In Episode 2 you will find one of the great neighborhoods of St Petersburg (hills and creeks!) and an interview with the owner of Urban Restaurant Group.
I dish the secrets on my recreational activities, and terrify you with a risk from technology you now have to worry about.
Transcript at the bottom of this page!
LET’S GET PERSONAL
Great Things Tampa Bay is hosted and produced by Kyle Sasser.
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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, a Tampa Bay native and realtor. Thanks for inviting me along on your commute to work or putting me in your ear at the gym, it means a lot to me. I know that there are many other podcasts that you could be listening to and you have chosen this one, so you have my thanks. We wanna interact with you, our listeners. The easiest way to find us online is at our website greatthingstb.com. That’s greatthingstb.com. From there on our website, you’ll be able to find all of our podcast episodes. And also, we have a page for social connections where you can find us on all of the various social media sites. You can ask us for recommendations if you’re looking for a place to go or something to do. Maybe you always wanted to learn how to kiteboard and you’re wondering where the best place to learn to do that is. Or maybe you just wanna say hi and let us know that you are a listener and that you love the show, or that you hate the show, but either way we would like to hear from you, so please find us on the website and let us know.
Segment 1, Quiet Refuge.
So for our first episode we reviewed my favorite restaurant in the area and that was Urban Brew and BBQ. So if you have not heard that, please go back and listen. They are definitely worth the visit. This episode, I’m going to mix things up a little bit and tell you about one of my favorite neighborhoods in the Tampa Bay area. So the name of the neighborhood is Roser Park, and it is located over in St. Petersburg, Florida. So if you are in downtown St. Pete, you can head south on Fourth Street and you will take a right on Roser Park Drive. Just past 9th Avenue, south, there’s a little creek there and that is the neighborhood. It is a very small neighborhood, it’s only taking up just a few streets and a few blocks, but the impact that it has on people that visit there is exponentially greater than its geographical size. This neighborhood has something that is very rare to find in Florida, especially along the coast, and that is that the houses are actually built on hills overlooking a creek, and there are huge oak trees covering a brick-lined street. It’s absolutely amazing. It feels very quiet and serene when you’re there, and it’s an amazing, amazing place. So the houses there are generally older wood-frame houses. They were built back in the early 1900s, but it’s an absolutely beautiful street. When you’re driving down there, you are transported away, it’s almost like you’re in the mountains. It’s crazy, it’s crazy. Definitely worth the drive through.
So, let me give you a little history about Roser Park. It was one of the earliest streetcar suburbs in St. Petersburg, built directly south of downtown. There used to be a streetcar that ran there. Old Northeast was built around the similar time frame, but this one was unique because it was named after the developer, Charles Roser, who was from Ohio. The interesting tidbit about him is he made his fortune in Ohio having invented the Fig Newton, which personally, I’m a fan of. It’s not like we keep them in the house at all times. I’m not a huge raving fan, you know, like I don’t have a Fig Newton hat, but I do have a little nostalgia for them because every time we would go camping in the mountains, the two things we would always have is sugar wafers, which are those really dry sugar things which I also kinda get a nostalgic kick every time I go camping, and Fig Newtons. And it’s kind of one of those things where you have a certain thing you do and you only buy this product at that certain time, and for me that’s Fig Newtons and camping. Yeah, so Roser Park is named after Charles Roser from Ohio and he developed the Fig Newton.
The way the neighborhood is laid out is you have Booker Creek, which is a small creek that winds through the neighborhood, and then you have a little park next to that, and then there is a brick, it’s a brick street that follows the creek through the neighborhood. And then the houses are built up on a hill, to the left if you’re coming from Fourth Street. The houses are older, they’re usually relatively stately, you know, multiple stories, and the homes are so tall that you actually have to kind of crane your neck up when you’re walking along the street. It’s hard to describe how unusual it is without seeing it in person. Even the pictures don’t really do it justice. So since it’s such a small neighborhood, things do not become available very often and they are usually in high demand, so it is usually a combination of luck and timing and maybe a little bit of insider knowledge to get a home in Roser Park. So if you drive through that neighborhood and you absolutely love it and you absolutely have to live there, please send me a message and I will be sure to add you to the list to be notified whenever something becomes available there. You can do that by sending me an e-mail at email@example.com. That’s K-Y-L-E S-A-S-S-E-R G-R-O-U-P dot com. Roser Park is absolutely amazing, you have to drive through there and see it if you are in the area. There’s nothing like it around.
