A Golden Age For Restaurants

Suzanne Perrotto has been cooking up magic in Delray since 2008. First Brule’ and now Rose’s Daughter.

We went to Rose’s Daughter, a new restaurant in Pineapple Grove recently.

In a word, it was amazing.

Inventive dishes, fresh ingredients, cool vibe: check, check, check.

A few weeks before, we ventured to Elisabetta’s, the new restaurant that now inhabits the space once occupied by the acclaimed 32 East.

The Delray/Boca culinary scene is something to savor and taste.

We are chock full of great restaurants featuring the work of innovative chefs who ply their magic in spaces that are often breathtaking.

But I often wonder if we take full advantage of the culinary talent in our midst. Despite being relatively small cities,  Boca and Delray is a foodie paradise. Scores of truly terrific restaurants dot the landscape.

Yet, whenever I see a national magazine or web story about “foodie” destinations I tend to see yet another story about Asheville’s farm to table scene or Nashville’s culinary innovators.

We have our own culinary talent and we ought to celebrate them.

Rose’s Daughter and Brule’s Suzanne Perrotto, Caffe Luna Rosa’s Ernie DeBlasi, Michael Haycock at The Grove, Ron and Rhonda Weisheit of the TwentyTwenty Grille, the brilliant chefs at La Nouvelle Maison and the list goes on and on. I  also must give special recognition to Frances Touboul for consistent excellence at La Cigale.

It’s a golden age—especially for those of us who have been around long enough to remember when there wasn’t much around.

Personally, I have deep appreciation for the entrepreneurs driving some interesting concepts. The group behind El Camino, Park Tavern and Cut 432 and the creative team behind Elisabetta’s, Louie Bossi and City Oyster are to be commended. It can’t be easy to develop restaurants around such varied cuisine.

So we have a lot to be thankful for and a whole lot to build on.

And now that we have the hotels–which seem to be opening rapidly—we should drive the destination marketing and amp up the food festivals and events.

We should also strive to create opportunities for food and beverage entrepreneurs and expand the foodie footprint beyond pricey Atlantic Avenue and East Boca.

After all, according to WalletHub, the South Florida region was ranked the third best area for foodies in the United States.

We can build on this.

I think it will happen. It’s a great opportunity for our community.

 

A Birthday Tribute To A Delray Original

Words to live by…and he does.

My friend Fran Marincola turns 80 today.

He has asked me to write his eulogy.

This isn’t it.

Fran has a lot more life left to live. I’m sure of it.

He has a passion for a whole bunch of things—his wife, his restaurant, the wonderful Caffe Luna Rosa, Mickey Mantle, Delray Beach, national politics, the stock market, Bruce Springsteen, dogs, his family, friends, storytelling and a whole lot more.

I think your passions keep you going. So does a weekly happy hour or “manly lunch” where you can tell those stories, spar with friends and the share the week’s news.

Fran and I have been friends for close to 20 years.

Our friendship started out in a very strange way. I was a newly elected city commissioner and he called to pitch me on some parking contraption that today would have made sense, but I didn’t like it at the time.

So we argued. And argued. And argued and argued some more. Until both of our cell phones died.

It was the start of a beautiful and somewhat volatile friendship because I find myself debating Fran via phone and text 2-3 times a week, in between phone calls and texts and emails where we actually get along quite well and agree with each other.

I admit, sometimes I will actually pick a fight with my friend.

Why? Because he’s a fun guy to debate, he has funny sayings, makes interesting arguments and the whole experience —and Fran is an experience— makes me sharper. It’s not fun to always agree. And we prove that people can disagree—passionately (because Fran is passionate about things) and still like each other very much.

So yes, sometimes I will invite a disagreement just to spice up the week and keep us both sharp. I feel I am providing him with a needed service.

Fran doesn’t like absolutes and so if you want to get him going text him and say ‘so and so doesn’t have a chance to win an election, an Oscar or a Super Bowl.’

It makes him crazy, because his mind works like a mathematician and therefore there is always a chance of something occurring even if it’s remote.

As I have gotten to know Fran, I marvel at the life he has led or should I say the many lives he has led.

He’s worked on boardwalks, owned nightclubs, took acting classes with Broadway stars, travelled far and wide, owned a slew of businesses, made and lost fortunes and hob knobbed with some very famous and infamous people. In short, he is a character. One of the great characters in Delray Beach.

