The next step…
Hello again, my chili-head compadres! Brando again, to continue the saga of the Pepper Palace!
Our story continues in sunny Florida with a devastatingly handsome fellow from Hickory, North Carolina. Who is this fine gent we will be talking about? That would be me!
I was a customer of the Gatlinburg store from the early days in the first location. I had been a huge fan of Pepper Palace and visited the store two to three times a year. I have always been a hot sauce fanatic and I love to cook, so PP was my dream come true!
My road to being a store owner began in August 2008. On a family trip to Gatlinburg, our last stop out-of-town was of course the Pepper Palace. I was speaking to Tom, who I had dealt with many times before. We were talking about how so many people had seen him so many times they thought he was the owner. However, this would probably be my last time dealing with him, as he was moving to the warehouse. I was a bit perplexed, what do you mean “warehouse”, this is just a store why would you need a warehouse? He went on to explain that they were expanding to new owners in new areas.
Now I would like to tell you that I immediately jumped on board, started making calls put a business plan together and began to make it happen. But…that was not the way it worked. I relayed the conversation to my wife, who immediately said “honey, you’d be perfect for that.” Later, I told several friends who both said the same thing. Finally, I told my boss about the conversation and even she said, “Gosh, Brandon, that would be right up your alley!” Well, duh, maybe I should look into this!
So, I found Craig’s number online and early one Saturday morning in August, 2008. I expected a call back later in the week, but lo and behold I received a call that same morning. I spoke with Craig at length over the next few days and started looking for a possible location. Being a veteran of the furniture industry in and around Hickory, North Carolina I started doing research on Boone/Blowing Rock and Asheville. Unfortunately, neither seemed to be a good fit. I started getting a bit desperate until one day Craig says to me “What do you think about Florida?” Well I’ve been there…once…it was hot….um, that’s about what I know!
Long conversation with my way better half and a lot of research and Florida it would be! We began the search by going to Daytona Beach (stopping in St. Augustine on the way), but didn’t really find a location that would be a good fit. An icon in this business told us to go to Orlando, so off we go!!! Orlando was packed and looked like a great fit. We did not find a location, but we were told one would soon be available. We waited and made several more trips to look at several different locations (stopping in St. Augustine twice BTW), but none looked like they would work. And we waited. And waited. And waited.
It took a conversation with a the head leasing agent of a major national commercial properties firm to say, have you thought about St. Augustine. Again, duh. So I began my research and found a prime spot on Craig’s list, of all places. After a lot of talking and some soul-searching, we took the plunge and moved to St. Augustine, FL. The deal I made with my wife is that I would move in February and she would join me in a June after our children got out of school. We opened on March 5th, 2009. After four months of 12 hour days, my family joined me and things began to really move forward.
My wife Kelly and I have run the store for over three years now and we are proud of all we have acheived…hasn’t always been easy, but what worthwhile ever is!!! We look forward to serving our customers for many years to come.
Peace, love and mostly hot sauce forever! Brando