Segment 2, Urban Interview, Part 1.
So, last week I reviewed Urban Brew and BBQ, which is my favorite restaurant in the area. And I did reach out to them before I released the episode to get their thoughts, maybe a little bit of history and all that, and they were kind enough to offer their owner, whose name is Andy, for an interview. He had some really great and interesting things to say about the restaurant business and what he’s trying to do with the Urban brand. So please enjoy this interview, I believe you will find it as interesting as I did.
Kyle: All right, if you could just introduce yourself and what you do, what you own, what your businesses are.
Andy: My name is Andy Salyards and I own the Urban Restaurants Group here in St. Pete.
Kyle: Okay, and that is Urban BBQ?
Andy: Urban Brew & BBQ is the first one. Second one was Urban Comfort Restaurant and Brewery. Next one is Urban Creamery, which is down next to the state theater.
Kyle: That’s the ice cream place?
Andy: Yeah, ice cream and dessert waffles, and the next one and Urban Deli and Drafts.
Kyle: If you could just tell us where you came up with the Urban concept and just kind of what your overarching theme is.
Andy: Well, my path to get here is a pretty weird one, in that I went to the California Maritime Academy in the San Francisco Bay Area and got a degree in mechanical engineering, after that went and worked in a shipyard, went out to sea, worked mostly in the South Pacific.
Kyle: That’s pretty exciting.
Andy: It was like a different life. Came back to land and got my master’s in business, and then went and worked in Southern California, transitioned into facilities management, so I used to manage all the core houses in Los Angeles County. Then we moved out to Florida for my wife’s job and the option came up to invest in a cousin’s restaurant in California, and so I did that and that allowed me to go out there and work it and kind of see if it was something I wanted to do and thought I could do. So I researched a bunch, did a bunch of planning and figured out where if I were to have a business where I’d want it to be, so that’s what led me to this area, just because it’s a lot more independent and not really cookie-cutter, and gave it a shot. Then it hit all financial projections ahead of schedule and did way better than we thought it would. So that was not foreseen, because you know, in business school they teach you to do a projection that has the hockey stick, I don’t know if you’re familiar.
Andy: But you kind of never expect to actually achieve those projections. Those are projections you put on to convince investors you’re worth investing in. So then we saw the opportunity to do a brew pub since there’s so many breweries, but nobody offering food with their beer, and that’s what led to Comfort, and then kind of seeing where the market is going, how quickly it’s growing, and so we wanted to kind of just get footholds in places. And so we rented where Deli is way before it opened and used it for various things like storage, and then we kind of did a proof of concept with a brand called Provisions, which is still our sauce brand, where we’re gonna put all our rubs and sauces in. When Creamery came up there, we didn’t know exactly what we were gonna do with the space, but knew it was a good spot, and so we jumped on it. So now in 2017, we are at a position where we’ve been open about three and a half years and we have four locations, and so now it’s time to build an organization. So this year we are moving forward, figuring out how we make employees owners and how we introduce profit sharing and how we operate as one unit instead of four businesses separately.
Kyle: I was just gonna say, that’s a little surprising on the restaurant business side, because most …
Andy: Yeah, it is a little different. The idea of doing a restaurant group isn’t any different ,and we’re kind of getting to the point now where we’re bursting at the seams with our current processes and so we’re gonna have to, as an organization, make some changes kind of divvy up responsibilities, which is nothing new under the sun. The maybe little different thing that we’re doing is my goal is to make people that have helped grow this business into owners, but I’m also not a believer in just giving something to someone, because they don’t appreciate it as much, they don’t really protect it as much. And so how do you get someone to buy into a restaurant, especially in the restaurant industry because it’s not like everyone around here is making $100,000 a year. So you have to put capital in their pockets, and so how do you that? And so that led to the profit-sharing idea.
Kyle: I love it, I love it. Like, that’s actually awesome.
Andy: We’ll see. It looks like it’s going to work well. I’ve kind of paved the way with the lawyers and accountants and my advisers and the employees, and I think we know what we’re gonna do, and now it’s time to put in action, put everything on paper. So that should happen the next month or two. I haven’t proven it yet. We still have to…
Kyle: I understand that part too.
