“That's probably the most gratifying, about being a business owner and and being as large as we are is, you know, through the process of building it. And, knowing the struggles that my own family went through during those times. And the times before where I was, you know, maybe not making a great buck but learning something. To see, a family, be able to buy a house, put food on their table, and I, ultimately had something to do with that. I think that's my proudest moment.”

– Martin Hoeger, Owner of Steam Pub

Martin Hoeger spent his 20s as a touring professional musician, later finding his way into small business ownership. Martin found a way to open a restaurant and bar in a time when money was tight and babies were on the way. How have Martin and his partner succeeded in an industry with such a huge failure rate? Angela Giovine,  Owner of Happenings Media and host of Extra/Ordinary Small Business podcast, discussed this topic and more with Martin.

Below is the episode transcript from Angela's 2019 interview with Martin Hoeger. To listen to the interview, click HERE. It is Episode #1. 

You can also subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts:

Angela Giovine 0:34
Pop culture has become obsessed with entrepreneurship stories from Silicon Valley, and big startup. But the backbone of our economy is made of small local businesses. Every day, millions of small business owners deliver quality products and services, support the local economy, employ their neighbors and follow their passion. We think their stories are worth telling. I'm Angela Giovine. Welcome to the extra ordinary small business podcast. Martin Hoeger spent his 20s as a touring professional musician. Later finding his way into small business ownership. Martin found a way to open a restaurant and bar in a time when money was tight and babies were on the way. How have Martin and his partner succeeded in an industry with such a huge failure rate. That's This week, on extraordinary small business. It's lunch hour in the bustling restaurant. Once a train station. Steam Pub is an impressive space with the ability to serve hundreds of people each evening. Though it's large, it's narrow construction allows for an surprisingly intimate environment. I make my way to the corner of the restaurant where Martin and I sit atop a stage microphones in hand. We covered a wide range of topics, from how he got into the restaurant business, how he found the money to open such a large restaurant when the banks laughed him out of the place, how he kept employees since his opening and how he continues to grow. We're sitting here in Steam Pub, your baby, your restaurant, your pub, pub revolution.

Martin Hoeger 2:22
some , my baby. Yes.

Angela Giovine 2:24
And how long have you been the owner of Steam Pub?

Martin Hoeger 2:28
Uh so, we opened doors July 2012. So business has been open for just over six years, but we've been in business for about seven years now.

Angela Giovine 2:38
Amazing. And before you opened Steam Pub, you're in, the world of food and drink. Right?

Martin Hoeger 2:46
Yeah, so… it's really been the only job I've ever held. I actually started my first job ever was washing dishes at about 500 yards down the road, and uh I was 14, and the liquor licence I own now was from that place.

Angela Giovine 3:02
Oh, really?

Martin Hoeger 3:02
Yeah. That's pretty neat. And then, you know, I was musician for 20, professional musician for 25 years. So that NZ that always puts you into the restaurant business coz when you from, you know, off the road or at a studio, you need to make a buck. You're bartending and you're waiting tables…

Angela Giovine 3:08
Sure. Sure

Martin Hoeger 3:18
Yeah. So yeah, I've been kind of all around this business.

Angela Giovine 3:22
Sure. So everything from dishwashing, up to bartending.

Martin Hoeger 3:26
Yeah, started bartending ahm… probably about 20 some years ago, 22 years ago, uh right down the street, a place called Kenny's, little bar. And then I went into the city I was bartending clubs, the nightclub called The Five Spot for about nine years. I was doing some fine dining, I kind of got the grand scope of it all like every every aspect I could. And then I started managing after that, once my once my what's my daughter was born.

Angela Giovine 3:52
Okay. So you started managing, and then at some point you thought I want to be the owner. Take me through that process what made you think I want to do this for myself?

Martin Hoeger 4:04
I was a bartender time we hadn't, you know, I really wasn't planning on having a kid. Uh, but uh… Me and my now wife had gotten pregnant and the place I was working at closed.

Angela Giovine 4:17
Okay.

Martin Hoeger 4:17
closing for renovations. And Jerry Walsh from Big Heads, which is a sports pub chain in the area, came to me and offered me a job to manage one of the spots, great opportunity as a young man to learn the business. But I didn't really see that as what I was going to come. So I denied them three times. Now, third time, he came back to me and I said, All right, listen, if I'm going to take this job, I want you to teach me everything about the business because I'm not just going to be a manager of some sports pub. I'm going to own my own bar one day and I want you to teach me what you know. And he agreed to it and I was like, okay, so we started working together. And he was really good to me because he, I had a lot of different ideas than he did. And, through a little bit of trial and error, he he started accepting my ideas and allowed me to grow within his business and, you know, kind of really get my feet under me and understand what I was capable of.

Angela Giovine 5:15
Now, when you would deny them all of those times, is it because you didn't see yourself making move in the food and drink industry? Or it was because you wanted to go out on your own and you just didn't want to work for anybody else.

Martin Hoeger 5:29
Honestly, I was afraid of, like, kind of falling into that. Coz you know, when you're bartender, you're serving and making a lot there's a lot of cops going around. {crosstalking}

Angela Giovine 5:38
Comfort.

Martin Hoeger 5:38
Yeah, and and there's a lot of freedom. And I was kind of forced with a life's decision of, you know, just being a brand new father still being in my, you know, late 20s,nd I didn't want to, you know, looking at his business model, I didn't want to become one of those dudes that was just…

Angela Giovine 5:55
A lifelong manager.

Martin Hoeger 5:56
Of a sports bar.

Angela Giovine 5:57
Right.

Martin Hoeger 5:58
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 5:58
coz, so you knew you…

Martin Hoeger 5:59
Not that there's anything wrong with that, but yeah.

Angela Giovine 6:00
But you knew you wanted to be an owner and so you were afraid that if you became a manager that it would just be too easy to stay?

Martin Hoeger 6:07
Yeah, exactly. Yeah

Angela Giovine 6:09
But you, took the opportunity and you turned it into something for yourself a learning opportunity, which is quite smart. Because, you know, to learn from someone with multiple locations, you get to learn on someone else's dime, right?

Martin Hoeger 6:20
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I made I made all my mistakes on his wallet, as they say, you know, it's a which is, which is nice, to do, and have the freedom to do and, and for him to have the, you know, faith in me enough to make those decisions. And, you know, sometimes there are failures, sometimes there were successes, but he was always just like, alright, you know, let's you know,

Angela Giovine 6:43
And you were honest with him from the beginning, I- want to own a restaurant. So this is I'm using this as a learning experience and he knew it.

Martin Hoeger 6:50
Yeah. And, and he kind of moved me around the company as well, like through that whole thing. You know, I started managing one of the pubs and then about two years into that I became kind of his – entertainment and marketing guy for the whole company and then kind of moved into a GM role of the whole company. And then… I was kind of his, I don't know what see like his stopgacks, stopgap. So when, when a certain location wasn't doing so well, he would

Angela Giovine 7:21
The fixer.

Martin Hoeger 7:21
throw me in there. Yeah, he would throw me in there. I would, you know, fire hire, rebuild six, eight months later, I would put a manager in place and kind of roll on to the next one.

Angela Giovine 7:31
Had you not had that experience? Do you think opening this restaurant would have been a completely different thing?

