Tommy and Jaymie Klauber were spearheading a 55-person trip through Asia when they signed (in the middle of the ocean) the 70-page lease on their new restaurant location.
The couple had spent 18 months creating the ultimate Asian excursion for the members of their Connoisseur Club — a 10-year-old dining program that incorporates wine tastings, cooking classes, interactive dinners and culinary excursions — and weren’t about to cancel the opportunity when the lease was only at a verbal agreement.
“We were trying to take people on a once-in-a-lifetime tour to taste noodles,” said Tommy Klauber, owner of Polo Grill and Bar and Fête Ballroom, in Lakewood Ranch. “We sent the lease back and forth with the Internet taking an hour to get each document downloaded.”
Near the end of the trip, the Klaubers announced their new endeavor to everyone aboard the ship. When they returned home Oct. 24, 2007, they were one week shy of taking over the lease and had yet to name the place that they’d spent seven years trying to find.
“We wanted to expand our catering and could not find a venue that had what this venue offered us,” Tommy Klauber said. “The ballroom was critical in our decision. Lakewood Ranch is really attractive in a business climate sense, and in growing residential, and we knew this was the type of facility we’d need to grow.”
Jaymie Klauber wanted the Polo Grill and Fête Ballroom to become that place for every occasion and holiday.
“We’re hospitality people, so we love making people happy,” she said. “I love nothing more than seeing people dining, smiling, laughing, enjoying and consuming. All I want them to do is have fun.”
With three years in the hopper, Tommy Klauber is excited to be recognized as a young business in the community.
“I feel like we’ve built a great venue — a place where people love to come and that’s part of the community,” Tommy Klauber said. “Being nominated as Young Business of the Year is a celebration about the people who started with us, the people who’ve joined us and our customers.”
AT A GLANCE
Business address: 10670 Boardwalk Loop, Lakewood Ranch
Start date: Nov. 1, 2007
Number of employees: 35 to 50
Advice for other small business owners: “Make sure that you’re thoroughly versed in all aspects of that business. In the restaurant business, it’s not really the same as they show you on reality TV,” Tommy Klauber said.
Biggest challenge: “The economy — we opened in 2007, and when it fell, we were in a brand new 24,000-square-foot facility and had to keep it growing,” Tommy Klauber said. “How to lose weight while being married to the best chef,” Jaymie Klauber said.
Best place for power lunch: “There is no other place to go (other than Polo Grill),” Tommy Klauber said.
First day on the job: “When we took the restaurant over, we never closed the doors, not even for one day of transition,” Tommy Klauber said. “I walked in with the entire staff already in full swing and it was also First Friday. To put it mildly, it was crazy. But I never wanted anybody to walk up to the doors to the building and find them locked.”
If you could have any other job for the day, what would you do? “I’d train horses,” Jaymie Klauber said. “I’d like that lifeguard job back at the Colony,” Tommy Klauber said.
Business hero: “Phil Mancini — I call him ‘the godfather,’” Jaymie Klauber. “He taught me everything about catering. He’s my mentor and I’m his protégé.’”
“Bruce Bozzi — he taught me a lot about the difference between selling chicken and lobster. Needless to say, I’d rather sell lobster,” Tommy Klauber said.
Advantage of having a business here: “The best advantage is fact that we have such a great clientele,” Tommy Klauber said. “We have well-traveled, fearless diners with great taste.”
Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected].