Hi Dakota, please you give us a short introduction.
Originally, I am from South Jersey, which is where most my family is located. I have been the sole owner and operator of this restaurant since 2018. I would say that I’m a work-acholic, but it’s what I love. I am a faithful member of Christ Fellowship, I do my absolute best to let my love for Christ radiate through myself and my business.
What brought you to Okeechobee and when did you move here?
For years, we would travel the US in our RV, only occasionally staying at our home in NJ. I home schooled my daughter for those years so we could freely travel wherever we wanted and she could experience everything with us. We would normally find ourselves in Key West quite a few months out of the year, every year.
Obviously, we were enjoying the weather much more in Florida than up north! Our friends asked us to join them helping a veteran in Okeechobee, once we got here, I fell in love with the small town, everyone was so friendly. When we decided it was time to settle in one place, we went back to NJ for a few months and just knew it was time to move. So, in 2007, my husband pulled out a map of Florida and said “pick wherever you want to go” and all I could think about was that little town we went to, I thought it would be a great place for our family, especially my daughter who was more than ready to go back to school.
Please tell us about your family.
Not too much of my family came here, just my husband Bob and my daughter Tori. Bob helps me where he can, being so busy he helps with some errands, arranges pool leagues for the bar, and little odds and ends that he notices. Tori is such a tremendous help to me! She’s my manager for the restaurant and bar, handling the “front of the house” staff, all the behind-the-scenes work, and anything I need, she’s always available to help or jump in if need be.
When she started as an LDRP RN, she retired from bartending/ serving to strictly manager. Not only does she have two full-time jobs that she rocks at the age of 24, but she’s also an amazing single mother of two of my grandchildren, Arali, 6, and Noah, 4. Who doesn’t want to brag on their child, but I just couldn’t be prouder of and more thankful for her.
Once or twice a week, I take the night off and watch the kids for her since she works night shift, it’s one of my favorite downtimes to just hang out with them, family time is essential with all the work I put in at the restaurant.
I have a 34 years old son that not many people have met, he lives in NJ with his wife and their twins 6-year-old boys, Zach and Zeph.
Before my mothers passing in 2017, we moved her here with us to take care of her, she is 100% my reason for making sure I put my all into everything I do.
How did you get into the restaurant business?
When I was 17, I started my first job in a kitchen where I started with just making sandwiches, then worked my way up to be a cook, which I ended up falling in love with and did it for a little over 7 years. I decided that I was ready for a change of pace, so I went to college to become a paralegal. After working in the profession, I found it wasn’t a fit for me. So, I got a job as a secretary for approximately 200 people, at a computer corporation. Design Airways is a company that created the routes for airlines. Once I got married to my husband, he made it possible for me to be a stay at home mom in 2000. In 2014 when my daughter was graduating high school, I wanted to get a job.
The first place I stopped as was Tin Fish and I was hired on the spot Feb. 22nd, 2014. It was a struggle at first to get back in the groove of things, but I became kitchen manager shortly after. I was working 60 hours a week easily, I absolutely loved it. In 2015, the former owner Joseph said he was closing the restaurant, and as funny as it sounds, all I could think about was the two new cooks I just hired that left their jobs to work with us. I couldn’t let us close, people would lose their jobs! So immediately, my mother loaned me the money used to buy the restaurant, 10/10 best decision I could have made.
What do you love about what you do?
The people in Okeechobee have always showed me a great deal of kindness and support for my business. I get to do what I love in the kitchen, working with my daughter by my side, and building a strong work family with my team of employees! I never act like I’m above anyone, I work just as hard as them on any given day.
We always give everyone the benefit of the doubt, although I have been let down many times for that mind-set, I am determined to hold onto that. I love to teach people, it can be challenging, to say the least, especially with people that lack experience, but I know that it will pay off. Cooking is like a work of art, it makes me excited to share that. Even if people choose a different path, I know I was a part of their growth and they’ll have a great tool and experience under their belt that’ll spice up any resume. I take pride in my work, you have to take the good with the bad.
Please give a short story about how your business helps the community.
This week, I had one of my employees, mid-shift, have a last-minute family emergency. All the co- workers stepped in, without any fuss, to cover for her, not only that night but two other days on top of working their own shifts. We were absolutely understanding, family comes first! Of course, it was difficult because we were extremely busy and she is one of my strongest staff members, but we made it work. I’m so thankful for such a supportive team. She sent numerous texts of gratitude to my daughter and I, one of them being that she had never worked in a place where everyone cared so much.
I feel blessed to have a team by my side that responds this way when there is a need. Being Christian, I am working every day to be better, reminding myself I, nor anyone else, isn’t perfect. The Lord continues to build my strength, stronger every day. Without that, I don’t think I’d be as fortunate with the people who have crossed paths with me here.
Has anything changed after COVID-19 and what are your future plans?
Well, when the state shut down, I ended up laying off my employees. I stayed working doing only take-out services, I was taking orders, cooking, and preparing the items for the customer to take. I was a one-man band. When we reopened, I hired back any former employees I had to lay off due to COVID, then rebuilt our team. After a while, we had created a great work family, the best ones I’ve had yet. We do require our staff interacting with customers to wear a mask, in hopes it’ll make everyone more comfortable. We have hand sanitizer all over the restaurant and a station for customers to use as well! We try to space out customers if we’re not too busy, we stagger our guests.
Tin Fish has picked back up and grown so much in such a short period, now we are getting ready to open our “OYSTER BAR” hopefully by April.
What is your philosophy on business and life?
Offering quality food, and great service that radiates from my employees, it is my formula that I will recommend anyone in business. Always be grateful to the community, they’re what keeps us going.
Everyone in Okeechobee and the visitors are absolutely appreciated and welcomed with open arms in our doors any day.
TIN FISH OKEECHOBEE RESTAURANT AND BAR LOCATED AT:
301 N. Parrott Ave., Okeechobee, FL 34972
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Feel free to contact Dakota anytime!