Martin Hoeger 7:38
Yeah, yeah. Even even having that experience. Opening Steam was something that I didn't really realize I was getting in what I was getting into even having my hand held through the back end of the business and knowing it, still ownership when you're flying on your own and no safety net is there's a lot more to, and and to that fact, what we opened was a lot more than what I was used to as well.

Angela Giovine 8:05
Right.

Martin Hoeger 8:05
You know, like Steam itself is a more than I had a kind of my hands on. The sports pub to a full run restaurant.

Angela Giovine 8:14
So, so your original idea was to just open a bar and then it sort of.

Martin Hoeger 8:18
Kinda got away from me.

Angela Giovine 8:20
Okay. Let's talk about that. So, how long were you a manager before you took the leap to become an owner?

Martin Hoeger 8:28
Am so… I was probably working for him for about eight, nine years, I guess.

Angela Giovine 8:33
Okay.

Martin Hoeger 8:34
In one facet or another. And… I would probably say the last year and a half was really when I was just kind of feeling

Angela Giovine 8:42
You had learned everything you needed to learn.

Martin Hoeger 8:44
Kind of stuck in a, you know.

Angela Giovine 8:46
You wanted a challenge.

Martin Hoeger 8:47
Yup Yeah. It was kind of boring me anymore. And uh he I we we actually when when I finally came to him and gave him my business plan. You know, he was like, ahh, you know, this is great, you know, I never begrudge you for you know, trying to better your family blah blah blah. And two weeks later he fired me.

Angela Giovine 9:05
Oh, really?

Martin Hoeger 9:06
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 9:07
So he knew in the back of his head, but it maybe he thought you would never actually call, call it.

Martin Hoeger 9:11
He's pr, he's a bit of a proud guy. So I think it was. And I don't think it helped that I was opening it. Within couple miles.

Angela Giovine 9:19
I was going to mention we are right down the street.

Martin Hoeger 9:21
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 9:21
In one of his establishment so I can imagine that.

Martin Hoeger 9:24
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 9:25
A little difficult.

Martin Hoeger 9:26
There was a little there was a little there was a time there where we were, you know, kind of falling out. But uhh… We've since come back to uhh

Angela Giovine 9:34
Right.

Martin Hoeger 9:34
be really good friends.

Angela Giovine 9:35
That's great. That's great. So you, learned a lot. You decided it was time to start something new. Starting a restaurant, I mean, starting a restaurant and bar. That's no small feat compared to some people who start businesses where maybe if it's a service based business, you don't even need an office you just need basically a laptop and an internet connection.

Martin Hoeger 9:57
And an idea. [Laughing]

Angela Giovine 9:58
And an idea. A restaurant, I mean liquor license, the amount of overhead building insurance. I, it's astronomical.

Martin Hoeger 10:08
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 10:09
How do you even begin to go there? Were you, knowing you were for a decade going to open a restaurant where you… getting ready financially, personally, No

Martin Hoeger 10:21
Not at all. [laughing]

Angela Giovine 10:21 So how did you make that happen? I mean, that's a real challenge.

Martin Hoeger 10:28
So, as the story goes, it was, you know, kind of decided, honestly, I probably shouldn't say this out loud. But there was a, there was a there was a time when I was, I was on the road, I came off the road and I was hanging out with some friends and there may be in been some hallucinogenics involved in a certain night,

Angela Giovine 10:49
Okay

Martin Hoeger 10:50
Um… and there was, you know, a kind of a moment of clarity in that moment that I kind of came out of it with this new uh vigor for what I wanted to do and and kind of really saw it clearly what you know, I wanted to open a restaurant, I wanted it to be, you know, full service. I wanted, I wanted a different clientele. I wanted, you know, people I didn't want to sit there and watch a guy drink a Budweiser all night long and and slowly die on the barstool. I wanted people come in and have a couple drinks and have some food and go home and wake up for their job the next day. And you know, like, there's a lot of there's a lot of sadness in the bar industry that you- It can you know, alcohols can be depressing. So…

Angela Giovine 11:33
Sure.

Martin Hoeger 11:33
I wanted something that was a little, you know,

Angela Giovine 11:36
Departure from that.

Martin Hoeger 11:37
Yeah. departure from that. And so I came out of that experience. I was like, you know, I just had this, zest for. Let's do this. I-I called up my buddy um Mike Breslin.Uh who's has been an amazing chef in the area for years. I was like, hey, you wanna do this? And he was like, yeah, he's like, I was just gonna call you and I'm like, really? Like yeah, I-I already started business plan. So

Angela Giovine 12:00
Wow.

Martin Hoeger 12:00
So we're like, okay, so we sat down and just kinda like, started putting it on paper and

Angela Giovine 12:05
So you got the front of the house. You've got the back of the house guy.

Martin Hoeger 12:08
Yeah. Ahh

Angela Giovine 12:09
You're starting the business plan,

Martin Hoeger 12:10
We're starting business plan, we're getting this idea going. He had the chance of some money coming to him. My father had worked very hard his whole life so he had a little cushion that uh he was willing to give me uhm a lot, you know, on either side, but that kind of goes to this story was where we, when we finally decided to do it, got a lawyer. You know, we incorporated, we found the building, which was a building in our hometown, that we both grew up in. And I always… loved this building. Always thought it was very cool and unique as a kid, riding my bike, by it, and I always thought it was underutilized. So it was a hair salon before…

Angela Giovine 12:51
And this is a huge space. How much square, how many square feet?

Martin Hoeger 12:55
The floor. The open floor plan of the restaurants 4500 square feet. And then we possess another 2000 square feet. Kitchen, prep area, offices, all that stuff. So, it's and we're about to take over more. We're about to take over another thousand square feet.

Angela Giovine 13:11
Wow! Wow. That's amazing.

Martin Hoeger 13:14
Yeah. So, I was sitting in the light, with my wife and kids in the car and I looked to my left, the building was vacant and had a for lease sign in it. And it just hit me. It was, like, instantaneous, like a… [crosstalking]

Angela Giovine 13:28
Gut instinct.

Martin Hoeger 13:28
Somebody threw a bucket of water on me. Yeah. I said, that's it. She said
what? I said that. That's my pub. She's like, Yeah, I was like yeah.

Angela Giovine 13:36
Was it for sale?

Martin Hoeger 13:38
It was for lease. Yeah,

Angela Giovine 13:38
For lease. Okay.

Martin Hoeger 13:40
And God bless her. Coz, uh… you know, we had two young kids at the time,

Angela Giovine 13:43
I was going to ask.

Martin Hoeger 13:44
Yeah. uh I kept probably skipped over that a little bit. Um, she couldn't be more supportive. I came to her and said, you know, listen, this is what I'm thinking of doing. I'm probably going to end up getting fired. If it gets out that this is what I'm doing and Jerry finds out, and she was like, I got you. You know, I worked my butt off to make sure that you paid and food and and ah she did. And, you know it was it was a big stress but that's kind of how we roll- me and her, It's like you know when times get tough we that's when we were our best

Angela Giovine 14:17
Stick, stick together.

Martin Hoeger 14:18
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 14:18
It's Amazing to have someone like that in the corner.

Martin Hoeger 14:20
Yeah. So then we um, you know fast forward again we see the place I pick, you know, that's the pub, you know, let's do it. We we get the lease drawn up and me and Mike go to lawyers office and we sign a lease we have about $70,000 between the two of us. And we signed a $400,000 lease.

Angela Giovine 14:40
And that's just the lease before the liquor license and everything else.

