Downtown Mobile has a lot going on. If you follow Blue Fish on social media you’ve probably seen a post or two about the various spots around town we like to frequent for lunch. Our next guest happens to own one of those restaurants: Rooster’s Downtown. Frankie grew up on a farm here in lower Alabama, and he understands the difference cooking from scratch makes. And since his family spent some time in Columbia, Costa Rica, and Panama, he has taken his love of food and channeled it into an amazing Latin food joint on Dauphin Street.
Frankie: I'm Frankie Little, with Roosters.
Marcus: Well, Frankie it is awesome to have you on the podcast.
Frankie: Thank you, I'm glad to make it.
Marcus: Yeah. So, I'm a big fan of Roosters. As a matter of fact, we were just talking and I told you, we have been kind of tracking Roosters since before you even started when John Fry mentioned ... John Fry of Five, which is where I think you worked at, when he mentioned that you were going to do kind of a Latin Food taco restaurant downtown, our ears perked up. Because my wife and I have a running joke that we could pretty much eat Mexican food every meal for a week, and not be tired of it.
Frankie: I do.
Marcus: Yeah. But it's great to have you here. So, going back, one of the things, if you've listened to this before, you know, we want to understand the person behind the business. So, why don't you tell us where you're from, where'd you go to high school, college. What did you major in, if you went to college? Are you married? Give us some of the back story of who Frankie is.
Frankie: Okay. I grew up in Foley, Alabama not far from here, Bolling County. The last city before you get to Gulf Shores. So, sometimes I claim Gulf Shores, because it sounds a little bit better I think; the beach. But, I grew up on a farm, and grew up kind of an only child. I had two older half-brothers, they were gone by the time I was seven. So, after that it was just me on the farm. We lived in a house next to my grandparent's house, so I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My parents both worked really hard. My mom worked in a factory building airplane parts. And my dad was a farmer/welder. And the welding shop was on the farm too, so I grew up a kid getting to ... Almost a little bit Andy Griffith-ish. Out fishing at the pond and catching crawfish in the ditch, and shooting at birds, and running around with a bee-bee gun. And playing in the dirt.
My grandparents, like I said, lived ... Their the ones that bought the land and started the farm. And then my dad built a house on the land. So, they came from just a salt of the earth, old school background. They, both of grandparents, farmed. So, my grandma was out tin the field every day. But, yet she still found time to come in at 11:00, start making lunch, and lunch was 12:00 on the dot, Monday through Friday. Saturday was a wild card. Lunch was kind of a little bit loose. Sunday was church. Eat at church, come home, maybe have a late lunch. But, Monday through Friday was ... During the summer, they also had a black berry patch. Like a you pick, we pick kind of thing. So, as a kid, my summers were spent getting up, going over there, picking blackberries for money.
Going in having a snack, of fresh blackberries and milk with sugar. Or homemade apple pie-
Marcus: You're killing me, Smalls.
Frankie: Yeah. It was definitely ... Now that I'm older, I'm 38 now ... And now that I'm older and I look back, at the time it's like you're growing up, you don't really think about how you're growing up. But in hindsight, looking back, I'm just like, I wish I could give that life to my kids. We're from Mobile. We have nice life. But, it's not that. It's not that like-
Marcus: There's no recreating that.
Frankie: Country living.
Marcus: There's no recreating that. But, I just think it's so cool that you can look back ... I mean, you have to think about the influence that that's had on your life, and all the things that you've done in the restaurant industry, and then now owning your own restaurant.
Frankie: Oh, completely.
Marcus: I mean, that's just incredible, man.
Frankie: Well, she started my love of, I guess, Latin food. She, actually her dad, my great-grandfather, worked for United Fruit and she actually grew up bouncing between Boston, Massachusetts, which is where he was from and Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama. She would spend part of the year living with him down in these Central American and South American countries. There's an old photo that we found at my grandparents house of a car that he was in that he had shot by guerrilla fighters, from the 50s. It's got bullet holes down the side.
But, like I said, I grew up on the farm with her in Foley. And she would cook plantains.
Marcus: Which in case you don't know and you're listening to this, that's not a southern delicacy to the United States, that is a southern southern delicacy to Latin and South America.
Frankie: Exactly, I was probably the only kid in Foley that ate plantains.
