Terry Rhodes, or T. Bone, as most people know him, is a familiar face in Sarasota. Although he spent most of his life in New York, after moving here in 2001, he quickly made the city his second home. In the 13 years he's lived here, he's been involved in everything from the Chamber of Commerce to local theater, film and music.
"It's a small town," he says. "If there's someone here who's involved with just about anything, chances are I know them or have worked with them in some way."
Now, he's bringing his experience and knowledge to his newest endeavor: T. Bone's Hot Spot — a Gulf Gate coffee shop and live-music hangout (it's also his first ever brick-and-mortar business). We sat down with Rhodes to talk music, coffee and what makes Gulf Gate tick.
So, what brought you to Sarasota?
I worked as a film location manager in New York, and we were taking a hiatus from filming a Barbara Streisand movie. I visited Gainesville, and I kind of fell in love with it, so I moved there shortly after we finished the film. I had a band there called Future Urban Zoo, and we traveled a lot, and we'd always stop in Sarasota. When the band broke up, I was deciding if I should move to Sarasota or go back to New York. Who knows what would've happened if I moved back, but I've had very good experiences since I've lived here.
How did you get the idea for T. Bone's Hot Spot?
This is the first brick-and-mortar business I've ever had. Everything else has been either sales or entertainment. It sort of evolved into this idea. I had a friend who would deliver food, and I thought it would be cool to have a place to serve food out of and sell coffee. It sort of evolved into a full-fledged coffee shop, where I could host music and things. I'm a big proponent of original music, so I like the idea of having my own place to host it.
Tell me about the name.
A friend of mine who was helping me with construction suggested it, and I thought it was great. It worked on multiple levels: the wifi, the coffee and a cool hangout. He said with my name recognition, I should just make it T. Bone's Hot Spot.
What kind of the food and coffee do you offer?
We serve Java Dog coffee. I wanted to find a good local roaster, and people seem to really enjoy their coffee. We have a menu with all kinds of food. When I was creating the menu, I wanted it to be kind of funky. We've got adult grilled cheese sandwiches with grilled red peppers, which people love, we have great empenadas and wraps — the roast beef wrap is the most popular. My wife is from the Bahamas, and she makes really good jerk chicken for our jerk chicken tacos. We do cater to the bar crowd here, so we're open every night until 12:30, and sometimes later. Our prices are also pretty affordable.
What's it like to own a local coffee shop in the Starbucks age?
It's actually very cool. I find that most people prefer to support local businesses, and there's not a Starbucks or anything like that in the area. Gulf Gate in itself is a very unique neighborhood. You can get just about anything you want in this little circle. I can't really think of another area in Sarasota that has this many small businesses that are all so supportive of each other.
How would you describe the atmosphere here?
Coffee shops used to be a place to meet. They were another third space that people need, and that's sort of been my goal here. That's why I have the PA system here. I host open mic nights and have regular gigs; every Friday at 8, we have Coffeeoke, but I also want people to just be able to come in and play, any time. When you think about it, people like Bob Dylan — I mean, major movements have been started in coffee shops. I just wanted to capture that traditional spirit.
T. Bone's Hot Spot is located at 2667 Mall Drive / 702-8096