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After seven years as a music teacher and band director at St. Pete High, Dan Schmidt changed careers. When his chef and catering service Eat This! began to take off, he made the decision to open a restaurant all his own. Uptown Eats, at 689-D Dr. MLK Street N, is a combination coffee/breakfast spot and bakery. The intimate, 800-square-foot space, former site of the original Banyan Cafe, was close to bowing in the spring, when Covid-19 came to town. "As soon as the kitchen was ready, I started doing once-a-week meal service for pickup," Schmidt says. "We had our final inspection the week of Sept. 11 and opened that week. We have a lot of outside seating, so we felt comfortable with things." Part of the new business' unqualified success story is Schmidt's continuation of the Eat This! meal service; complete (and completely cooked) dinners, available for pre-order beginning Fridays (sometimes Saturdays), and for pickup on Mondays (a day the dining room is closed for business).

Years in Tampa Bay

33

Hustle (job)

Proprietor, Uptown Eats

What do you do?  

Everything. I cook, I work front of house, I do all the shopping for supplies and equipment, I do all the administration. I work about 80 hours a week right now.

Why do you do it?

I do it because I love it. I love working with the public and I love providing a product that people like and are interested in I like interacting and getting people's feedback. I like providing jobs for members of the community.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

I worked at the Banyan Cafe, here at this location, for two and a half years, like 10 years ago, so I was familiar with the space. This is the dream. I’ve always cooked, I’ve always enjoyed entertaining. I’ve had little dabbles here and there of doing some things – some side catering on my own. When Erica Allums, the original owner, took it back over last year, she approached me to see if I would be interested.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

I talked to a lot of people before jumping into this project, and not one person told me how much work it was. And I don't think people have any idea how expensive it is to run a business.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

The sheer amount of physical effort. The sheer amount of hours I'm working. I come in, I start cooking, I prep all day long. I serve all the food to the people ... you get done, you have to wash everything in the universe. Done with that, then it's 'Oh, I've got to prep all the stuff for tomorrow.'

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

My dad has a great work ethic, and I know that's something that's definitely carried on over to me. And 'Be consistent with your product.' Have a really good product, stick to your guns on it - if it gets more expensive, don't cut the corners. And the product is all of it, not just the food, it's everything.

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