Frankie: And so, that ... I got away from ... I spent a lot time in my late teens/early 20s just kind of ... And going back to the college thing, I did not go to college. I graduated high school and that was it as far as school goes. But, I spent a lot of time just kind of not knowing what I was going to do. I didn't really have a passion for food at that time, honestly I played music and just kind of traveled around, and didn't have any direction. But, then I got in the restaurant business, and that's when I really started to ... And I fell in love with the restaurant business, and fell in love with food, became ... I think you're kind of a foodie.
I guess as kind of a foodie I love to go into restaurants. I love trying different stuff, and experiencing new tastes and cuisines. And that's when I started to be reflective about how I grew up. And started to realize how cool it was that we ate our own cows, we at our own pigs, we ate our own chickens. My dad had a wooden block in the back yard that he cut the chicken's heads off with. If we wanted chicken, we didn't go to the store, my dad went literally to the backyard to the barn, grabbed chicken, cut the head off. As a kid I was like, chasing it around the yard, because they flop around and stuff. And we would pull the feathers off. And if we wanted fish, we went fishing.
So, it was just, in hindsight, I think it was a cool way to grow up.
Marcus: Do you think that the passion was always there, but just was not revealed?
Frankie: Yeah. Possibly, yeah.
Marcus: I mean, that's kind of a-
Frankie: I did like cooking growing up.
Marcus: I mean, that's kind of a ... I don't know. That's an introspective question to ask in a podcast like this. But, I just think ... Often times I wonder if, now looking back, you can see where that effected you. But, was there as thread between the two points that you just weren't really aware of, and then all of a sudden it kind of blossomed on the other side?
Frankie: Possibly, yeah. I mean, life is funny. Things change. You know, in that line that you were just talking about, there's also passion for baseball when I was a kid. Huge baseball fan. And then as I became a teenager, I got real into music. I grew up in the 90s, so Nirvana.
Marcus: Rock on, dude.
Frankie: Grew my hair long, started playing guitar, got real into music, real into guitar. And then, just kind of, life ... You have ebbs and flows of what you're interested in. And so, definitely now that I'm doing this, and interested in food and different types of cuisines, and restaurants, and how restaurants operate I kind of just move that passion from thing to thing. Of course, I still like baseball. I still like to play guitar, but now my passion is restaurants and food.
Marcus: So, I am keenly aware that restaurants are not an easy industry to go into. As a matter of fact, the statistics are staggering, and we won’t go there. How did you get started? I mean, obviously you were working at Five. Did you have any experience in running a restaurant at that point? Or were you ... And I don't remember, were you the chef at Five?
Marcus: You weren't.
Frankie: No. I was like a bar manager of sorts. I started out a bartender, and I guess towards the end I was somewhat of a bar manager, I guess. But, the line goes from working your basic dish washing/bussing jobs, in the late teens/early 20s. Jobs I didn't care about. I'd work as a dish washer for a few weeks, quit, whatever. I was partying and whatever. And then I did a lot of traveling. And I didn't really ... I did some construction jobs. I didn't really know what I was doing. And then, in my mid-20s is when I met my now wife. And I moved in with her in Mobile. And she was living on Stocking Street. If anybody knows, that's in midtown, like where the old recycling center used to be, off Government. And Stocking Street is right next to the old La Pizzeria. Anybody that knows Mobile, has probably heard about it, or knew about it. It was there for a long time. It was little neighborhood place.
Well, she happened to know the chef there or something like that. And I moved in with her, and she was like, I can get you a job maybe at this place. And I went, and got a job as a ... I had minor restaurant experience, so they hired me as a waiter. And that was ... I think a lot of people ... I didn't go to college, like I said earlier. And so, I didn't have any real direction. I wasn't like I was the kind of guy that was like, oh I'm going to right out of high school go to college, and then I know exactly what I'm going to do when I graduate.
Marcus: Right. With a business plan, and you have all the ideas about how to get funding, and-
Frankie: Like, my brother knew he was going to be an Air Force pilot, since we was five years old. And he became that. That was not me. I didn't know what I was going to do. So, anyway, I started working there, decided, you know what, this is a lot better than construction. It's indoors, it's in the air conditioning. It's year round food and wine, and cool people work in restaurants. It's fun. And the pace ... I'd done retail before, and retail is just so boring. It can just-
Marcus: How many times can you-
Frankie: It feels like three hours.