Martin Hoeger 14:43
Before anything. Just to possess, just to be able to be in the building.

Angela Giovine 14:46
So how do you do that? Do you go to a bank? Do you find more partners?

Martin Hoeger 14:49
Um so, we signed the lease I'm we're driving away from my lawyers office, and

Angela Giovine 14:55
They let you, they let you sign the lease.

Martin Hoeger 14:56
Yeah. Yeah, Pull up to a red light and opened my door and just vomit all over the place. {Laughing] Uh.. like, what we just do? I have no idea. But that kind of operating without a net at that point, was… like,

Angela Giovine 15:15
Your motivation.

Martin Hoeger 15:15
Yeah the best. That's the best feeling in the world because it was…

Angela Giovine 15:20
It has to work.

Martin Hoeger 15:20
There's no failure.

Angela Giovine 15:21
Yeah, you've got your father's money, you've got a huge lease, you have to succeed.

Martin Hoeger 15:27
Yes. Yeah, there's I-I would jokingly set, you know, in quotations jokingly say, you know, if this doesn't work, my kids are gonna be living in Costa Rica, you know, on a beach somewhere. But there was some truth to that as well, because as time went on, the more and more money we borrowed, the more and more of that if it was a failure, I obviously wasn't gonna be able to pay it back.

Angela Giovine 15:49
Right.

Martin Hoeger 15:49
And it, and it would have ruined my life.

Angela Giovine 15:51
Right. course.

Martin Hoeger 15:51
You know, there was there was no coming back from it. But like I said, that was kind of the excitement of what drove me to…

Angela Giovine 15:58
To work hard.

Martin Hoeger 15:59
Yeah

Angela Giovine 15:59
Yeah.

Martin Hoeger 16:00
Yeah, absolutely.

Angela Giovine 16:01
So you were able to find banks to back you?

Martin Hoeger 16:03
No.

Angela Giovine 16:04
No.

Martin Hoeger 16:05
No, no no banks, there was there was an issue with. So, as we went around and kind of went in for loans, laughed at was probably the best way to describe. So probably the worst part of the economy, the worst time in the economy, 2011, you know, the country was just kind of starting to claw its way back.

Angela Giovine 16:25
Right.

Martin Hoeger 16:25
Government was just putting in regulations to banks that they had to loan money to kind of kickstart the economy. So we felt like we had a good position. You know, a couple local kids been in the been in the business for as long as we had been thought we knew what we were doing, going to the banks, and they would literally laugh at us. So we we obviously figured that, okay, conventional loans are not

Angela Giovine 16:51
Not gonna happen.

Martin Hoeger 16:51
Right way we're going to do it. So, we took on some partners,

Angela Giovine 16:55
Okay.

Martin Hoeger 16:55 ah… couple guys that we had worked with in the past. Jean, I had worked with at Big Heads and Paul Kushner, Toby, he had worked with Mike, Kenny's and me and him had been friends, you know, through the business for a couple years there. So we brought those guys in, and basically just kind of piecemealed together the money. My buddy arts tells the story of during this time where we were driving in the car together, and I was on the phone with electrical contractor. And uh he's like, we were driving down the street and you're talking on the phone. You go, ah yeah, 250? Yeah, just height you up. Yep! got to get it done. Just do it. And he's like, you hung up the phone, and he turns to me and goes, that wasn't $250 you were talking about, right? I'm like, nah it's 250,000. He's like, you now have $250,000 to make, I know.

Angela Giovine 17:47
You got to do it.

Martin Hoeger 17:48
Yeah! needs to be done. Let's do it.

Angela Giovine 17:50
So a lot of financial stress in the early days obviously. So that you could pay people back, pay your contractors…

Martin Hoeger 17:59
Yeah. We kind of GCd the whole project ourselves. Um. And again, we were, you know, retrofitting a complete building.

Angela Giovine 18:09
Right, which was a hair salon.

Martin Hoeger 18:11
Which was a hair salon. So,

Angela Giovine 18:12
Into a restaurant. So you need commercial kitchens, and everything.

Martin Hoeger 18:16
Yeah. Plumbing, Electrical. The whole…

Angela Giovine 18:18
Drop light

Martin Hoeger 18:18
Yeah. You know, rippen.

Angela Giovine 18:20
And you don't have 2 beers on draft here.

Martin Hoeger 18:22
Yeah, no. Ah now, why would we do something that's simple? We, ah yeah 21.

Angela Giovine 18:28
Right.

Martin Hoeger 18:28
So, yes, so a lot of the work was, I mean, mo- 98% of the demo was, you know, me, my friends. I had a lot of friends whose willing to come in and help out. It helps when you're destroying something too with my friends. Yeah. Like, I'll give you I'll give you a couple beers in a sledgehammer like, let's go to town.

Angela Giovine 18:47
Right. So how long before you open?

Martin Hoeger 18:50
So, we had scheduled a three month billed out, which turned into a year. You know, there's that's another part of it. You know, you- you're paying, you know, our our landlords were good enough to give us uh a three months grace period to to fit out. But after that we were payin'…

Angela Giovine 19:07
Rent.

Martin Hoeger 19:08
Rent, with no money coming in.

Angela Giovine 19:10
Right.

Martin Hoeger 19:10
It was ah it was that was.

Angela Giovine 19:13
A hard time.

Martin Hoeger 19:13
Yeah, it was. Yeah, it was it was difficult to get through. I was, you know, I was working here in the construction area. I was working, you know, 12, 12 hours a day and then, go and and bartending at night. And then coming home and sleeping for like, two three hours and…

Angela Giovine 19:28
Right.

Martin Hoeger 19:29
Right back at it. Right.

Angela Giovine 19:30
Because you have to have the cash flow.

Martin Hoeger 19:32
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 19:32
It won't work. Yeah.

Martin Hoeger 19:34
And the kids gotta eat.

Angela Giovine 19:35
Right. Right. As long as it take can't lose the house.

Martin Hoeger 19:38
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 19:39
All of that stuff.

Martin Hoeger 19:40
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 19:40
So you launch…

Martin Hoeger 19:41
Yes. So… we, you know, coming up the opening day and and uh we get it all done, and uh we're ready to open and we had a really good Facebook presence at that point. We kind of brought people along through the whole process. We, we ran a am Kickstarter, for uh some of the finish work. Ahm some of the artworks, some of the paint, and the community really jumped into it. They, I mean, they knew us.

Angela Giovine 20:08
Right. You grew up here you said.

Martin Hoeger 20:09
Yeah. So you know there's there's still stuff on the menu named after people because of that original kickstarter.

Angela Giovine 20:13
Oh wow! that's interesting. So you use the kickstarter saying if you donate X number of dollars, you'll get a menu item.

Martin Hoeger 20:20
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 20:20
Okay. That's cool.

Martin Hoeger 20:21
They pick for panini, you know, mo beans, hanes hummus, if there's still to this day stuff on the menu that that's named after.

Angela Giovine 20:28
That's really cool actually.

Martin Hoeger 20:30
And uh, so we opened doors and uh our first, our first night so our soft opening, uh I'm in a three piece suit running around the restaurant and one of the servers comes up goes ah Martin, Jeff needs to see in the kitchen. I go, okay. And uh we had a point of sale system put in place.

Angela Giovine 20:49
Right.

Martin Hoeger 20:49
And, it wasn't communicating with the syst, with the kitchen, at all.