I think characters make a town. They give a place flavor and excitement and set it apart from other blander places.

Fran is a world class character in a town full of world class characters. I have long felt that we in Delray Beach are blessed with more than our fair share of characters—something I briefly touched on in my book “Adventures in Local Politics.”
It seems that all sorts of people are attracted to quaint Florida beach towns and they come from all over creation to add the salt to the water.

I have a friend who believes that Florida attracts modern day rogues and pirates who stop here until they are found out and then migrate to the Keys. The last stop is usually the islands, according to his theory.

There may be some truth to that, but not all characters are rogues and pirates and some like my friend Fran are lovable, big-hearted, generous and compassionate people.

Fran scores the highest on those four categories and that’s why I and many others love and respect him.

He has offered me a ton of hard won wisdom always delivered in an entertaining and unforgettable way. I have resisted some of that wisdom, but he has never held my stubborn streak against me and for that I am grateful.

He has stood by me in good times and in bad times and has proven to be a true friend.

One thing you learn—and for me it was the hard way—is that when you are a public official you have an endless amount of friends and some of them are fair weather. But it’s your true friends who stick by you when your title goes away and you drift off into the next phase of your life.

Fran sticks with his friends through thick and thin.

I have come to admire his business acumen and his strong desire to take care of his employees and customers no matter what. I admire that he is close to his children and grandchildren and that he’s a devoted husband to Kim (another one of my all-time favorite peeps).

I like that he will try new things with a smile and share his past with his closest friends—warts and all. And I’ve come to realize that the warts aren’t really warts after all. Not when they forge character, teach lessons and shape who you become.

My friendship with Fran has been a gift.

It’s nice to have a friend who is a few years older because they can really teach you things if you are willing to listen. And I am, even though I may pretend not to agree with some of his more “colorful” theories on life and love.

He’s given all of his friends the twin gifts of wisdom and laughter. That’s no small thing.

This is my small gift in return.

I hope he is not Disappointed! (Inside joke).

Happy 80th my friend. Here’s too many more playful arguments and good times to come.

My favorite photo of Fran taken on one of his daily walks around Delray.

 

In Praise Of The Local Food Scene

Caffe Luna Rosa has thrived for decades by keeping pace with trends and sticking to the classics.

So I have this theory that I thought I would share.
My theory has to do with food—in particular restaurants—and my feeling is that we are experiencing a golden age of culinary talent.
We live in a community that seemingly has an endless array of truly unique and wonderful restaurants.
It wasn’t always this way.

When I moved to South Florida 31 years ago it was not uncommon for us to travel to Miami and Fort Lauderdale to find a good restaurant.
These days, Delray and Boca offers a dizzying array of special restaurants that not only serve great food but also take their design seriously. Dining has become an experience. And when done well it’s really something to behold.

I’m writing this a few days after finally experiencing The Grove, a highly touted restaurant in Delray’s Pineapple Grove neighborhood.
I’ve been hearing friends rave about The Grove for quite some time so I was curious to see if what they were saying was true.
It was.

The food was sensational, so was the service and the interior design.

The menu was small but offered some really inventive dishes that were spectacularly prepared.
My friends ordered pasta—that was perfectly cooked, short ribs that looked magnificent and I had crusted chicken that was so flavorful and unique that I find it hard to describe.
Even the bread was extraordinary.

The night before I had dinner with another friend at one of my favorite neighborhood spots—Papas Tapas where I never fail to have a great meal.

Brule, Caffe Luna Rosa, City Oyster, Tramonti—the list of Delray delights just goes on and on.

Boca  also  has so many wonderful spots: Domus, Abe and Louie’s, New York Prime etc.
In an age where chefs have become celebrities and dining out has become a cultural experience I’m surprised that Delray-Boca doesn’t have a bigger reputation as a foodie destination.
Sure, Atlantic Avenue and places like Mizner Park are popular attractions but I think we have the potential to be a national food destination.

So what’s holding us back?

We have many great restaurants and more than a few talented chefs, but there’s a few holes to fill and opportunities to seize.
First, we can use a little more diversity in our repertoire.
More ethnic offerings—like you’d see in a bigger city. And I’m not just talking niche food offerings, there’s a puzzling lack of great Chinese restaurants in our local market. Southern cuisine would be another great hit and seems to be somewhat lacking in our marketplace.