Marcus: How many times can you refold a shirt?
Frankie: Yeah. And so with the restaurant business, it's fast paced. A night can fly by. And also, the money is pretty good, waiting tables. It was more of a high end type place, Italian place. So, started to really get into it then. And worked with an older waiter who was real into wine, he started teaching me about wine, and cocktails and stuff. Which I didn't know anything about. And I knew I liked to drink, but that's all I knew. So, teach me about wine and cocktails. And then the owner, Todd Henson, y'all might know him. I learned a lot from him, I think.
He instilled in me the idea that no matter what you do in life, if you're going to be a waiter, be the best waiter you can be. Yeah, you might want to be a musician, or an actor, or artist, whatever. But, while you're waiting tables, why not just be ... If you're going to do something do it the best you possibly can, you know? I've worked with waiters over the years who have that mentality, and some who, they hate it. And they come to work, and it's like you're just wasting your life. If you're going to live your life, live it to the fullest, even if it means you're mopping a floor. Find a way to have fun doing it. And so, that's when I kind of got into, maybe this is something I can actually do.
And then I kept working there for years, ended up actually leaving there to move to Austin, Texas with my wife. We lived there, and I worked in a restaurant there too. And she got home sick, we both kind of got home sick, so we decided to move back. And actually started working back at La Pizzeria. And became a manager, kind of. That was my first little taste of any kind of responsibility as far as managing the staff or anything like that. And I was horrible at it at first. I think over the years, I've definitely gotten better at that. But, at the beginning, it's just like ... It's hard to manage people when you're young and if you've never had any training to do it.
Marcus: People are the most difficult ... We've said it before on the podcast, people are the most difficult aspect of running a business. Actually, they're really the most difficult aspect ... And I don't mean that in a difficult way, it's just whether it's finding good employees, or whether it's managing employees, or whether it's finding clients, or managing clients, or any of those things-
Frankie: You're dealing with people's egos. You're dealing with their issues. You're dealing with their problems.
Marcus: Well, and doesn't it always-
Frankie: And sometimes your problems.
Marcus: And it doesn't always have to be negative, it's just figuring out those aspects. And has-
Frankie: How to navigate it.
Marcus: Yeah. And as a younger person, sometimes it's very difficult, because you don't have the world experience. You don't know necessarily how to deal with people. And I know, looking back at my own life, I was fortunate enough to have some managers that cared enough about me, even though they showed it in really weird ways. I can very distinctly remember that I worked at a grocery store bakery when I was in high school. It was Wise Markets in the Virginia area. And I worked in the bakery. I was literally the guy that would come in in the afternoons and scrape the floors, and lay out all the frozen breads for them, and put them back in the refrigerator so that they would start to thaw out, that they could proof the next morning and put in the oven, and stuff like that.
Well, one day, I was a jerk to this guy. They would usually leave me a list of all the things that they wanted to have. Well, one day, he didn't leave a list. I had been working there for years, I knew what needed to be laid out. I could go out on the shelves, and just as well as he could, the manager, I could tell what it was that needed to go into the refrigerator. And I didn't. I just didn't do anything. And he came in the next morning, and he lit me up. But, he lit me up because he knew. He was like, you knew what needed to be done and you didn't do it. And he was like, you're going to keep your job, but I'm giving you additional responsibility. Suck it up, bro. You know?
And so I just, I've always looked back at the experiences that I had with various managers, because some were really good. Like, I would consider him, a good manager. He taught me things about myself, and about responsibility.
Frankie: A good manager is a teacher, I think. I definitely believe that.
Marcus: Exactly. But, then there were others that were just, sorry not a safer word, they were just assholes. They've got a chip on their shoulder, and they just have nothing better than to do.
Frankie: It takes all kinds.
Marcus: Yeah. But, you learn things from those people too. So-
Frankie: You learn what not to do. Or in my case, from bad managers, I've learned how not to manage.
Marcus: How not to treat people.
Frankie: Sometimes that's more of a valuable lesson than somebody telling you how to do something. It's almost like seeing someone fail, or yourself fail-
Marcus: Well, you very acutely remember how bad it made you feel, and you don't want to put anybody in that position.
