It’s the day after Thanksgiving and for many of us, we are STUFFED and dreaming of eating anything that is not turkey and all the fixin’s (as we say here in the south). And almost ANY time I am dreaming of food, I am dreaming of tacos. The current obsession with tacos is one of those things I feel like everyone loves but no one can explain - we had a taco emoji before we had a woman with a hijab. My vision board for 2017 had a sign on it that said, “live every day like it’s taco tuesday.” And for my most recent birthday, we had a taco bar - great way to provide meat and veggie options and easy to keep warm so people can eat when they are hungry - plus, who doesn’t love tacos?
Although I am typically one to get on the bandwagon of most trends, my love of tacos goes way back - long before #tacotuesday was trending. When I was growing up, we always traveled to see my Granny Lou for the holidays. Most of the time, we went to her house, but wherever we got together, she was in charge of the menu and the menu always included tacos. Granny Lou was a woman who marched to the beat of her own drum for sure. She was sort of a combination of Iris Apfel and Don Corleone. She fiercely loved bright colors and her family and was fiercely loyal to both. She also had very high expectations for how the people in her life would live, laugh and love.
I credit much of my personality to her - and especially my love of tacos! So, in honor of Granny Lou, I am sharing the story of one of my very favorite taco places ever - Osprey Tacos in St. Augustine, FL. In addition to making some of the best tacos I’ve ever eaten and being one of the most kind and beautiful ladies I’ve met - Erica (and her husband) are creating a culture in their restaurant that makes it clear what their values are every time you are there.
Although you may not be able to visit Osprey during your holiday season, I highly recommend taking the time to find a local/fresh taco joint that you love and making it part of your holiday traditions. And, if you ever do make it our way, definitely add them to your list of places you MUST visit. To this day, we still try to work tacos in to some part of our holiday, and I am stoked that we can now do it while supporting this amazing values-based restaurant!
Tell us about your business. What do you do? Who do you serve? How long have you been at it?
We are a quick-service restaurant featuring an array of fresh, made-to-order tacos, taco bowls, and delicious sides. While traditional Mexican street tacos are at the heart of our menu, many of our tacos incorporate local culture and cuisine that make Saint Augustine a unique destination for both tourists and locals alike. Our chefs utilize only the best North Florida has to offer including local produce and proteins. We take pride in providing a menu with numerous vegan and gluten-free options as well. We just hit our one year anniversary this month!
Why did you start your business?
My husband has been a chef in restaurants across the country for about 2 decades. After spending several years out west, we felt ready to return to our roots, here in Saint Augustine, to raise our daughter and carve out a niche in this awesome city. Tacos are soul food, something that we enjoy making and eating daily, and we wanted to share our passion with our community. We are both incredibly hard working people and we decided it was finally time to work hard for ourselves! There is not much more liberating than working for oneself. It takes a lot of work, but it is well worth it.
What does "social good business" or "values based earning" mean to you?
To me, it means not compromising on our standards or beliefs just to make an extra dollar. We pride ourselves on buying the freshest produce and meat that we can find which we prep ourselves. We could certainly save money by purchasing frozen fish or frozen bags of vegetables but we care about what we eat and what we sell. It’s important to hold one’s business to the same standard as one would when making their own personal choices.
In relation to our employees, we pay both our hourly and salary people generously. We do this because we care, and because if they work hard, they deserve it! The restaurant industry naturally has a lot of turnover so we want to hold on to our employees as long as we can, they are our most valuable asset!
What is your favorite part about running a social good business or your favorite experience since you started?
In relation to food, people know when you are using fresh ingredients and they appreciate that. They just get it. They can see and taste the love that we put into each and every taco. They can tell we aren't taking short cuts and that is what makes it so delicious. We love this feedback!
In relation to staff, we have fun! Our employees are happy and look forward to coming to work, what more can you ask for? Our customers love to spend time in our taco shop because the energy is positive and comforting. The best part of my job is meeting all the amazing people in our community and getting to know this town better.
What is your biggest struggle in running a social good business?
It is expensive. When you do not compromise on short-cuts with fresh food and you pay your employees fairly, margins are tight! However, it is worth every penny and we are grateful to own a thriving small business.
What would you like most to accomplish in the next year? 5 years?
We want to continue to grow and expand. In five years it would be an honor to not only be flourishing in our current location but to also have one or 2 more operations running smoothly alongside our current one.
Who are your business icons, heroins, or mentors?
My father ran, and is still running, 2 successful restaurants in Miami Florida for over 30 years. He has been a huge mentor on everything from daily operations to allocating funds. His advice is sage and we are grateful to have him on speed dial whenever we feel we are stuck in a difficult position or need to make any serious actions relating to the business.
What's your #1 tip for someone just getting started running a values-based business?
Focus on what matters most to you. What values are important to you? How would you want to be treated as your employee? And what makes you excited to get up and work everyday? These components are vital.
What are your favorite conferences or retreats to attend?
We have a deep appreciation and love for local, organic food so you will often find us at farmers markets or local food conferences as we are always looking to find new vendors to support and work with.
What is the last book you read?
“The Barefoot Sisters Walking Home - Adventures on the Appalachian Trail” by Lucy and Susan Letcher