We can also use more culinary education to develop and nurture talent for the industry.
In addition, the industry can use some good old fashioned PR.
There’s no reason we can’t be known and branded as a great culinary destination like Charleston, Traverse City and Asheville which would drive more innovation, jobs and tourism.
We’ve come a long way since the 80s—it will be interesting to see what comes next for our local food industry.

Remembering The Oldies, Celebrating The New

A classic…

Last week, I found an old menu on Facebook from Tom’s Place, an iconic culinary mecca in Boca Raton.

And I mean mecca, because people made pilgrimages to Tom’s Place to worship at the altar of bbq ribs.

The Boca Historical Society shared the post and it got a big reaction on their page.
Aside from the really low prices ($1.50 chicken sandwiches!) it struck a chord of nostalgia in those of us lucky to have experienced Tom’s amazing food.

I remember taking my dad to Tom’s many years ago. It was at Tom’s that we witnessed someone going up to the take out window  and ordering brisket which was met with a quizzical look. We talked about that experience for years.
But I digress.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. We tend to remember the good stuff and disregard the rest. So we remember Tom’s  but tend to forget that we weren’t exactly awash in restaurants back in the 80s. Of course, there were some great places—the Arcade Tap Room, Boston’s on the Beach, Scarlett O’Haras, Ken and Hazel’s, Damiano’s, Pineapple Grille, Splendid Blendeds, LaVielle Maison, Arturo’s, Caffe Luna Rosa and there is more.
But…
As good as the old giants were and are (here’s looking at you CLR), it seems like we are living in a golden age of restaurants.
Everywhere you look, even in nondescript locations, there exists some great restaurants.

Innovative menus, knowledgeable servers, gifted chefs, interesting interior designs, exciting craft cocktails and beers, world class wine lists, unique concepts. We are living in a special era. And the arms race seems to be just beginning.

Food halls, green markets, secret suppers, farm to table concepts, craft breweries, food tours, food trucks it’s extraordinary. Even convenience stores are turning into foodie havens, with artisanal sandwiches, kale salads and specialty breads.

We are also living in a great age of creativity.
To combat e-commerce and to stand out in the crowd, retailers, theater owners, hoteliers and even office developers are stepping up their games. (Boutique hotels, co-working, pop-up concepts etc).
For retail it’s all about the experience.
Movie theaters have added food, plush seating, film clubs and cocktails—a far cry from sticky floors, popcorn loaded with transfats and jujubes (remember those odd fruit chews?). While the changes are rapid and ongoing (please save the raisinet) the outcomes are pretty cool. Some local examples are iPic and the Living Room Theater at FAU. Both have raised the bar on the movie going experience and both seem to be doing well in the era of streaming and binge watching Netflix.
Sometimes the changes and the speed of change seems overwhelming. So yes, I miss the good old days.
But isn’t today and tomorrow exciting?

 

Things We Love: December Edition

Things we loved in December

December was a blur for many of us. But we didn’t want to let the month pass without pointing out some gems.

We enjoyed a great dinner with close friends at Fries to Caviar in Boca. The intimate spot which features a nice bar, great outdoor space and a varied menu has a sister restaurant in Delray, the excellent Jimmy’s Bistro. We highly recommend both places.

Speaking of great meals, we had a terrific “wine” dinner at Caffe Luna Rosa in December with special guest Max Weinberg of the legendary E Street Band. For me, that’s like having dinner with a Beatle.
I mention this because Max is playing a benefit show at the Arts Garage February 17.
Max Weinberg’s Jukebox has been playing several venues to big crowds and rave reviews. If you love great music from the 60s, 70s and 80s, don’t miss this show. And it benefits a great cause —our Arts Garage.

If you haven’t been to Beer Trade Company you really should give it a try.
This cool little spot on 4th Avenue is a nice locals spot with a vast array of craft beers and cider and the world’s best risotto balls.
There’s a companion location in Boca as well.

December is typically a philanthropic month with successful toy drives, food drives, and last minute charitable donations.
Those who organize and contribute to these efforts deserve our thanks.
Still, let’s try and remember that the immense needs of our community don’t disappear in January. If you are in a position to help, you are needed. It feels good to pay our civic rent.

Finally, we truly enjoyed December and it was gratifying to see Delray and Boca abuzz with people.
We shouldn’t take it for granted. Yes, finding a parking space is a little challenging, but you know what the alternative is; empty streets, vacant stores and not much to do.
We are truly blessed.