Frankie: You don't want to put that on someone else.
Marcus: But, going back to that though, so you got your very first taste of management experience.
Frankie: So, yeah, I got my taste of management experience. And I did that for a while. And then I had little bit of a falling out, so we parted ways. And I started bar tending at Callahan's, which I'm sure everybody knows in Mobile. Started bar tending there, and then from there got a job at The Bull, which was a fine dining restaurant downtown, wonderful food, the chef is still a friend of mine. Great guy, great food.
Marcus: Who was the chef there?
Frankie: Mike Duvaney.
Marcus: Is he cooking anywhere?
Frankie: Yeah. Yeah. He works for a company called Carington right now. It's like a ... It's not a restaurant, it's more like, I don't want to say industrial, but large scale cooking.
Marcus: Because that did have very good food. But, anyway, we digress. Or I digress.
Frankie: So, I started working there as a waiter, and was a bar tender at Callahan's. And still just having fun, saving money, making money, whatever, having fun. Me and my wife had a child, we had a daughter. And then became a front of the house manager type person at The Bull. I would help with the scheduling and stuff. All this was leading up to me owning my own ... The reason I'm telling all this, is because it was like little bits of things were happening that were like-
Marcus: Filling in all the pieces that you were going to need to run your business.
Frankie: It was my college.
Frankie: I mean, I didn't go to college. It was real world experience. So, it was like learning here and there, just like little things. And so, kept doing that, was working both of those jobs. And then I got an opportunity to ... Todd had gotten out of La Pizzeria, but the owner of the building, and the restaurant La Pizzeria decided to reopen it. He reopened it, hired me as the General Manager. At that point I left Callahan's and The Bull to be the general manager of the new La Pizzeria. Unfortunately, that only lasted nine months, and I know it lasted nine months because my wife got pregnant with a second daughter the week we opened. And had the baby the week after we closed.
And so, it was exactly nine months. But, the owner, he was retired and from his real job, he was an engineer. And just decided it was more than he wanted to deal with at this point in his life. Him and his wife decided they just wanted to have fun and not worry about a restaurant. So, anyway, but that was an experience too. That was at the time, devastating. It was like, oh my god, I failed. But, in hindsight, I think a lot of successful people will tell you, failure tends to be the best lesson. So, I learned a lot of lessons by failing.
Marcus: I think that's just phenomenal, because I mean, you're describing having worked at successful locations. I would argue Callahan's is probably one of the more successful restaurants in the Mobile area. And then others that weren't so successful, and getting that education from somebody else's ownership.
Frankie: Seeing their failure. Not their failure, I hate to say it that way, but seeing the things that could go wrong.
Marcus: Their failure. So, I mean, that's really-
Frankie: At that point actually, I went back to The Bull. I tended to go back to places that I'd been before, which I guess maybe says something about my work ethic. I mean, I always left on good terms. I never left a job on bad terms. And then I was always welcome back. So, I went back there in a management role once again, unfortunately.
Marcus: The Bull closed.
Marcus: I know The Bull closed, because I was a fan.
Frankie: It was great. It just had internal issues. It had been open seven years, and it just ... To be honest, a lot of new places had opened in downtown Mobile. Side Show actually was kind of the nail in the coffin. It was the week they opened ... Because, everybody wants to go try the new place. Like, right now, Southern National just opened. Of course, they're packed. And it's great. And well-deserved. I mean, they're awesome, I love them. But, it just goes to show, it's ... They call it the honeymoon effect. New restaurant opens, and it gets a lot of buzz. The same thing happened to us. The first couple of months, we were just crazy slammed every day. Now it's kind of, it's plateaued, and we're still busy, but it's not insanity.
So, anyway, the point of the story is The Bull was already kind of on edge. And then Side Show opened, and of course naturally everybody would go check it out. And it was a perfect storm of circumstances and timing that lead to The Bull closing. Once again, I was devastated. Before The Bull had closed, I had accepted a job as the GM of a corporate beer restaurant called, World of Beer that was supposed to be opening in Mobile.