Angela Giovine 20:53
So the waiter or waitress would put in an order in the front and it wasn't making it to the kitchen.

Martin Hoeger 20:58
No, not at all. So on the fly, all right, we got to write, handwrite everything.

Angela Giovine 21:02
Right.

Martin Hoeger 21:03
People don't write anymore.

Angela Giovine 21:04
No, no.

Martin Hoeger 21:06
So

Angela Giovine 21:06
No one know what they were doing.

Martin Hoeger 21:07
The chicken scratch that was coming back to the kitchen…

Angela Giovine 21:09
Right?

Martin Hoeger 21:10
You know, trying to read it on the line you got, you know, 200 people sitting for dinner. So it was, it was a pretty big failure that first night, you know, 45-minute ticket times and, but people were good about it there. Yeah, eh eh…

Angela Giovine 21:22
People seem. I mean, most restaurants do soft openings for these exact reasons, Right?

Martin Hoeger 21:28
Right.

Angela Giovine 21:29
Most people understand that the first time you come you are working out the kicks.

Martin Hoeger 21:32
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 21:33
So people were pretty gracious about it.

Martin Hoeger 21:35
And it's friends and family mostly. And ah

Angela Giovine 21:36
Right. Right.

Martin Hoeger 21:36
And so we quickly understood that our point of sale systems not working. So we got to open doors to got to pay bills. We're we're kind of literally the last $10,000 that we had. We had to borrow to buy liquor to put in the building,

Angela Giovine 21:53
Right.

Martin Hoeger 21:53
Coz, we had nothing left after construction and everything. So we had to open so we opened that Tuesday to… I would say probably 400 people in this building, which was this kind of whirlwind of like, holy shit. Like, this is… people like it. People love it.

Angela Giovine 22:13
People want our food. They like our atmosphere…

Martin Hoeger 22:16
Yeah. And, people have fun, you know, they're loving the food, like all the all the ah systematic things that needed to happen to make it smoother, still needed to happen. But people were enjoying themselves.

Angela Giovine 22:17
What do you think it was that people were enjoying? Was it, Wer, We're sitting here in, a fairly populated area, You're not the only restaurant for miles, so it's not like there was no competition. What is it that you think people were particularly excited about?

Martin Hoeger 22:45
I think the process of, bringing people along via social media, through the whole process, really kind of ramped up everybody's excitement, for what it was to be. What it was become.

Angela Giovine 22:58
So wasn't just ab a restaurant to them. It was locals, young, locals, family guys, who were trying to make it and be business owners in the community.

Martin Hoeger 23:10
Yeah. And they were emotionally invested as well.

Angela Giovine 23:13
Right.

Martin Hoeger 23:13
because you know, it was, you know, 2011, now we're sitting in 2018. So social media is a little different animal now that was, uh I I had, just from being in the music business, I had a really good understanding for social media through that, that I, brought into my bar life. So when we dove into that, and people kind of were following along, you know, they saw the building taking shape, they saw us working, sweating, you know, people would stop by during the process. Oh, you know, Oh the bars in, you know, and the excitement just kind of grew to this fever's pitch that, little reopened doors and people were lined up outside, like…

Angela Giovine 23:53
That's great. So,

Martin Hoeger 23:54
Ready to go.

Angela Giovine 23:55
the question is, did the excitement stick around, post launch?

Martin Hoeger 24:00
Yeah, we-we're very lucky that they did. And that people enjoyed it. And we kind of weathered the storm, of, the initial problems that we were going to have. And the only the only way you can kind of get through that, is just try to be apologetic and try to figure out as quickly as possible, how to fix the problem. You know, I bought, I bought about a lot of tables, dinners, those first couple months, you know, am…

Angela Giovine 24:25
Serve first, make them customers forever.

Martin Hoeger 24:28
Yeah, make make sure they walk out of the building happy as much as you screw up during service or whatever happens to that with that table. Just make sure that when they go out the door that they feel good about the experience they had.

Angela Giovine 24:41
Right.

Martin Hoeger 24:41
And, that's all you can really do in the service industry

Angela Giovine 24:44
Sure.

Martin Hoeger 24:44
is…You know. Try to, try to convey that.

Angela Giovine 24:46
Now, you must have a fairly large staff for such a large… location.

Martin Hoeger 24:50
Yes, so we're probably about 70 employees at this point.

Angela Giovine 24:53
Okay. Now, tell me about that. Tell me about, do you have people there with you from the beginning?

Martin Hoeger 25:00
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 25:00
Wow.

Martin Hoeger 25:01
Yeah, most definitely. So, that's probably the most gratifying about being a business owner and, and being as large as we are, is, you know, through the process of building it, and knowing the struggles that my fa-, my own family went through during those times and, and the times before where I was, you know, maybe not making a great buck but learning something. To see… a family, be able to buy a house, put food on their table, and I, ultimately had something to do with that, you know. I think that's my proudest moment, when when mothers work for me and father's work for me and it's their, this is their income. This is their…

Angela Giovine 25:41
Yeah.

Martin Hoeger 25:41
This is how they support their families.

Angela Giovine 25:43
Yeah.

Martin Hoeger 25:43
And and to watch some of our employees grow from young people into being married, and starting a family, and that gives me great pride to know that I'm able to do that for people.

Angela Giovine 25:56
It's a great responsibility, but it's what makes it all worth it.

Martin Hoeger 25:59
Yeah. Yeah.

Angela Giovine 26:01
The the restaurant industry doesn't usually as more of a high turnover employment rate, uhm what is, what keeps people here?

Martin Hoeger 26:09
So, the restaurant industry normally has a big turnover rate. So there's the 80/20 rule. So the 80/20 rule in the restaurant business is… goes is twofold. So, with a customer, 80% of your customers are returning customers 20% are new. On…

Angela Giovine 26:24
80% are returning customers.

Martin Hoeger 26:26
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 26:26
Wow, okay.

Martin Hoeger 26:28
On the… employee side, it's flip flop. So 20% of your employees are your day in and day outs, and the 80% are rollovers. We're lucky enough that… we, kind of flipped those numbers. I, I think I know how, but I'm not really quite sure, but um we have staff that's been with us since day one. One of the reasons I think is… that the three owners, well four owners then and three owners now. Uhm, we all, we're in the business so long, as employees and as bartenders as services, cooks, that we still understand what it means to be.

Angela Giovine 27:09
Sure. Sure. You can identify and you've walked where they walk.

Martin Hoeger 27:13
Yeah. And we're still young enough that we, I'm not afraid to get on my hands and knees and scrub a drain out a floor drain out or or, you know, I'm a I'm a show, show me by doing kind of guy.

Angela Giovine 27:25
Lead by example.

Martin Hoeger 27:26
Yeah exactly. And then, the second part of it I think, we try to, that same idea in mind that we were once in that position, we try that we offer health care. You know, we, we try to keep our employees. We understand that we've good employees and you've got to treat good employees, good, to keep them. So, you know, we offer healthcare. We you know, we try to…

Angela Giovine 27:50
And did you do that from the beginning?

Martin Hoeger 27:52
Uh…, financially, we weren't able to fom the beginning.

Angela Giovine 27:55
Right. As soon as you could.

Martin Hoeger 27:56
But, probably about, three years in I guess, we started that, and that's really expensive. We, from the outside as a business owner probably shouldn't incur if you don't have to, but uhm we wanted to and and it's still, still a bit of a debate, at at owners meetings, you know, but it's we believe that it's it's the right thing to do.