We didn’t have a chance to do a year end list but this was the year I put down the phone long enough to start reading books (actual physical books again) and it was great.
I’ve been a lifelong voracious reader: books, magazines, newspapers and later blogs.
But somewhere along the way, books fell by the wayside. This despite having written my own book. I was embarrassed. And I made a conscious effort to get back to reading books.
The effort was worth it. First, I figured out that I had the attention span to finish a book, something that I had begun to doubt.

I really believe that the barrage of media and content coming at us has compromised our ability to focus—at least it has impacted my attention span. But I’m happy to report that with a concentrated effort it’s possible to overcome.
So here’s a list of my 10 favorite books of 2017. In no particular order.
1. Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. Ferris is a best selling author, successful blogger and popular podcaster. Tools is a huge compilation of his podcast interviews and he has talked to a who’s who from every conceivable walk of life. The book is a collection of valuable advice from world class performers.
2. Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris. Tribe is a great companion piece to Tools of Titans featuring more interviews with amazing people who answer questions about their favorite books (Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is a favorite of many), failures and best practices. The big reveal: it seems like nearly everyone who performs at a peak level is meditating.
3. What I found in a Thousand Towns by Dar Williams. We blogged about this book a few months ago. Williams is a folk singer who has travelled the country and has managed to get out of her hotel room to study the cities she plays in. Her insights are spot on and her writing is sublime. She knows what makes towns work. A great primer for those who love cities.
4. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. The Boss’ autobiography is a delight. Beautifully written, bravely revealing and always entertaining this fan came away with even more love and respect for this musical legend.
5. The New Brooklyn by Kay Hymowitz. I’m not from Brooklyn nor have I been lucky enough to live there. But my grandparents, aunt and cousin lived there and I spent a lot of time in the borough in the 70s and 80s. So I have been curious about Brooklyn’s history and how it became synonymous with cool. This book answered those questions. A great read.
6. Within Walking Distance by Philip Langdon. This charming book focuses on several neighborhoods in places as varied as Philadelphia and small town Vermont. It focuses on walkability and community building and the towns that get it right. It made me want to visit Brattleboro, Vt. But not in the wintertime.
7. The Content Trap by Bharat Anand. May be the most insightful business book I’ve read in recent memory. A blurb can’t do it justice but let’s just say the book provides answers for businesses that care about not being disrupted into oblivion.
8. Hooked by Nir Eyal. A sobering look at how technology hooks us.
9. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday. A terrific book that examines what it takes to create work and art that lasts.
10. The Amazing City by James Hunt. I bought this book after seeing Mr. Hunt speak at a League of Cities luncheon. A former president of the National League of Cities and former City Councilman in a small West Virginia town, Hunt’s book explores the elements that cities need to succeed. It’s a good list. We will share in a future blog.
Tied  for #10. Principles by Ray Dalio. This book (more like a tome) outlines the principles that Dalio used to build Bridgewater Associates into the world’s largest hedge fund. He believes in radical transparency and it worked for Bridgewater—spectacularly. An interesting book that also addresses life.

Until We Meet Again…

Sister Mary Clare greets a friend–she’s made many.

When we got up to leave Caffe Luna Rosa last week after a wonderful evening, Sister Mary Clare Fennell drew us close and grabbed our hands. Then, in her soft, sweet brogue she recited an Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields. 

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Sister is leaving Delray on May 30 to go back home to Ireland and she’s busy making the rounds not to say goodbye, but to say thank you. And that’s what makes her so special.

Sister came to Delray in 1968 and in the nearly 50 years she has spent teaching and serving in Delray she has touched countless hearts and souls. But when I asked her if she ever thought about all the lives she has touched—through all those years leading St. Vincent Ferrer School and then serving at Emmanuel Catholic Church—she didn’t hesitate to answer:  “No. I think of all the people who have touched my life in a positive way.”

That answer, stopped those of us at the table cold. And if you can get Fran Marincola to stop talking about parking,,well you know you’ve struck a chord (just kidding Fran).

It was just the start of a wide ranging conversation that touched on heroes—Pope Francis, Dorothy Day, Mandela, Gandhi—and love, acceptance and the pure joy of dining at a truly great restaurant with friends on a spectacular night in a great little city.

Sitting with Sister Mary Clare is like sitting with a rock star. People walking by recognize her, smile from ear and ear and come over to hug, kiss and chat.