So, I went through a whole training with that. I went down to Tampa with the investors. And went through training sessions to be the GM of this corporate World of Beer. And I had gotten to this point where I'd been working for mom-and-pop places that were having issues, and I was like, you know what I just want to work ... I had two kids. So, I'm like, I want to work ... I had never really worked corporate, but I was like I want to work corporate, a steady paycheck, health insurance, all that jazz. So, I accepted that job, and like I said, went down and did a bunch of training sessions with them down in Tampa at the World of Beer headquarters.
And thankfully, knock on wood, there were three locations in Mobile that fell through. Every time a location feel through, I was devastated. And I was like, oh my gosh, I'm putting all my eggs in this basket. I'm so excited to take this new opportunity. And each time, it was like, oh we got a location, it's great, everything's good. And then, boom, the rug gets pulled out for, it was different reasons. And now, actually, they're not even going to open one in Mobile now. Anyway, but it all worked out, because during-
Marcus: You got an education on what corporate-
Frankie: Got an education on corporate. I went down twice, down to Tampa. I went down for a week one time, and about three or four days another time. They were all like seminars, so I got to ... I'm not saying I stole from them, but I did learn kind of the ins and outs, some of the lingo of the corporate restaurant world, because the CEO, pretty much all the big wigs at World of Beer are ex-Outback Steakhouse guys. I even went to Paul Avery's house, he's the big CEO. He was the ex-CEO of Outback Steakhouse. I mean, these guys have been around a long time, and-
Marcus: They know how to make a successful restaurant.
Frankie: They know how to make a successful restaurant.
Marcus: Well, and the other thing is too, I don't know what your aspirations are, we don't have to get into that if you don't want to, but it would be interesting to me as a sole proprietor or llc owner of a restaurant, seeing how they also function as a franchise, or as a chain if you will is also interesting too. Because, now you understand, if you ever wanted to do anything with Roosters, and have multiple locations, how to handle all of that mess too.
Frankie: I might have a small understanding about how to handle. I'm sure there's more to it. But, yeah. I do have a, through that experience, it was another education, I guess another ... What do you call it in college? Another class, another whatever. And then about the time the third location fell through, I started ... And I'd had this idea for Roosters for years. It was something me and my wife had talked about. We backpacked around Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and we loved that food. We cooked that kind of stuff at the house all the time. And so, my friends were like, you should have a taco place, because I cooked tacos all the time at my house. And so, it was something we kind of dabbled just talking about.
And then a guy was like, why not? Why not try? Why not see what I can do? So, one of the first things I did was call a lawyer that I know who's a business lawyer with Burr Foreman. I said, hey man, how do I start a business? I went and met with him. And he was like, dude, do this, this, and this. I contacted the chamber, they set me up with a guy named Mel Washington, who helps ... Have you heard of him before, met him?
Marcus: Of course, man. Mel sat on the couch right where you're sitting a couple weeks ago. He's helping-
Frankie: Cool. Yeah, Mel helped the guys from Southern National too.
Marcus: Yeah. I mean, I think he's related to one of the guys at Southern National. But, he's working with the pillars and he's ... Mel is such a wonderful asset to the city. Nobody knows who he is.
Frankie: Unsung hero, yeah.
Marcus: But, if you are looking for some help, you're a small business and you're looking for some help, definitely seek out Mel's council. Because, he is a phenomenal asset.
Frankie: Yeah. I met with him. And I walked into his office with the beginnings of a business plan. I had never written a business plan before, I just kind of looked online and got some ideas, or whatever. And hew was like, you know what, you know how many people come to my office with nothing and just say how do I do this? And was like, you've already got a good start, got a good base. And he told me about a website to use to basically help write the business plan. Three months later I had the business plan done, and he was like, man I've never seen anyone do one that ... He said, he's used me as an example when he's done speeches and stuff about some people it takes years, I knew this one guy, it took three months and he it done.
But, I had an investor in mind, a main investor. It's a family member of my wife's family in New Orleans. He's a retired doctor, is just a great guy. He's 80 years old, loves food, loves wine. Spends part of the year in France, they have property in France. So, they just bounce back and forth. And they just, every time we hang out, it's always around food, talking about food. So, I'm like, well ... And he loves restaurants. So, I'm like if anybody is willing, maybe he's willing. So, I went to him. Brought him the business plan. He said, that's all well and good, but would a bank invest in you, or would another individual invest in you. He's like, do some research, come back and talk to me again.
