. All right. You heard it, they gave me a deal. All right. Well, thank you to the AOK Family and that was Berto, and Nick and Alessandro and you can check them out at Furnish Me Vintage or Mesu360.
Alessandro: Yeah. Mesu360.
Kyle: All right. Thanks, fellas.
Together: Thank you, too.
Kyle: So I’d like to thank Nick, Berto and Alessandro for that interview, as you can hear we had quite a bit of fun. They are really fired up about the clothing and the kitchen. Lots of excitement and passion there. If you’re interested in seeing their wears, you can find them at Furnish Me Vintage which is at 1246 Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida. If you wanna find them on social media, you can go to Facebook or Instagram and do a search for World Thrifts and/or you can do a search for Pop-up Shop and Kitchen and they’ll pop up there as well. So, thanks, guys.
Segment two: Just the facts. Did you know that the average person spends six months of their life waiting for red lights to turn green? If you’re anything like me, it’s a pretty sobering thought. So if you’re listening to this in your car and you have to be sitting at a red light, just know that you’re counting up the six months of your life waiting for red lights to turn green.
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