When Sister came to Delray nearly 50 years ago this was a vastly different place. She remembers the heat, the lack of air conditioning and a few restaurants–places like the Patio Delray and Arcade Tap Room. Things have changed. 

Over the years she built a school that children and families loved and made many friends along the way. 

My wife and I are two of them. 

When I served as a commissioner and later mayor, I found myself going to St. Vincent Ferrer School for various events and programs including a memorable discussion with students about homelessness in Palm Beach County. 

I felt drawn to Sister. I appreciated her warmth and humor and sensed her intelligence and big heart. 

She believed in love and community and making everyone feel welcome and cared for. 

She has been a big part of Delray Beach. The Delray Beach we all fell in love with. 

Because it’s not about the latest political controversy–they come and go. The sky has been falling for as long as I remember. 

But it is about special people who bless us with their hearts, minds, talents and intellect. 

Sister Mary Clare is one of those people. And she made a lasting difference in her corner of the universe —which lucky for us, was Delray Beach. 

When the evening ended, we didn’t say goodbye. We said so long. 

I hope to see Sister again. We all do. Hopefully, it will be in Ireland where she will take a little piece of Delray with her. 

Until then, many of us will be forever grateful for the love and kindness of a wonderful friend. 

 

Rituals & Happy Hours

City Oyster on Atlantic Avenue is one of many good spots to start a lunch group.

I’m noticing a new trend.
At least I think it’s a trend.
I can’t speak for my female friends (and unlike Harry Met Sally, I do think men and women can be friends) but the guys I know are forming tribes around breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour.
Aside from the caloric risks, I think this is a healthy activity.
There’s a group of guys who meet for Friday breakfast, a Thursday lunch group, a Friday happy hour bunch and a semi-regular group that heads for the Sail Inn whenever their “captain” sends out an email enlisting his fellow ‘sailors’.
It’s a great tradition.
Not only do you get camaraderie and fellowship, but you get to experience the insults, humor and gentle reminders leading up to the event.
These rituals that I know about happen at Ellie’s Diner, The House of Pancakes, Donnie’s, J Alexander’s, Caffe Luna Rosa, Christina’s, Tom Sawyer, Farmer’s Table, City Oyster,  the Cuban Café, Tap 42, Rocco’s Taco’s, Latitudes and the aforementioned Sail Inn.

It’s a nice array of Delray and Boca restaurants–so these activities benefit local businesses while also building friendship and community.

My schedule doesn’t allow me to  attend every group activity every week but it’s comforting to know you can tap into these regularly scheduled get togethers and get plugged in.
I’ve seen how a few of these rituals develop and it’s quite simple really.
It often happens when someone calls a few friends to gather for a a meal or a drink. The key is to add a new element. Someone new or a different combination of people than the usual lunch bunch. If the outing goes well it becomes a “thing.”
On Friday, I went to a lunch at City Oyster with Tom Block, a former JP Morgan executive who retired to Juno Beach a few years back after a long and fascinating career in Washington. He’s a childhood friend of Jon Levinson, a former City Commissioner and I’ve tagged along at several of their get togethers over the years to talk national politics. Tommy knows everyone and for a political buff like me it’s just fascinating to get the inside scoop about Congress.
For this outing in Delray, Tommy arranged to bring his winter neighbor John DeStefano, a long time mayor of New Haven, CT and a former president of the National League of Cities who now teaches political science at Yale.
At the last minute, I got an email from former Delray Mayor Tom Lynch asking if I had lunch plans so I called Tom and asked him to join us. What followed was 90 minutes of great conversation about cities, local politics and the difference between Florida and Connecticut and Delray and New Haven (roughly the same size geographically but with twice the population).
It was great.

And I hope it becomes a semi-regular thing.

Why? Because I want to learn more and these guys have done a whole lot in politics, business, education and the non-profit world.
They also happen to be nice, smart, opinionated and funny.
Mayor DeStefano seemed to enjoy Delray.
And a day later he emailed us all–thanking everyone for a nice lunch, good conversation and asking if we could do it again someday soon.
And so a tradition begins.
I highly recommend you join or start a group–it’s the spice of life as they say.

The Human Touch Is Essential

Theo Epstein’s leadership created world champions in Chicago and Boston.

Fortune Magazine released its list of the world’s 50 best leaders recently,.

It’s a diverse list—from a variety of professions—and includes 25 women among the top leaders, which is very cool.