Andy: Hopefully we can prove that it works and that it’s worthwhile. It’s really all rooted laziness, because a lot of restauranteurs work crazy, crazy hours, and I have done that and I kind of continue to do that. I don’t wanna work that much.
Kyle: I don’t blame you.
Andy: And so if I can empower others to take more responsibilities, then I’m good with that.
Kyle: Yeah, exactly. Like, I always love…like, I’ve started up a few businesses and I always love getting it to the point where I can be like, “Let me train you how to do my job so I can go move up to the next level,” so always my favorite part. Did you have, like, a long time passion for barbecue to start this or just the…?
Andy: When it came to making the menu, I knew that I wanted to do everything from scratch. I’m kind of an idealist when it comes to that. Growing up for me, barbecue was kind of a special treat, we didn’t eat a ton of it, but it was one of those things, when I got an opportunity, then I was all over it. So when I was looking at different concepts, what I wanted to do, my cousin opened a barbecue place out in California…the California barbecue is way different than the rest of the country, is more grilling and it’s different equipment, it’s usually different wood, it’s definitely different cuts of meat. So that would not probably have done well here or it would have been a kind of a tougher road of hope.
Kyle: Yeah, having to kind of educate the public on what that is.
Andy: Right. Although we did just do a beer dinner where I did kind of a California barbecue menu and it seemed to go off pretty well. I just researched barbecue like crazy, read all kinds of books. In one day, I had ribs in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Memphis. I drove from one city to the other.
Kyle: Kind of getting both sides of that.
Andy: Yeah, and kinda looked at the different regions and the style that they’re known for and what direction I wanted to go, and me personally knowing that I’d rather have a rib that’s not been just basted in sauce…because if I wanna add sauce I’ll do it, so that’s more kind of a Memphis style. I wouldn’t say we follow Memphis flavors all the way.
Kyle: I will say, personally, that these are the best ribs I’ve ever had. And I don’t really like ribs that much, because usually I find they’re a little bland or like, and it’s not really a wet or dry thing, just I don’t like them. First time I came here with my wife, everybody was like, “Hey, you gotta try the ribs.” It was like, everybody’s telling me, so I might as well try it and…yeah, that was …
Andy: Awesome, that’s great to hear. So, I was really involved with the recipes here, but as we’ve progressed, you know, we’ve kind of stayed in the pocket of American food, so that’s where you get… The Southern Comfort food is more kind of closer to home for me. I have a set of grandparents from Arkansas, I have grandparents from Oklahoma, so that was a lot of fried chicken – that was like my birthday meal every year – fried pies, fried pork chops, collard greens.
Kyle: And I’m just gonna tell you the story. So, the first time I was here we have the ribs and we also ordered the collard greens. Like, I’m from Bilver[SP], Plant City, where the dinosaurs are, so I always try the collard greens wherever I go, and I had never had collard greens like I had here. And I actually had to ask how they were made and they explained, like, you know, taking the…
Andy: [inaudible 00:14:10] smoker and everything.
Kyle: Yes, and putting that in there, because it’s just like an explosion of smoke and spice.
Andy: I can say, because I didn’t make this recipe, these are the best collard greens I’ve ever had.
Kyle: It’s crazy, crazy, crazy. So hats off to the chef that came up with that one.
Andy: Actually, I think it’s the idea of the girlfriend of our general manager, is where all that started, and then it kind of amalgamated into something different.
Kyle: I hope you gave her a really nice present.
Andy: Yeah, yeah. And then Deli came about because I got into carrying meat. A buddy of mine here in town, made sausages with him and other stuff and kinda got interested in that because it’s just…you know, anything you buy from a store, at one point somebody made from scratch. And so when you buy a hotdog, like, people will get hotdogs [inaudible 00:14:54], but you can make that a really clean, maybe not healthy, but not-processed way.
Kyle: Now, do you use, like, what is the…
Andy: Nitrites. Yeah.
Kyle: All right, so full-on authentic, puring…
Andy: Oh yeah. When you dig into those books…I’m sure they have a bias because it’s their trade, but there’s more nitrites in a stock of celery than, like, a hotdog. And then we also started identifying what are things that we have to purchase from someone else that we can’t make. And so the two biggest ones was ice cream and bread. So that led to Creamery and Deli. Now it’s continually peeling that back, like what more can we do on our own and not have to rely on someone. I think we’re running out of stuff on the food side.