Angela Giovine 28:16
It's the right thing to do and certainly probably cuts down on the cost of turnover.

Martin Hoeger 28:21
Right?

Angela Giovine 28:22
The amount it would cost to retrain, and and hire people find qualified people and everything. Am I'm, I'd imagine it, if it doesn't balance out, it's close. But it is. It is good to think about first, what is the right thing to do.

Martin Hoeger 28:38
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 28:38
So I imagine that that queasy feeling in your stomach, did not leave right away.

Martin Hoeger 28:45
No.

Angela Giovine 28:46
How long…

Martin Hoeger 28:47
Think still there. [Joking]

Angela Giovine 28:49
I can Imagine [laughing]. How long before you started to feel at least a little comfortable with, okay, we're gonna be able to stick, stick it out, at least for the foreseeable future.

Martin Hoeger 29:01
Well, very early on, there was, there was a hurricane sandy came through.

Angela Giovine 29:05
Oh.

Martin Hoeger 29:06
So we were open about three months. I was, I believe, October of 2012. That that she came through or late August, or late September, whatever it was. And, you know, we're a young company, we're, you know, robbing Peter to pay Paul, you know, you're just kind of floating checks. You're hoping people don't call you on it. You're hoping they don't bounce. So one thing you can't do is bounce a check for liquor or beer in the LCBO for your license. So, Sandy comes along, and knocks out power for three days to the restaurant. We threw out probably fifteen $20,000 worth of food.

Angela Giovine 29:42
Uh!

Martin Hoeger 29:42
Almost buried us. And if we weren't as busy volume wise, it would have buried us.

Angela Giovine 29:50
People came out after the hurricane an-and it started to make up for it.

Martin Hoeger 29:54
Yeah. So, to answer your question as far as like, when does that, did that feeling go away? So…

Angela Giovine 30:00
You're getting there right before Sandy?

Martin Hoeger 30:02
No, not necessarily. There was there's so there's there's of a rule of thumb, again in the restaurant businesses with new restaurants,

Angela Giovine 30:10
Sure.

Martin Hoeger 30:11
about 75% of them fail in the first year. Of that 25%, 50% of those fail within the first three years. And then of that other 50%, 25% of them make it five years. So, when you reach the one year mark, you kind of go all right, all right, we're here, we we…

Angela Giovine 30:31
Made it through the first hurdle…

Martin Hoeger 30:32
Yeah, we made it this point, [crosstalk]

Angela Giovine 30:33
We can make it to three.

Martin Hoeger 30:34
Let's tighten up ah, tighten up things and you know, you can have food costs, you're looking at liquor costs, you're looking at labor costs, you know, your controllables your prime costs things, your cost of goods, trying to pull it pull it in and and when you're new, you're just kind of flying by the seat of your pants. You're uh we need you know, we need roast beef, order a couple slice of roast beef. You know, maybe we need one. Money's kind of flowing out. Then, you hope it flows back in. Year three comes, and once you kind of reach that third year, got a good understanding what you're doing. You're kind of honing in, all those things that you were…

Angela Giovine 31:12
Prophecies, you know exactly how much roast beef you need.

Martin Hoeger 31:14
Yeah. And if you make that point, you go, okay, you look around and go, alright, this is, I can kind of sleep at night now. You know, hundred and twenty hours a week is not necessary. Maybe…

Angela Giovine 31:24
Cut yourself a paycheck maybe.

Martin Hoeger 31:26
Yeah, exactly. There was there was probably right, uh, probably right around then, you know, your two, two and a half is probably when we start pading each other. So that was probably the when that queasy feeling started to dissipate.

Angela Giovine 31:40
Yeah.

Martin Hoeger 31:41
And it still comes and goes, I guess. You know, after six years, you know, five years, was when I felt like I could finally go on vacation for a week and my phone not be blowing up.

Angela Giovine 31:52
Right. There were people you trusted to run the ship for a week.

Martin Hoeger 31:56
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 31:57
Okay.

Martin Hoeger 31:58
So that's been very comforting. And, and that goes back to having great employees and treating them well, you know, is to be able to turn it off. You know, for my wife sake and my children's sake, those times when I come home my dad, my my son, man who the hell's this guy? Well, Oh I'm your dad. Hi, nice to see you.

Angela Giovine 32:13
Right.

Martin Hoeger 32:14
You know, so to kind of get back into their lives, and it is, you know, a very valuable thing to happen.

Angela Giovine 32:20
Sure. Sure. I mean, and even now, no matter what you do restaurant hours are not normal hours. So you have to design family life and family time around that.

Martin Hoeger 32:32
Yeah. One thing is my kids sleep late, which is great. That's by design, I think. Yeah, there's the sleepers.

Angela Giovine 32:38
Yeah, I'll never forget going. Uh, I have friends who work in Major League Baseball. We were at a game once down in Tampa. And my friend pointed down to the kids, it's 11 o'clock on a Saturday night and these little kids are all running around. And she's like, you see these kids? She's like they, they they sleep their father's hours so that they can see their father.

Martin Hoeger 32:56
Right. Yeah, yeah, that's a…
Yeah, let's they should be. But you know, my kids now the six years removed from that whole process. I feel like a more independent, you know, my nine year old, gets up, gets himself ready for school. Gets himself on the bus, packs his own lunch, you know, it's forcing necessity for him. You know, my wife was working, I was working…

Angela Giovine 33:20
Right.

Martin Hoeger 33:21
You know, not that they were neglected, but it was, you know. He just like you said they…

Angela Giovine 33:25
Not somebody there to do everything for them.

Martin Hoeger 33:26
Yeah. Which is good. But then, you know, there was there was things that I was doing where, you know, I would be closing on a Friday night, leave here at 4 am. And I'd be on the baseball field.

Angela Giovine 33:37
Right.

Martin Hoeger 33:37
9 am. Coaching.

Angela Giovine 33:38
Just suck it up. You just want to see your son.

Martin Hoeger 33:39
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 33:40
Yeah.

Martin Hoeger 33:40
You know, I was trying to, I was trying to throw myself into their lives as much as possible. I coach my daughter,

Angela Giovine 33:44
Right.

Martin Hoeger 33:45
I coach, my son.

Angela Giovine 33:46
Right.

Martin Hoeger 33:46
You know.

Angela Giovine 33:47
Needless to say, not a lot of social life during those. Those times.

Martin Hoeger 33:52
No, no, if your yeah. If you weren't in the restaurant. I didn't see you.

Angela Giovine 33:55
Right. Yeah, I-Ican imagine.

Martin Hoeger 33:57
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 33:57
So, you've alluded of the fact that you are a musician.

Martin Hoeger 34:01
Yes.

Angela Giovine 34:01
And as we sit here during this interview, we are in fact, on a stage.

Martin Hoeger 34:05
We are.

Angela Giovine 34:05
Small stage in the restaurant that you use for live music on a weekly basis.

Martin Hoeger 34:10
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 34:10
Tell me about the decision to marry the two passions.

Martin Hoeger 34:15
So, I said I've wrestled musician for 25 years, you know, toward sign record contracts, the whole nine and we've been out on the road for probably 18 of those years. So to kind of marry music and what and also art with the restaurant, I think they all just kind of go hand in hand. You know, like I alluded to earlier, the people that work in the industry are normally musicians, artists, actors, you know, that old joke. My son's an actor. Oh, yeah, what restaurants he worked at.