Topping the list is Theo Epstein– the architect of the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win–which broke a 108 year “curse”/ drought for Cubs fans. Epstein was also at the helm when the Red Sox ended their decades long curse in 2004 with a World Series win.

The profile of Epstein was fascinating to read.

Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer Tom Verducci describes the evolution of a man whose understanding of important human qualities among his players—the character, discipline and chemistry that turn skilled athletes into leaders—enabled him to engineer one of the most remarkable turnarounds in sports history.

It’s an important message in an era where it seems like we are being overwhelmed by technological change all of which seems to be displacing humans. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, data analytics, augmented reality, automated driving, robotics—all have some wonderful attributes but you can’t help but feel that people may be rendered obsolete by all these “advancements.” As Bruce Springsteen sings:  “I just want something to hold on to…and a little of that Human Touch.”

A tech blogger recently surveyed Silicon Valley “disruptors” to determine where they see all this going. The prevailing sentiment is that we will become a society in which a few amazing minds will render everyone else unemployable through technology that replaces jobs. Nice.

These tech geniuses—said to be benevolent—will make enormous sums of money and governments will be forced to tax them heavily to pay for the rest of us to sit around and consume. Next time you have a moment; search Google for “universal basic income” and you’ll learn more. You may not sleep again, but at least you’ll be informed.

This is why it’s great to see that leaders like Theo Epstein succeed by valuing what makes us human.

Sure, he has numbers crunchers looking at how players perform with two strikes, a man on base, in humid conditions on the road against southpaws who throw wicked curveballs. But Epstein also values character, chemistry and discipline.

From the Fortune piece:

“A few weeks before spring training of 2012, in the ballroom of a budget hotel in Mesa, Ariz., Theo Epstein stood before nearly every person connected with the baseball operations of the Chicago Cubs and told them how the Cubs were going to win the World Series.

Epstein devoted the first three days of the session to on-field strategy: hitting philosophy, pitching philosophy, defense, and baserunning. But the entire last day was devoted to character. The Cubs, Epstein insisted, would acquire only players with outstanding makeup. Even Epstein realized himself how far he had evolved since he put so much faith in numbers when he began as general manager of the Red Sox. Now character did not just matter. It was essential to Epstein’s blueprint to win the World Series.

There was a reason character loomed so large in Epstein’s thinking, a reason that helped explain why Epstein was spending spring training in Arizona with the Cubs and not in Florida with the Red Sox. Epstein’s devotion to a Moneyball ­approach—data-driven analysis that helped teams identify and accumulate players with little-noticed but crucial strengths—had succeeded inestimably in Boston, where he steered the team to six playoff appearances and two World Series titles in nine seasons as general manager, helping the team break its own 86-year-old championship drought along the way.

But character and chemistry were strengths that a “quant” approach couldn’t capture, and in 2011, in what turned out to be Epstein’s final season in Boston, their absence was painfully clear as the team underwent a late-season collapse. The more the team lost, the more it broke apart from within. Players ­feuded with one another. The egos that had created cracks in the clubhouse while they were winning caused deep fissures as they lost.”

This story resonated with me on a deep level.

We’ve all been part of winning organizations that soured under the weight of ego and hubris (fatal arrogance).

As Delray Beach was making its ascent, former City Manager David Harden would warn that the biggest challenge would be “surviving success.”

I have to admit, I didn’t understand that sentiment, until I saw it play out.

When businesses, organizations, agencies and cities reach a certain level of “success” there’s a tendency for one or more of the following afflictions to crop up: complacency, arrogance, egomania, fear.

The worst thing to assume is to think you’re bullet proof or that the cash register will always ring because it happens to be ringing now.

Despite our sometimes heated discussions—that always end amicably and usually with laughter—I have learned a lot from Fran Marincola, who owns Caffe Luna Rosa. Fran is part owner– with me and three others –of Four Story Media Group which publishes the Delray and Boca Newspaper. As he might put it, he owns enough to have a voice, but not enough to insist that something he suggests actually gets done. But despite his lack of voting power, he has influence. Why?

Because he makes sense and because he has succeeded in a very tough business over a long period of time.

Fran sweats the details and he’s constantly trying to get better. Paper or cloth for the tables, how much do the forks weigh (seriously), menu tweaks, where photos are hung in the place and on and on and on. No detail is too small, because Fran believes it all counts and it does. He’s the opposite of complacent and that’s why he’s successful.