Kyle: That’s come up to my question here. So what’s next on the Urban plate?
Andy: I mean, we do have the Rays’ season coming up, we’re a vendor inside the stadium…
Andy: …and I think we’re gonna be looking for more relationships like that where it’s not necessarily brick and mortar, but somewhere where we can come in and be a part of someone else’s establishment.
Kyle: So more of a getting Urban in more places?
Andy: Yeah, yeah. We built four locations in a pretty short amount of time and we built up four concepts, and we’re always gonna be tweaking these concepts. But, you know, building four concepts is different than building four locations, because at this point it’ll be like, “Yeah, we’ll start another barbecue, it’d be just no problem, we’d do that with our eyes closed. So there was a lot more work on the front end, but now we’re in a position where we can kind of identify areas of town or other towns that we wanna go into.
Kyle: Yeah, and I would think, with your shared ownership program, the additional locations would probably be, you know, a great way to…
Andy: Yes. You kind of build a black hole when you do that, you know, because everyone wants to see an opportunity. And so with that, you have to feed that, create more opportunity, how do you make this place not become stagnant, because if we just stick with four locations and then the people that are in those property-sharing positions have got cover, there’s no need to add anybody else in your property-sharing position, so then everybody down below realizes, “Okay, well there’s not really room for growth here.” We’re creating a beast here that needs to be fed, so we’re just figuring out how to feed it.
Kyle: I love it, and I will say four new concepts in, what, three years?
Andy: It’s a little aggressive.
Kyle: That’s very bold, very bold.
Andy: I moved, had a kid and we’re having the second one in June.
Andy: So we’re kind of just taking everything we can do in life at one time.
Kyle: So y’all are pretty much…so I know you said you’re from California, so you’re pretty much putting roots down here and…
Andy: Yeah, we’re not going anywhere, yeah.
Kyle: Kind of a hard thing to walk away from.
Andy: Yeah, I’m trying to convince my family to move out here right now.
Kyle: Why Florida instead of California or Colorado or…?
Andy: Well, so my wife got into a residency out here and so we had to come here. And originally it was, “Let’s do our four years and then go back,” but over time… What’s happening here in St. Pete is pretty unique. It’s a very small-town feel, it’s hard to go out and not run into somebody you know, but you still have all the amenities which you’d need in a big city, and then the opportunity here is pretty unparalleled. I’ve been able to travel a good amount and live in a couple different places. I’ve never set roots as quickly as I have here, and it’s kind of hard to walk away from.
Kyle: It’s a good place, it’s a good place. So, what would you say is your favorite part about St. Peter, Tampa Bay?
Andy: St. Pete, specifically, is the impact that one person can have. It’s still small enough where you can have your voice heard and you can make as much change, as much…compared to how much energy you wanna put into it. So if you’re really passionate about something or you wanna see something different, you have a viable chance of making that happen.
Kyle: So, thank you to Andy and the urban group for doing that interview. This is only the first part of the interview, we will be having a part 2 and maybe a part 3 further on in our podcast, so please stay tuned for that. He had a some really great ideas and just he’s doing some really impressive and unique things with the restaurant business.
Segment 3, Let’s Get Personal.
When it comes to recreation, I’m a little all over the place. I do have very wide-ranging interests. People that know me really well will tell you that I usually will focus on something for a relatively short period of time and then kinda lose interest a little bit. There’s been a few things that have held my interest, sailing in particular, but it’s tough when you get older. I’m 38. Well, not yet, I will be 38 at the end of April, and it’s tough to balance all of these recreational activities, trying to find time to do everything. I mean, you really can only pick one, maybe two at most. So I also love sailing. We own a old and small Catalina 25 with a pop top, which is kind of cool sailboat. We keep it downtown at the marina in front of the dolly[SP]. And honestly, you know, they say a boat is a hole in the water that you throw money in, and relatively true, we don’t use it nearly as much as we should. It was my first sailboat that I’ve owned, and I have learned a lot. I always recommend to start off small on that. I mean, it’s gonna cost way more money than you think it’s going to. You never really wanna start big on something like that, because you really can…you can lose a lot of money doing it. But love sailing, I’m actually gonna feature a sailing place in the near future on the podcast, I don’t wanna give too much information on that. So if you’d like to talk sailing or wanna know where to learn how to sail, please send me a message or hit me up on social media.