I went to two banks, both banks said, we love it, we love the concept, you've got experience. We've checked that box. You have experience in the restaurant business. Because, they said, a lot of people come in, oh I want to open a restaurant. Oh, never worked in a restaurant.
Marcus: That's an immediate disqualifier.
Frankie: Yeah, it's pretty much an immediate disqualifier. Yeah, because like you said earlier, restaurants a tough business. So, anyway, those two banks basically said, we love it but we just ... You need to have money for us to give you money.
Marcus: So, it's the chicken or the egg.
Frankie: Yeah, exactly. How do you get money? I wouldn't be coming to you if I had the money. But, so I took that back to him. He said, find another investor, and I'll do it. And there was another guy that I literally had a 30 minute conversation with two years before. And I knew his wife. And we had a conversation about how great it would be to have a burrito restaurant in downtown, do burritos and margaritas. 30 minute conversation, two years earlier. I found his wife. I said, hey would your husband be interested in looking at this business plan? She said, yeah let me pass it on to him. I emailed it to him. And that's it. He just said, okay I'll invest. So, I got him on board and then once I got him on board, then the gentleman in New Orleans said, okay let's do it.
So, I was given the funding. At that point also, I had found that location. I found out that ... I was driving downtown, I saw, actually where Forey is now. It said for lease in the window. I called that number. It was David Name. They own a lot of property, their name is on a lot of property downtown. I called him, I said, hey man, I got this idea for a taco restaurant, I'm looking at this building. He said, that wouldn't be good for a restaurant. But, he was like, but I tell you what, the owner of Pita Pit, literally called me yesterday and said that he was looking at ending his lease and looking at getting out.
Marcus: So, Matt Laman's old partner.
Frankie: Yeah. Matt Laman didn't have anything to do with Pita Pit at this point.
Marcus: Yeah. He had sold it to the guy.
Frankie: He had sold it to the guy, yeah. His name is Carlos, yeah. So, he gave me his number. I contacted Carlos. I said, hey man, I'm looking to open a restaurant. He's like, well I'm looking at going to be done with the Pita Pit. So, came in, worked a deal out with him. Basically, I just put that into my budget from the money I was getting from the investors to buy everything that was in the building, basically. Take his chairs, the cooler, the hood, or whatever else.
Marcus: Yeah. Those assets don't come cheap, so getting them used-
Frankie: And also-
Marcus: And in good shape, yeah.
Frankie: And also, I forget what the real estate term is, but it's called the blue sky something. It's like, I was also paying to get that location. Because, I thought it was a great ... I mean that's-
Marcus: It is. It's a great ... Right next to Soul Kitchen.
Frankie: Right next to Soul Kitchen, across from the Crescent Theater, right by Manual Square, right really close to the hotels. I saw it as a great asset. Not only was I paying for the equipment and stuff, but I was also paying for the asset of getting that location.
Marcus: No, and I think there's only a few spots in downtown Mobile that are even open at this point. And most of them are not set up to be restaurant. So, the fact that you didn't have to go in and start from scratch, and the build out, and everything, I'm sure helped.
Frankie: Honestly, I could not have done it had I not found that the Pita Pit was closing. I was given a very finite amount of money. My investors bought shares. So I sold shares at a certain price, and I got a certain amount of money, and that's it. I mean, I wasn't getting anymore. I had to work with that. I mean, even though all I was doing was cosmetic mostly, and I bought some additional equipment, cosmetic work, permitting, and licenses and all that, when we opened, I was down. I was starting to put some stuff on my credit card. It was getting close. I wanted to open with a buffer. And that buffer was getting whittled down. And so, opening was essential.
That's one reason why I'm so happy that this time has gone, we've been open nine months now. And we've had time to figure out who we are and what kind of food we want to make. And I look back at when we first opened, and I'm like not embarrassed, but kind of like I feel like we've come so far. Because, we didn't have a million dollars to have a test kitchen, and get everything perfect for opening. We kind of had to open on the fly. We had to figure out as we went. We opened as a counter service restaurant within the first week we changed to table service. Because, it was like, that was not working. Counter service was not working. It was a disaster.
Marcus: I noticed that. Yeah. It was interesting to me that that changed. It's great.
Frankie: You think it's better though.
Marcus: Yeah. I do. I enjoy it very much. Because, it almost lends a different feel to the restaurant as well.