I’m sure there are analytics and data out there that you can purchase to try and build a successful restaurant. But there’s just no substitute for judgment and experience. The human touch…

It has worked for the Cubs…it works for cities, schools, non-profits and for just about any sustainable business or organization you can find.

Even Google is going to learn that lesson.

Thanks to “programmatic” ad buying by automation, major companies saw their web ads placed on websites next to hate speech including sites promoting the Islamic State—embarrassing the companies and creating revenue for the hate and terrorist groups. It’s shocking and terrible.

So AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson and others said enough. Take our ads off You Tube and off these sites—we’re done with you Google, until you find humans who can fix  the problem.  Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., will lose tens of millions of dollars as a result and will be forced to address the issue by hiring people—what a concept.

Let’s hope humanity spreads because it’s truly irreplaceable and needed now more than ever.

Said Epstein, “ If we can’t find the next technological breakthrough, well, maybe we can be better than anyone else with how we treat our players and how we connect with players and the relationships we develop and how we put them in positions to succeed. Maybe our environment will be the best in the game, maybe our vibe will be the best in the game, maybe our players will be the loosest, and maybe they’ll have the most fun, and maybe they’ll care the most.”

So where would you rather, play, work, live? A place that values and honors humanity or a cold, purely analytical environment?

 

 

More from the Fortune piece.

What Business Can Learn From the Cubs’ History-Making Win

 

  1. Hire for character

How employees treat one another or cope with adversity can be more important to your success than their sales numbers or skill sets.

  1. See data’s limits

A statistics-driven strategy won’t help you if all your competitors are using similar techniques with similar data. Do you truly have an analytical edge?

  1. Foster connections

Epstein credits the Cubs’ success in part to the years-long relationships among their core players. “People don’t like working in isolation,” he says.

 

 

 

 

First Day of Spring: Odds & Ends

Odds and ends.
When you work the phones for candidates, you hear some very interesting things.
Especially when you ask voters why they prefer a candidate. Here’s a sampling:
1. A certain candidate will immediately close all sober homes on day one.

Me: “How could 30 years of commissioners have missed this?”

Voter:  “Gee, I don’t know. But it’s pretty simple really. Just issue an executive order.”
2. No dogs on beach. No vote.
Me: “Well, what about some other issues?”

Voter: “What other issues?”
3. We are both from the same state.

Me: “But what about the issues and experience?”

Voter: “Who has the time to figure that out.”
4. Jim Chard wants 54 story buildings.

Me: “umm…..you mean 54 feet in height as in our height limit?

Voter:  “No. That’s Not a big deal. But he wants 54 stories and that’s too much.”
5. I like Shirley Johnson.

Me:  “So do I. She worked at IBM for”…interrupted..

Voter: “Laverne & Shirley was my favorite show when I was a child. And I’ve never met an unfriendly Shirley.”

Me: “Good point.”

As you can see from the small sampling above, voters can be interesting and unpredictable.

For instance, Seat 2 candidate Richard Alteus –who never showed up for a debate or filled out a questionnaire– received more votes than Anneze Barthelemy-506 to 488. My guess: his name was first on the ballot.

My daughter the teacher came home from Tampa last week for Spring Break. It’s fun to see the area through her eyes.
Some takeaways:
1. Habit Burger is great.
2. Compared to Tampa there’s no traffic.
3. Rents are really expensive here
4. The new apartments across from Avenue Pilates on North Federal are ideally located. Why? “It’s a cheap Uber ride to downtown and the beach.” Millennials aren’t car centric. They like the apps.
5. The east coast beaches are really amazing.

Today is the first day of spring, a relative term in South Florida. Here are 10 great spots to enjoy early spring.
1. The back deck at Che
2. Deck 84
3. Beer Trade. Now with a new Boca location.
4. The outdoor deck at Waterstone off A1A in Boca.
5. The A1A promenade in Delray. Thanks to the sea grape trim, you can see the beach. And it’s good for the dunes too.
6. The beautiful newly renovated bar and dining area at the Delray Sands, which is actually located in Highland Beach.
7. 50 South Ocean for lunch.
8. Caffe Luna Rosa for breakfast.
9. Outside at Deli on Rye. Best Black and White cookies between here and Juniors at Mizner Park. Seinfeld was right. It’s the perfect cookie. “Oh look Elaine, the black and white cookie. I love the black and white. Two races of flavor living side by side in harmony. It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it?”
10. Lake Ida Park for nice views, big birds and really big iguanas.