One of the other things I’ve started doing recently is I have started learning how to play bridge, which sounds strange I’m sure, but if I hear about something multiple times from very different sources, then I think that it’s the universe trying to tell me something and I should probably look into it. So I did hear about bridge from a few different places. I heard somebody talking about it and I heard it on a podcast and I think on a history book I was reading, it was mentioned that Eisenhower played bridge and loved the game, he was a big fan. So I was like, “All right, well, you know, I guess I’ll look into it.” So I go to a St. Pete bridge club. So it may have beginners all the way up to master class, I guess it’s called. Honestly, I’m way too early in the process to know the different levels. It’s a fascinating game, I’m really intrigued by it. It’s kind of like…it seems way more complicated and interesting than poker and chess to me. I’ve tried chess and poker, but I don’t know, they’ve never really struck too much of a chord with me. Like, for board games I would prefer Go vs. chess, and poker…I’m not really big on betting that much and just it doesn’t hold much interest to me. I know me learning bridge sounds absolutely ridiculous, but I will be sure to keep putting in some updates because it should be amusing. And everyone at the St. Pete bridge club was very nice, even though some of the players kinda raised an eyebrow at some of the plays I made, but hey, you know, that was the first time I had actually played with other people.
So, I’ve also played golf for a while. I’ve found it difficult the last few years to dedicate the time needed to play golf. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist, but I like to play at the level that I know that I can. And unfortunately with golf, I have found that to play at the level that I wanna play at, I have to practice at least two or three times a week and play once every week or two, and currently I do not have the time to do that. But that said, I am going to feature some of my favorite golf spots in future episodes, including what I call the golf Disneyland. So if you know somebody who loves golf, please subscribe so you can catch that episode. We have one of the best golf places. It’s not immediately in Tampa Bay, but it’s driving distance and it will…if you send someone who loves golf to this place, when they get back they’re gonna give you the longest, most borderline-uncomfortable hug you have ever gotten. So please subscribe so you can catch that.
Segment 4: Technology Is Scary.
Did you know that researchers now believe that flashing the peace sign when somebody’s taking your picture may leave you vulnerable to identity theft. And, basically, this comes from cell phone cameras being of such high quality nowadays that if you show the peace signs and basically show your fingerprints to the camera, that they can actually zoom in on your fingerprints, reconstruct them and then use that for biometric scans, like when you scan your fingerprint to get access to a door at work or something like that. So that’s pretty scary. Of course, though, they have a solution, so you might chalk this up as a manufactured problem, because I could not find any actual identity theft that has occurred this way. But if this is something that you are concerned about, they are manufacturing a film that you can place over your fingers so you can flash the peace sign, secure in the knowledge that nobody can steal your fingerprints. And the good thing about this film is, while it prevents cameras from being able to capture your fingerprints, it does not interfere with biometric scans, so you’re still able to get in that super secret top secret room or time clock at work.
If you’re thinking about moving, buying, or selling a home, let’s talk! I’d love to help you find your own great place in Tampa Bay. Please give me a call 727-300-2111, or you can send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s K as in kangaroo, Y as in yo-yo, L as in llama, E as in eagle, S as in Sam, A as in apple, S as in Sam, S as in Sam, E as in eagle, R as in row, G as in gourmet, R as in rental, O as in outdoors, U as in underbrush, P as in pinnacle, dot com. Also, join us on social media. Easiest way is to find us on the web at greatthingstb.com. That’s G-R-E-A-T-T-H-I-N-G-S-T-B dot com, and click on our get social link, and that will lead you to all of our social profiles. We are on Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook, there’s also a link there to e-mail us. And I would like to thank you for going there and clicking on the Facebook button and liking our Facebook page. If you would like show notes, transcripts and additional information, if you would like details and to see additional pictures of Roser Park, which is the neighborhood featured in this episode, you can find that all at our website, greatthingstb.com. If you’d like to connect to us directly on Facebook, we’re atfacebook.com/greatthingstb, or on Instagram we’re at instagram.com/greatthingstb, and again that is G-R-E-A-T-T-H-I-N-G-S-T-B. We thrive off of your comments, likes, shares, reviews, and questions, so thank you for all of those. And please come and interact with us, even if it is only to ask what the best dog daycare in Dunedin is. Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time on Great Things Tampa Bay.