Marcus: But, no, I mean ... So, we were ... I think we came in like second or third day or something like that.
Frankie: I feel like I talked to y'all really early on.
Marcus: And we've just been very consistent in seeing all the various changes, including some of the changes that you've made to the menu and stuff. And it's all been phenomenal.
Frankie: Thank you. I feel like we just constantly ... Every day my job is just to try to make it a little bit better every single day.
Marcus: Well, and if you don't then you end up like-
Marcus: You end up as a restaurant that is a statistic. I mean, people want to know that you're refining, they may have favorites on the menu, but if that favorite gets even better then it's a win.
Frankie: And if they came in, maybe the first week and had a sub-par experience, and then came in again maybe a little bit better. And then came in a third time, okay ... If they see that growth. But, I don't know if you've been ... I've been to restaurants where it's like you go in once, and you're like that's okay. That's not a great experience, I wouldn't give them another chance. You give them another chance, and it's still not ... And you give them a third and it's still not a good experience, you're not going back. I mean, that's it. That's all you got.
Marcus: My patience is even less than that. I mean, there have been a couple places that I've been downtown, and I won't name any names, but where I've gone there once and I had a bad experience. And I just won't go back. I mean-
Frankie: Yeah. If it's that bad.
Marcus: Well, if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started in running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Frankie: Like, specifically restaurant? Or just any business?
Marcus: Anything, man. Yeah.
Frankie: I'm assuming if you're wanting to open a business, you're working in that ... Like I worked in restaurants and then owned a restaurant. So, speaking from that point of view, be the person that ... Be the fellow employee that you would want to work with. Be the one that is Johnny-on-the-spot. Be the one, like you were saying-
Marcus: The go getter. Yeah.
Frankie: That story earlier. Be the guy that would've just gone and done it without having the list made. Be reliable. Dive into it. Really, really dive into it. Don't do it half heartedly. Put everything into it.
Marcus: It's amazing to me, because as I get more plugged into the chamber, both on the Mobile site and the Eastern Shore site, both of them have programs for work force development. And people don't know necessarily what work force development is. But, literally work force development is just instilling in people the idea that you show up on time, you do what's asked of you with a good attitude, that you dress appropriately, and that you know how to talk to people, that if I stick my hand out to you and want to shake your hand, this is how you shake a hand. It's literally those things. And it just boggles my mind that there's still a lot of people that ... It's like those are the fundamentals, but once you've grasped that there is an amount ... Make yourself indispensable.
Frankie: Make yourself indispensable.
Marcus: Seth Gooden wrote a book called-
Frankie: Somebody's going to notice, you're going to get somewhere.
Marcus: Well, and somebody ... Seth Gooden wrote a book called Lynch Pin. And basically, the premise is that if you make ... If you do the things that you're talking about, that you will make yourself indispensable. And at that point, the options to open up-
Frankie: Options open up. Exactly. Exactly.
Frankie: Actually, it's funny you mention that program, because somebody just emailed ... A lady just emailed me today about trying to see if we were hiring to get somebody a job-
Marcus: From the work force development.
Frankie: From the work force development.
Marcus: Yeah. Those are good programs that I think a lot of people don't recognize that the chamber is doing. And it changes people's lives, right? So, people that may not have the social skills, or the skills ... The business skills-
Frankie: They grew up in a hard-
Marcus: They grew up in an are that they may not have learned it. It gives them those skills.
Frankie: Well, that and it's ... More advice I would give is contact the chamber, like I did.
Marcus: Get plugged in.
Frankie: Yeah. Follow somebody who ... If you want to own a restaurant, maybe ... If you have somebody you know that owns a restaurant, maybe say, hey man can I hang out with you for a day or two and see what it's really like? Because, I don't know about owning another business, but owning a restaurant is ... It is everyday you just don't know what's going to pop up.
Marcus: An adventure.
Frankie: It's an adventure every single day.
Marcus: Now, I like your story though. Because, I think first of sometimes people just find themselves in an industry, doing a job and they don't realize how they got there. But, you were actually educated-
Frankie: Traced my steps.
Marcus: Yeah. Looking back at that, the education that you received ... You couldn't have ... I mean, maybe you could've gone to Culinary Institute of America, like Panini Pete did and gotten some of the skills-
Frankie: And that's fine too.
