Before closing its doors for good Aug. 31, Truman’s Tap & Grill owner Carrie Leitzman said, “Everything must go.”
The Truman’s sign, along with beer taps, neon signs and leftover bottles of wine, were up for sale on the restaurant’s last day. There was a donation jar, too. The money from the sale and the donations was split six ways between the employees who stuck by Leizman’s side until the very end.
Leitzman said the staff was exhausted, and the sale was one last way to thank them for their hard work.
While Leitzman owned Truman’s with her husband, Jason, she bore the brunt of the work because Jason has been a full-time operations manager for Black Pearl Vision in Sarasota for 27 years.
The couple bought the Lakewood Ranch restaurant, located at 11161 S.R. 70 E., in 2012.
“I am an eight-year cancer survivor, so I’m selling because it’s what’s best for my health,” Leitzman said. “I want to be able to spend time with my 16-year-old, and I want more quality family time.”
Leitzman went for her eight-year blood work recently and is in full remission. She intends to retain that status with a more relaxed schedule.
Beyond the late nights running a restaurant, Leizman had practically taken on another day job over the years. Truman’s raised over $30,000 for local nonprofit organizations just last year, including the Team Tony Cancer Foundation, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Toys for Tots and the Magic of Mittens.
Leitzman gave “huge props” to the Coppertail Brewing Co. for donating $1,500 or more to every cause she supported last year.
Part of Leitzman’s family philosophy growing up was to never ask someone else to do something you’re not willing to do yourself, so every Monday, 10% of Truman’s sales went into a charity fund.
Leitzman also took pride in sweeping the floors at Truman’s because she remembered watching her father sweep around the printing press at the newspaper he owned. When first opening Truman’s, the simple action of sweeping gave her the confidence to know she had what it took to run a restaurant.
“I just had that moment where it was like, ‘You know how to do this. You know how to treat your staff. You know how to lend a helping hand. Nothing is beneath you,’” she said.
As an ode to her grandfather, the restaurateur raised over $5,000 to send three Lakewood Ranch High School marching band students, who couldn’t have afforded the trip otherwise, to the Sugar Bowl in December. The band performed in the festivities.
“It was the 80th anniversary of my grandfather playing in the Sugar Bowl last year, and I was just determined that we were going to raise every penny we could for them,” she said. “As I would talk to tables and raise awareness, I would often be teary eyed because my grandfather raised me part of my life, so I just felt like it was a full-circle moment.”
Leitzman said many restaurant owners don't inform their workers when they are about to close, but Truman’s was a family-run restaurant, and the staff had become a part of that family. Lietzman said she couldn’t have them walk up to a closed door.
All of the employees were informed when the Lietzmans decided they would close. The couple took the extra step of calling their fellow restaurateurs in Lakewood Ranch to provide recommendations and give the staff job leads. Many members of the staff had already found new employment before Truman’s closed.
“We’re doing everything we can,” Leitzman said. “We’re pretty staff driven. That’s just always been our way.”
The Leitzmans’ oldest son, Justin, 37, was the restaurant’s general manager. He’d gotten experience at MacAllister’s Grill & Tavern before leaving for Truman’s, so it didn’t take long for him to find a new position.
He’s now managing food and beverage for Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar at University Town Center, and according to his mom, it was a great decision for him and his family.
“We’ve been so honored to be part of the community, and we’ve made many friends along the way,” Leitzman said. “My last word would be ‘Cheers.’”