Tampa Street Café of Hillsborough County
In the 80s, Thomas and Barbara Dietrich started a small café with the hopes of making all their dreams come true. It lasted eight months. “We opened a small sandwich shop, and I learned everything you don’t do,” Barbara said. After that, she swore to friends that she would never open another restaurant again.
Fast forward nearly 30 years, and Thomas and Barbara are the owners of Tampa Street Café, a small café specializing in soups and sandwiches. Along the way, they had the assistance of Jennifer Biles, a certified business consultant at the Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County.
“SBDC is a big plus in Hillsborough County and if they ever got rid of it, there would be some very upset people,” Barbara said. “I don’t know what we would’ve done without them.” Barbara attended four training seminars covering how to start a business, marketing and building a business plan.
After their venture in the 80s, Barbara and Thomas did not go back into the food industry until 2009. While at a festival, they saw a nut business with a for sale sign posted, and decided to inquire.
“We have a trailer and a German roaster,” Barbara said. “We were hoping to be able to just travel with that but [Thomas] really missed cooking and I know he’s missed cooking for a while. The nuts were great but to be honest with you, when you get to be a certain age, putting tents up seven days a week and taking them down gets to be a little much.”
The summers added to the couples’ struggles, with Thomas landing in the emergency room due to heat exhaustion, on one occasion. They decided to try a café one more time, and Thomas is excited to be back in the kitchen. “I like to converse with the public,” Thomas said of being back. “I like the looks on their faces when they’re enjoying something – especially when I get people who’ve never had stuff.”
So far, Tampa Street Café is seeing success. The Café, which opened in November 2012, has seen a 40% increase in revenues, and an increase in foot traffic.
“It’s been a lot of word of mouth since Jeff, the food critic with the Tampa Tribune, posted in January 2014, Best Cuban Sandwich in Tampa,” Biles said. “That’s really doubled their exposure.”
The duo also continues to operate their nut business and caters to local businesses. Barbara and Thomas are already planning for the future with a shared kitchen concept, with the assistance of Biles and the FSBDC Network.
“My goal is to give others the opportunity to use a health-approved kitchen,” Barbara said. “We’d like to have a place that they can come any time and we have the café as well, where we can spotlight their product.”
Regardless of their next business opportunity, they say they will be maintaining a close relationship with Biles as their consultant.
“Whenever we have problems or need to ask a question, I know they’re there,” Barbara said of the FSBDC at Hillsborough County. “It’s great knowing there’s some place I can go to ask questions and do one-to-one’s (consulting sessions). If I really don’t understand something, she can go over it and she gives me suggestions and tells me to go back and do things. It’s a whole learning experience.”