Marcus: And that's fine. But, you'd also probably be 50 or 60,000 dollars in debt. And you probably wouldn't own your own restaurant, you'd be an executive chef at someplace.
Frankie: I'm not trying to dis going to school, because a lot of people go to school and they do great things. It just wasn't for me, and it didn't work out that way for me. And I think there's other successful people who didn't necessarily ... I think if you just ... If you hear opportunity knocking, answer the door. Don't be afraid to answer the door.
Marcus: No, I think it's a cool story. Because, I mean, the whole premise of this podcast is to show people that there's really one way ... There's not one path. And that there's not specific requirements for business ownership or entrepreneurship. So, like you said, I didn't go to college. It didn't matter. You are a testimony that you can own a business, be an entrepreneur, and be successful, and not have a college degree. I mean, we've talked to a number of people ... I would say probably at least a dozen people that don't have college degrees that no own businesses.
Frankie: Really? Wow.
Frankie: Some of them might have gone to college for a little bit and then dropped out, or something.
Marcus: Yeah. I mean, there are a number of people that come to mind, and I ... We could go back and do some research. Actually that might be a good experiment just to go back and show the demographics of the people on the podcast, whether they went to college, where are they from. Because, Solomon, grew up in Prichard, and very successful. Abe Harper didn't go ... I think he went to college for a year, and then dropped out. There's just a number of people, and the experiences vary. But, it doesn't matter. The thing is, just go after it, and just do it.
Frankie: Just go after it. I mean, you only live once. I kind of always have that philosophy of like, you know what, what does it matter? Just try. If it doesn't work, we'll figure something else out, but at least try it.
Marcus: That's a product of the grunge music that he listens too, man.
Marcus: So, well what do you like to do in your free time?
Frankie: Oh my god. What free time?
Marcus: Yeah. Exactly.
Frankie: Play with my kids. Really, that's what it's come down to. It's like, if I'm not working, I'm hanging out with my kids. I like to watch movies, like to cook, honestly. A lot of cooks don't like to cook, but I go home and I still like to cook. I like going to the beach. Still like to play music when I can, but just don't have much free time.
Marcus: Yeah. And your priorities change once you have kids.
Frankie: Yeah. Yeah. Your priorities change, definitely. Yeah.
Marcus: Well, tell people where they can find you.
Frankie: Okay. Physical location is: 211 Dolphin St. in beautiful downtown Mobile. Right next to the Soul Kitchen, right across the street from the Crescent Theater.
On the web, the website is: roostersdowntown.com.
Facebook is: @roostersdowntown
Instagram is: @roostersdowntown
I think that's about it. Yeah.
Marcus: I'll give a personal plug. We don't just go to ... I mean, we have a couple of restaurants that we frequent, and yours is one of those.
Frankie: Yeah you're there a lot.
Marcus: If you're interested in good tacos, Roosters is definitely a place to check out. I live on the Eastern Shore. There are literally four Mexican restaurants within, I don't know, five miles, ten miles or so of my house. And they all serve the same stuff. It gets a little old. Actually, I won't even go there anymore, and I won't say the names of what they are. But, Google it, you can figure it out. Yours is definitely different. It's not a step above Taco Bell, this is like good legitimate Latin Food.
Frankie: Yeah. Well, we started making our own corn tortillas recently. I think that's really elevated the tacos to another level. And we slow cook our meats, our griller meats. Have our own seasonings. Make our own salsas. Make our own hot sauce. We absolutely everything we try to make from scratch. For our Cuban Sandwiches, we make our own pickles. As much as we possibly can, we try to make everything from scratch.
Marcus: That's very cool, man. Well, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Frankie: I just love what you're doing for Mobile, especially downtown Mobile, or this whole area really. And I just think it's great that you're here, what your doing, and enticing people to come downtown, and not be afraid to come downtown. It's awesome.
Marcus: There's nothing to be afraid of, folks.
Frankie: Nothing to be afraid of. Yeah, I say that-
Marcus: You might get a full belly, but-
Frankie: Yeah. You might have a full belly. I think that's just great. That's what Mobile, it's a shot in the arm that it really needs. So, I really appreciate it.
Marcus: Thank you. I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you.
Frankie: Yeah. Great talking with you too. Thank you.