Angela Giovine 34:46
Right.

Martin Hoeger 34:46
You know, ultimately, it was a little more Utopian than it is now, I had like I wanted original music on stage and you know, there has to be an easel up front where people could just hang out and have a beer and paint a picture and we hanging on the wall and a little hippie in me. But it's kind of morphed into quickly by I understood that it was a little more lowest common denominator. We are in Bucks County. So there is some culture here, but it's also…

Angela Giovine 35:13
You have to read your audience.

Martin Hoeger 35:14
Yeah, absolutely. So, it was probably the first weekend that I had a band on stage. And I was like, you know, they were like, yelling at this original band, like play some Drake, you know, and I was like, Okay, this is not going to be that…

Angela Giovine 35:27
Right.

Martin Hoeger 35:27
place.

Angela Giovine 35:28
Right.

Martin Hoeger 35:28
You know, let's pivot and make sure we give people what they want. So it's still as enjoyable, you know, if you look on the walls I have, you know, this amazing painting behind me here is uh one of my friends…

Angela Giovine 35:43
And it's, painted right on the wall. It's not hanging.

Martin Hoeger 35:46
No.it is, it is, it is a canvas.

Angela Giovine 35:48
Oh, it's a canvas. Okay.

Martin Hoeger 35:49
Kind of tucked in there.

Angela Giovine 35:50
That's cloaked, coz the background of the picture is almost the same color as the background of the wall.

Martin Hoeger 35:54
Yeah. Yeah, that's actually one of the pieces that, made me want to hang local art. A friend of mine, I was at his house and he just kind of lived in this room with all these amazing, huge canvases…

Angela Giovine 36:08
Right.

Martin Hoeger 36:08
around him. And, I was there one day, and I was like, you know, this stuff shouldn't be just sitting in your room. [Crosstalking}

Angela Giovine 36:13
We're not talking about pictures that are landscapes of trees.

Martin Hoeger 36:16
Yes…

Angela Giovine 36:17
We're talking… This is, an abstract type…

Martin Hoeger 36:21
Yeah, it's kind of an abstract, kind of…. uh…

Angela Giovine 36:24
Cartoon style, caricature style…

Martin Hoeger 36:27
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 36:28
Very bright.

Martin Hoeger 36:30
And you know, what's funny is id-I never realized but the name of this painting. I didn't find out till like three or four years in, is, the Steam Monster.

Angela Giovine 36:38
Oh, really? The Steam Monster.

Martin Hoeger 36:41
Ahhhhhhmm

Angela Giovine 36:41
And you just happen to pick it.

Martin Hoeger 36:42
Yeah, I was like, can I you know, can I buy that and, and hanging on the wall?

Angela Giovine 36:46
That's awesome.

Martin Hoeger 36:47
Yeah. So am, so yeah, so all the art on the wall is, local artists. A lot of the people that work here, and we sell it. So, it's it's kind of a venue for them to…

Angela Giovine 36:59
That's cool.

Martin Hoeger 37:00
Keep their their drive alive. And and uh you know, and I say there's a 10% fee that we take but we never take it. That's just kind of like to deter deter the people that probably shouldn't be hanging on the wall,.

Angela Giovine 37:14
Right.

Martin Hoeger 37:14
I think. But yeah, so, you know, our one bartender Johnnie Groves who goes by new ink, I can't keep the stuff on the wall.

Angela Giovine 37:22
Oh, that's awesome.

Martin Hoeger 37:23
As soon as he puts it up, he's selling it. Yeah, he just did it. Ben Simmons. You might have seen it on social media. So… Ben Simmons tweeted Instagram about it, and tweeted about it. He, when LeBron and the Cavs came and played the Sixers, there is a post that Ben Simmons put up and said he may be the king but on the Fresh Prince.

Angela Giovine 37:44
Okay,

Martin Hoeger 37:45
So after that game, John painted a picture of Ben Simmons as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Angela Giovine 37:51
Like dressed like the Fresh Prince.

Martin Hoeger 37:53
Yeah. With the whole thing in the back. You know, the neon colors in the back. So, he uh actually, a friend of his presented- it to Ben Simmons a couple weeks ago, at the Fan Fest uh down at 97.5. And he loved it and instagrammed about it. And…

Angela Giovine 38:11
Oh, that's cool.

Martin Hoeger 38:12
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 38:12
That's really cool. So, really unique art, and people… are obviously recognizing that because they're buying the art off the wall.

Martin Hoeger 38:20
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 38:21
That's awesome.

Martin Hoeger 38:21
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 38:22
And, again…

Martin Hoeger 38:23
It helps if they've had a couple drinks in them.

Angela Giovine 38:25
Sure. Sure. And then the music. So, have you gotten up on your own stage and performed?

Martin Hoeger 38:31
Yeah, I did. We did. We did a couple shows, early on. We did the first Halloween party. We did the first anniversary party, but then it got to be, It kind of got to be a thing where I wanted, I-I enjoy both separately. And to be the boss all day and then kind of put on my rockstar hat, for… an hour and a half, two hours and then put the boss hat back on.

Angela Giovine 38:55
Right. Exhausting?

Martin Hoeger 38:56
Yeah, a little more stressful than I needed.

Angela Giovine 38:58
Got it.

Martin Hoeger 38:58
Like, Ik-I choose to kind of keep them separate now.

Angela Giovine 39:00
Okay.

Martin Hoeger 39:01
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 39:01
Are you still performing or?

Martin Hoeger 39:03
Yeah, yeah, we probably once a month, once every six weeks we'll play in the city. I think our last gig in the city was Union Transfer.

Angela Giovine 39:11
Oh Okay.

Martin Hoeger 39:12
Open it up for buddies of ours from LA. So yeah, still still kind of doing it.

Angela Giovine 39:16
That's, that's awesome.

Martin Hoeger 39:17
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 39:17
Especially that you can find the time at this point to… continue that passion.

Martin Hoeger 39:22
It's good for my soul.

Angela Giovine 39:23
Yeah, I can, I can understand it.

Martin Hoeger 39:25
I need it.

Angela Giovine 39:25
Sure. Sure.

Martin Hoeger 39:26
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 39:27
So the growth from 2011 to 2018, would you characterize it as a steady growth? Have you seen certain big domino things that have sort of catapulted you, into new growth modes, as you said, you're expanding the restaurants. So clearly, you're still growing?

Martin Hoeger 39:46
Yeah. We've been very lucky that even though we opened very successfully, that we've also had a steady period of growth over six years. So, we grow about 5% per year. Which is kind of ridiculous in my eyes because with it with a restaurant it's not it's not like any other business where, you're kind of confined to… your space, you know?

Angela Giovine 40:11
Sure. Sure. So the revenue for customer has to go up. It's not like you can always add more people.

Martin Hoeger 40:17
Yeah. Exactly. Am…You can, you can try to promote different times of day, you know lunch, catering, things like that…

Angela Giovine 40:23
Brunch.

Martin Hoeger 40:24
Yeah brunch. But

Angela Giovine 40:23
Yeah sure. To open later

Martin Hoeger 40:26
But It's basically handcuffed by what what your capacity is. So we're very lucky in the way. And we try to… put our money back in the business as much as possible. You know, keep things fresh, keep you know, re-doing the bathrooms, keep painting the place,keep doing little things that'll change. Plans to… expand our deck, this we double the- doubling the size of the deck which will coincide with A rails a trails program that's gonna happen

Angela Giovine 40:54
Oh cool!