Sometimes I think we take living in Florida for granted.
We have been enjoying amazing weather, there is a vast array of interesting things to do and if you can get out on the water you quickly realize how amazing this place is.
This blog is big on gratitude and so we are grateful for being in this magnificent place at this special time.
While I try not to harbor regrets–what’s the point–I do have one thing that irks me.
It seems like another Spring Training is sliding past me. Ugh. I last attended a game six years ago today–Mets vs. Marlins with my son who was heading to college at UF.
There was a time when I was part of a “guys” group that enjoyed Spring Training weekend trips. Three or four games in different locales over a three day weekend.
Those road trips gave way to single games squeezed in at the last minute thanks to crazy schedules, kids etc. As Bob Seger once sang “deadlines and commitments what to leave in, what to leave out.”
Sadly, many times what we leave out is what truly matters; such as good times with good friends.
It’s a near certainty that we won’t remember what we missed the spring training game for, but we will remember the time we spent with friends.
So as another season slips away– without me slipping away– for some meaningless games in the Florida sun, I’m promising myself more time with friends.
If this resonates with you, let’s hold each other accountable. Or better yet let’s catch a game.

History Before the Digital Age

An ad from 1995 for Caffe Luna Rosa..wonder if Fran will honor the coupon?

An ad from 1995 for Caffe Luna Rosa..wonder if Fran will honor the coupon?

It’s hard to throw away your history.
But sometimes you have no choice–especially if you are building a new kitchen and losing closet space in the process.
And so part of Thanksgiving weekend was spent deciding what to keep and what to ditch. It was agonizing–for me anyway.
I was a newspaper reporter for the old Delray Times back before the digital age and since 1987 I have lugged my old newspapers to various addresses. They take up shelf space and some of the clips are yellow but they represent an important part of my life–they also cover a pivotal period of Delray’s history.
I covered Delray from 1987 through 1997 from the Doak Campbell era through the Tom Lynch and Jay Alperin mayoral terms of office.
It was an important era, representing the beginning of Delray’s revitalization highlighted by Visions 2000, the Pineapple Grove Main Street designation, the Decade of Excellence and the first All America City bid.
There were lowlights too–political infighting in the 80s, a revolving door of City Managers and key city staff until 1991 and lots of controversy over issues such as race, drugs, crime, policing and labor relations.
But it was mostly a progressive era, marked by progress, relative unity and vision.
I wrote about it all; issues large and small and it was a great job giving me a bird’s eye view of how a city works.

I rode with police officers, followed a young father through drug rehab, interviewed criminals, artists, entrepreneurs and even actor Burt Reynolds who filmed an episode of his detective series “BL Stryker” at the Cathcart House on South Swinton. His first words to me: “I hope you’re not with the Enquirer.”

It was a great ride, writing about efforts to get something going on Atlantic Avenue, sitting through strategy sessions about the future of North Federal Highway (rife with prostitutes, an adult bookstore and vacant lots at the time) and rejoicing when a coffee shop opened downtown.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that decade spent writing about Delray was great training for my tenure on the City Commission, enabling me to see how issues emerged and requiring me to find sources on both sides of the issue.
Our newspaper came of age after the demise of the respected Delray News Journal and we “competed” against the Post, Sentinel and Boca News.
But we wrote more–at least 6-8 stories a week, plus restaurant reviews, school news, social calendars and local sports. We covered Delray like it was the White House beat. It was fun and never boring.
So it’s sad that the paper never had an archive or was digitized.
Because while I successfully “saved” a few (ok more than a few) papers, even I –a notorious pack rat– have to admit that I can’t keep it all and have a…..oh a new kitchen.
So….they will be recycled.
A decade of local history, arguments over whether to build a golf course clubhouse or a hot dog stand, debates over replacing Ken and Hazel’s with a movie theater, stories about the beginnings of Pineapple Grove, efforts to buy the Paradise Club, stories about MAD DADS, the beginning of community policing, the early years of the CRA, the beginning of legendary careers–Chris Brown, Rick Overman, Joe Gillie, Bill Wood, stories about Banker’s Row, protests on the beach, the first Art and Jazz on the Avenue and the purchase of a 100 foot Christmas tree will live on in our memory and oh yes the several hundred papers I managed to squirrel away. Shhh..don’t tell my wife.