What’s it like to be a single young professional in Lakewood Ranch? We found two local millennials and bombarded them with personal questions.
Lakewood Ranch is a hotbed of activity for two major subsets of the population: families and retirees. In a community known for its parks, good schools, high-powered mommy groups, golf and mah-jongg games, it’s easy to overlook the young singles scene. Is there one? Do they all drive 40 minutes north to go out in St. Pete? Can you even meet your future husband at Ed’s Tavern?
Maybe. But it isn’t easy.
“We exist,” says Keith Pandeloglou, director of Lakewood Ranch Community Activities. “And yes, we go out in Lakewood Ranch.”
I think Lakewood Ranch is younger than we realize. There are connections to be made. You just have to know where to look.” Keith Pandeloglou
At 36, the single Pandeloglou is the poster child — or rather poster 30-something — for Lakewood Ranch’s upwardly mobile, highly connected and oft-forgotten young professionals. Like a lot of transplants, he was teased by his friends in northern cities when he moved to Florida at a young age.
“The state attracts a certain demographic for a reason,” Pandeloglou says. “But I think Lakewood Ranch is younger than we realize. There are connections to be made. You just have to know where to look.”
We took on this challenge and tracked down two fresh-faced singles who work and play in Lakewood Ranch: Britney Guertin and Jon Taleff. The duo painted a picture that was surprisingly similar to the lives of singles in any city, with one slight disadvantage: “Sometimes it’s a little too close knit,” says Taleff. “You quickly get the small-town dirt on anyone.”
Guertin works as the director of public relations and social media at Grapevine Communications, a Lakewood Ranch-based company. The overachieving 27-year-old grew up in Bradenton, worked at the Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria Island and has fond memories of riding four-wheelers with her older brothers in the dusty fields of East Manatee County. She remembers when Lakewood Ranch was mostly wilderness and how on hot days, she and a friend would jump off the Rye Road Bridge into the Manatee River.
A millennial by birth, she rejects most of the labels cast upon her generation. Instead she refers to herself as “millennial plus” — and she’s got the resume to back it up.
Guertin worked two jobs while pursuing a degree in public relations from the University of Florida. Ever the overachiever, she took a job as a cashier at Tijuana Flats and parlayed it into a full-time marketing gig, rolling out communications campaigns for 70 restaurants across the state. “I’m career-driven and very ambitious,” Guertin says. “Unfortunately, I’ll meet a guy and we’ll look at my calendar and it’s like I’ve got something every night of the week. I’m looking for someone who can go on that journey with me.”
Where she cut her teeth in business: Tijuana Flats. “I was close with all the trainers. We took a lot of pride in our work, even though it was just marketing tacos. I started there my freshman year of college. I filled out an application and I started working that night.”
Where she got her work ethic: Her mother. “My mom was the first general manager of Shells restaurant. She opened the one on Anna Maria Island when I was a kid. She was everyone’s local bartender, and she still is to this day. She works at Paddywagon at (State Road) 70 and Lockwood Ridge. She is so cool.”
Her favorite way to spend a Monday night: Playing adult kickball. “This is my fourth season playing with MVP Sports and Social. Our team is the Workaballics. We have so much fun. There’s always music pumping and I’m always dancing in the outfield.”
Where she does her best networking: The Young Leaders Alliance (a subsidiary of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance). “I’m chair-elect for YLA. The mentorships I’ve received there have extended into my personal life.”
What she’s looking for in a man: A sense of adventure. “I like to be out in the community. I’m a social butterfly. I’m looking for somebody who is similarly engaged in their career and someone who is comfortable checking out new restaurants, going to events or hanging with my friends and family. They can be shy, just not a homebody.”
Her perfect no-pressure first date: Wednesday night music trivia at Ed’s Tavern. “I’m terrible at regular trivia, but I’m good at songs. I’m not a fancy restaurant kind of girl. I like playing darts, shooting pool and listening to music.”
How to win her attention: Dial her number. “I appreciate someone who doesn’t communicate perfectly and is willing to have a conversation the old-fashioned way. Pick up the phone and give me a call.”
What turns her off: Cockiness. “If you think you’ve got everything to offer, move along. Trying too hard will hurt you more. Be yourself, be cool.”
Kids or no kids? Kids. “I definitely would love to have a family some day. By 30 I’d at least like to know I have a guy lined up. If my mother starts to ask me about grandchildren though, I might have to ship her off to another state or something!”
Jon Taleff is a project manager at Willis Smith Construction. He grew up in a small town outside of Harrisburg, Pa., where he worked in construction alongside his dad. He started out as a pre-med major at Penn State University, but switched to economics when too much college revelry messed with his grades. In 2014, he got his master’s degree in construction management from Drexel University.
Now 31 and four-and-a-half years into his career at Willis Smith, Taleff spends his time running health care construction projects, including the building of the new Plymouth Harbor Assisted Living Facility and the upgrade to Tidewell Hospice’s office headquarters.
A serial monogamist, he says he’s had three three-year relationships, but nothing that’s compelled him to “put a ring on anyone’s finger — yet.”
An unabashed dog-lover, Taleff has two pooches — a Yorkie named Chelsea and an Australian cattle dog named Rory. He loves to take them out boating, or out to dog parks. He’s got a soft spot for career-driven lawyer-types and electronic dance music festivals.
What he finds inspiring about his job: Building places that make people feel better. “Seeing how a construction project can provide health care in a community is rewarding. When it’s finished and the owners are happy and shaking your hand, you feel this mix of elation and relief.”
What makes him a good catch: His handiness. “I have a steady career, a house and a great smile. I’m laid-back and having a background in construction means I’m handy with house renovations and fixing things.”
His perfect no-pressure first date: Creekwood Canine Park. “I’ve had a date there. We brought our dogs and we got Panera to go. It went well enough that it led to a second date.”
What he’s looking for in a woman: Ambition and a sense of humor. “It sounds cliché. I like someone who works hard and is driven to improve herself and get involved in the community. She gets bonus points if she’s not afraid to joke about herself, too.”
What he does to unwind: Boating. “I take my boat out to Jewfish Key or Beer Can Island. It’s nice to be able to pull up to the dock by Mote Marine and go eat at The Old Salty Dog.”
His dating deal breaker: Cigarettes. “Yet I enjoy a cigar every once in awhile, so I’m willing to make exceptions.”
Why he’s ready to settle down: He’s over the game. “I’m up at 5:30 every morning and home at 6:30. My downfall in the past has been the usual guy thing … you go out and you want to date the girl everyone wants. Now I just sit at home with my dogs.”
Where he loves to hang with friends: Motorworks Brewing. “They have a full bar with food trucks that you can order Italian food from. The owners are outstanding people. They’re really involved in dog rescue.”
His favorite place to meet young people in East County: MVP Sports and Social. “I joined MVP’s kickball league two years ago. The group is great. You can be fresh out of college or a professional in your upper 30s and 40s and still feel comfortable.”
Kids or no kids? Kids. “Definitely kids. I mean, who doesn’t want kids? It’s one of the greatest miracles of life, to have your family continue on and pave the way for future generations.”