Martin Hoeger 40:55
In the next year, which will replace the roller trucks outfront with a walking and biking path.

Angela Giovine 41:01
Oh cool!

Martin Hoeger 41:02
Uh part of the circuit for Philly.

Angela Giovine 41:03
Oh really, that's awesome.

Martin Hoeger 41:05
Yeah. For now it will go…from basically about am F mile up the road is the start of it and will go all the way down to Foxchase and then ultimately to Tacony and then from Tacony they're building one that will run up and down

Angela Giovine 41:21
Oh that's great to hear

Martin Hoeger 41:22
to Delaware. Yeah uhm there's already one kind of pressure – there'll be a whole circuit, eventually when they're all finished there'll be a whole circuit all the way through the Northern, Western, Eastern suburbs, Sou uh Southern suburbs of Philly into the Center Philly.

Angela Giovine 41:38
That's awesome.

Martin Hoeger 41:39
Yeah, very cool.Uhm so, the deck expansion's going along with that, you know well have like a nice step down to the trail, we'll have some bike racks, you know, water troll for dogs, all those and we'll try to do some healthier, quicker options for menu items, as well,

Angela Giovine 41:57
Got it.

Martin Hoeger 41:57 to try to coincide with that. So, taken what's given to us, and kind of trying to cease those moments

Angela Giovine 42:03
Yeah, you kind of have to keep reasessing the way of the land

Martin Hoeger 42:06
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 42:07
and figure out where you can optimise and find more opportunity.

Martin Hoeger 42:10
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 42:11
You mentioned earlier a big reason you felt it was time to go out on you own was because you no longer felt challenged.

Martin Hoeger 42:17
Yes.

Angela Giovine 42:17
How, as a business owner, do you keep yourself in that place where you feel like you're finding yourself a new challenge and and continuing to, be stimulated by what you do?

Martin Hoeger 42:29
Funny you ask, coz I-I feel like I'm kind of going through that now, where… I I feel like I'm in need of a new challenge.

Angela Giovine 42:35
Okay.

Martin Hoeger 42:36
You know, which can come in in many different ways. Can come in new business, it can come in doing something different with the current business we have. The way I kind of do things again going back to like you know my early childhood upbringing, I'm bit of hippie that way that like energy is a big thing for me.

Angela Giovine 42:52
Sure.

Martin Hoeger 42:53
So I just kind of let the universe point me in the right direction and when it feels right, I'm gonna I'm gonna jump at it. I've been kind of putting myself there over the last year or so but nothings kind of grab me so, hopefully soon enough, something will spark something…

Angela Giovine 43:07
You find it, are you someone who… tries a bunch of things or are you pretty disciplined about the projects that you take on?

Martin Hoeger 43:16
Um, I would say I'm open to a lot of things, but whether I'd try them or jump in to them, I'm probably a little more disciplined. I-I-I like I said I kind of have to believe in it to really kind of put my full self into it.

Angela Giovine 43:31
Will you analyse it before you start

Martin Hoeger 43:33
Oh yeah.

Angela Giovine 43:33
or do you lead more with the gut?

Martin Hoeger 43:35
Uhh… huh

Angela Giovine 43:37
Like will you put up like a profit and loss together for yourself before you do a project or i-it's more like you've been in this long enough that you know you could do a back of the envelope type of math and figure out if it's worth doing?

Martin Hoeger 43:50
Yeah back of the envelope is me. That's my, yeah. Once it's all going, then I'll sit down and uh I'll do the full

Angela Giovine 43:56
Tweak

Martin Hoeger 43:57
Yeah. I'll do the full profit and loss and lay it out that way, but I'm more of uh a gut like yeah uh we can do this uh you know.

Angela Giovine 44:05
Have there been projects that you started and abandoned?

Martin Hoeger 44:09
Yes, yeah, definitely. Uh..over the last uh 2 or 3 years, yeah. there's been some stuff that's that's uh I mean it's never gotten to… break a mortar stage but ideas, yeah.

Angela Giovine 44:20
Ideas you've explored and then said this isn't worth it.

Martin Hoeger 44:22
Yeah. The feeling wasn't right, you know, something about it kinda just thistled out for me. And that's I said that's that's the my energy kind of stop of it

Angela Giovine 44:32
Right, right.

Martin Hoeger 44:22
Uh if it's not right, I feel like it's forced. If I'm not the one forcing it, then it's it's not right.

Angela Giovine 44:39
Right.

Martin Hoeger 44:40
Um, If it's feeling force from any other…

Angela Giovine 44:42
Got it.

Martin Hoeger 44:43
Yeah

Angela Giovine 44:44
So you have 2 partners now, today. Right?

Martin Hoeger 44:48
True. Yes.

Angela Giovine 44:49
And they're both original.

Martin Hoeger 44:50
Today is what?

Martin Hoeger 44:53
Still 2, yeah.

Angela Giovine 44:54
Still 2 and they're your original partners.

Martin Hoeger 44:56
Ya!

Angela Giovine 44:57
So that's a feat, to work with people for such a long period of time and, be equals and and stand each other and and work through those many would call that relationship as difficult marriage

Martin Hoeger 45:10
Yeah. P-probably a little more difficult because there's not the intimacy,

Angela Giovine 45:14
Right.

Martin Hoeger 45:15
to kinda bring it back

Angela Giovine 44:16
No one loves anyone.

Martin Hoeger 45:17
Yeah. Uh yeah. You could say you do, but uh yeah least in a marriage or relationship there's that you kinda get back to the ground zero uh

Angela Giovine 44:27
Now you mentioned, Mike, that the chef, was your buddy, more difficult, or less difficult that you had a personal relationship with him before you became partners?

Martin Hoeger 45:37
Well, we had known ours we had known each other for about 35 years at this, at that point, sorry 32 33 years. So, I would say to navigate it, was a little of both really. It was either easier to have those conversations and kind of work through things because you knew the dynamics of the person for so long, but to try to keep it separated from friendship to business partner was very difficult. So even, even when he left, it was uh it was uh sordid effort of mine to really make sure that it never showered uh

Angela Giovine 46:11
The friendship.

Martin Hoeger 46:11
Yeah, he felt valued in, the part he played in building it, an, that, and we live we live 2 doors away from each other.

Angela Giovine 46:22
Wow! You weren't getting away from each other anywhere.

Martin Hoeger 46:26
Yeah.I-I'd have to live with him anyway. Yeah, you know our kids are friends and, our wives are friends and, you know it was a big..

Angela Giovine 46:34
Adjustment.

Martin Hoeger 46:35
Adjustment. Yeah, for sure.

Angela Giovine 46:36
And how long ago did that happen?

Martin Hoeger 46:37
Uh.. I think, about 3 years

Angela Giovine 46:39
Okay.

Martin Hoeger 46:39
we moved from that, town. Maybe three and a half?

Angela Giovine 46:42
I'm sure you can't fully replace, a partner but, you're able to

Martin Hoeger 46:46
No.

Angela Giovine 46:47
make it work.

Martin Hoeger 46:48
Yes. So,thankfully set up a great system, within the the back of the house, uh he was kind of in an executive chef role, we had a head chef that was, uh always worked underneath him, so, when he finally left, we, went back and rehired one of our old head chefs that we uh really enjoyed working with, uh Chef Brennan Glassby, He was at the, fop at the time. He was looking to move and do something

Angela Giovine 47:17
Right.

Martin Hoeger 46:18
new, and I-I remember saying to him, he came walking to my office for an interview, and I said Bren I'm not letting you leave this room until you

Angela Giovine 47:26
Accept this job.

Martin Hoeger 47:27
are my chef. You know,

Angela Giovine 47:29
That's awesome.

Martin Hoeger 47:29
And he like, Okay.

Angela Giovine 47:31
That's awesome. So you were able, when you lost a partner when you were able to absorb it among the three of you and not bring on another partner.

Martin Hoeger 47:38
Yeah. Yeah. Thankfully.

Angela Giovine 47:39
And your other partners, you were friendly with before you became partners but not as close.

Martin Hoeger 47:45
Yeah, nah,I mean were, we work together, we weren't bestfriends, I wasn't calling Tom about my…

Angela Giovine 47:50
Got it, got it. So, I mean a dynamic of 3, is that a challenge? Is it, do you find that each of you have very different opinions, you usually have the same opinion as one person always.

Martin Hoeger 48:02
There's, I mean there's time to time, there's you know different obstacles to to overcome. I'm always kind of the doer. I, That's just my personality. I need to be in it, I need to be, you know sink my teeth into it and kinda, have it tangibly infront of me

Angela Giovine 48:18
Right.

Martin Hoeger 48:18
kinda working. So, I guess in that dynamic I was, kinda took the brawn of it. I was working a lot, I was, you know, so there there may have been a I guess hierarchy kind of put in place before that.

Angela Giovine 48:32
Meaning… the person's opinion might be, your opinion might be waited a little bit more heavily because you are actually in it.

Martin Hoeger 48:42
Right. I'm trying to, yeah what I'm trying to dance around is as softly as possible not downplay what they did. I'm just, It was just, they nature the beast.

Angela Giovine 48:50
Right.Sure.

Martin Hoeger 48:51
You know, these guys tend to call me dad, you know.

Angela Giovine 48:54
Right.

Martin Hoeger 48:55
Cause I kind of have that…

Angela Giovine 48:56
Right,right,right the one you hear all the time.

Martin Hoeger 48:57
Yeah, yeah.

Angela Giovine 48:58
Sure, that makes sense.

Martin Hoeger 48:59
Um and they don't want to disappoint me, you know.

Angela Giovine 49:00
Right,right.

Martin Hoeger 49:01
You know, But there is times you know that dynamic can get

Angela Giovine 49:05
Yeah.

Martin Hoeger 49:05
skewed and the you know it's there's a lot, there's a lot to 3 personalities running a business.

Angela Giovine 49:11
Sure.

Martin Hoeger 49:11
You know and it's a lot give and take, and it's a lot of uh, understanding and it's kind of a lot of figuring out everybody's role and allowing them to kind of do that

Angela Giovine 49:22
Right.

Martin Hoeger 49:22
and try not to step on everybody's horse off of your opinion but you know, kind of have faith in who they are.

Angela Giovine 49:29
hmmmm, that makes sense.

Martin Hoeger 49:30
Am, Yeah.

Angela Giovine 49:31
So, we talked about what the most gratifying thing is, for you in terms of, being able to play a part in your employee's lives. What's the hardest, or the least favorite thing that you, that you had to do as a business owner?

Martin Hoeger 49:47
Depositions.

Angela Giovine 49:49
Legal, legal. That happens?

Martin Hoeger 49:52
They'd happens, yeah, I mean were in a lascivious world.

Angela Giovine 49:54
Yeah, yeah.

Martin Hoeger 49:55
So, it's uh.

Angela Giovine 49:57
It's emotional

Martin Hoeger 49:58
It is. And to remove your emotions from it, is really the kinda the trick. Which uh can be tough when somebody's suing you or you know, or you know let's say, bullshit

Angela Giovine 50:12
Yeah.

Martin Hoeger 50:12
claim.

Angela Giovine 50:13
Right.

Martin Hoeger 50:13
You know, you know but that's why you pay the you know, there's 2 people we pay in this world. You pay you accountant, you pay your lawyer.

Angela Giovine 50:19
Right.

Martin Hoeger 50:20
You pay them well.

Angela Giovine 50:21
Right. Right, right. You find someone who's good

Martin Hoeger 50:23
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 50:24
Who do you go to for advise, maybe there are times where you don't want, I mean you're probably talking about with your partners but sometimes, you just need someone with a clear head to help you think through things. Who are people in your life that you go to?

Martin Hoeger 50:38
Uh… well you know, kind of timely but um you know my father was, one of them. I recently just lost my father couple months ago. He always had this way of.. being very, fair in his judgement, but very thought out as well. Like he he wouldn't be quick to give you an answer. Uh he would kinda take what your throwing at him and go, okay and, it maybe a day later before he goes back uh oh you know, this is what I think you should do. So, you know like I said we've lost him a couple of months back so that, is a void.

Angela Giovine 51:13
Sure.

Martin Hoeger 51:13
Um but you know, my old boss Jerry and his ex wife who was basically his, CFO of this company uh lean on a lot, you know we call them, coz they've been through they've been in the business. You know, me and my wife have those conversations nightly on the couch which I tried to stop. There was a time where I made my couch the safe zone like

Angela Giovine 51:35
Right.

Martin Hoeger 51:38
when I'm not allowed to talk about Steam. She's our bookkeeper, she's our accountant, so she is in the business and she knows the troubles there has so we talked through it a lot.

Angela Giovine 51:44
So people who are really close in your family really.

Martin Hoeger 51:47
Yeah, yeah

Angela Giovine 51:48
And someone who helped you get into the business

Martin Hoeger 51:50
Yeah

Angela Giovine 51:51
potentially.

Martin Hoeger 51:52
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 51:53
Interesting.

Martin Hoeger 51:54
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 51:54
So, I always ask these 2 question, finish this sentence, I would not be standing here today, if not for…

Martin Hoeger 52:03
Uh I would not be standing here today, if not for my father. The lessons in life that he taught me through doing and, you know he works 18 hours a day, most of my life where I learned by example how to work hard and Steam will not be here today if I didn't have that example and have that work ethic.

Angela Giovine 52:24
Awesome.

Martin Hoeger 52:25
Yeah.

Angela Giovine 52:26
And what is one piece of advice you would give your eighteen year old self?

Martin Hoeger 52:31
Ah huh… uh, go to college.

Angela Giovine 52:34
Go to college. Really?

Martin Hoeger 52:36
Yeah. Uh I'm a I I never went to college. I was, I was signed to my first record contract in March of my senior year in high school, so I had a little bit of different uh road to life, you know, I-I was on the road for 18 years, so, I never got to experience college in that way. I got to experience of many colleges, but uh only for about night or two uh at a time. Uhm so, yeah I think, higher learning and higher education, I would tell myself to, you know kinda bury down and do it.

Angela Giovine 53:12
Do you think you would be, a restaurant owner?

Martin Hoeger 53:15
Probably not.

Angela Giovine 53:16
Probably not.

Martin Hoeger 53:17
Uh I would I would probably be an architect.

Angela Giovine 53:20
Interesting.

Martin Hoeger 53:21
Yeah

Angela Giovine 53:23
Well thank you very much for the interview

Martin Hoeger 53:25
Yeah absolutely. Thank you. It was a lot of fun.

What you've read here is a transcript from Extra/Ordinary Small Business Podcast.

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