Question & Answers with Chef J Stephen



Why do celebrity chefs like Gordan Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain dislike vegetarians & vegetarianism and diss them so much?

Because it severely limits your eating options. To use another example, if you told those same chefs you only eat meat, you would get the same reaction.

To a chef (and the millions of foodies in the world), dining is much more than simply re-fueling your body. There are so many ways to craft unique dishes that please the palate.

To a chef, limiting your diet, eliminates so many possibilities to enjoy the experience of sampling all the great dishes crafted by chefs (and home cooks).


What do we look for in a employee? The interview questions we ask for front of the house candidates and back of the house candidates may surprise you?


For me, the key ingredient for front or back is always attitude. A person can be taught process. They cannot be taught attitude. Whether it’s cleaning floors or crafting a soufflé, I want someone that is driven to craft a masterpiece that will assuredly provide the ultimate guest experience.

With regards to capabilities, we do follow a few guidelines.

For chef’s, I have found that offering externships for the local Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Dallas is the ideal way to get classically trained chef’s that have not yet formed bad habits.

Our biggest challenge is servers. Our fine dining Forney, TX Bistro is in a town that does not have any other fine dining establishments. Accordingly, we have a hard time finding servers that understand the difference between food delivery (which is what you get at most chains) and fine dining. In this case, I would rather train a new server from scratch. More time consuming but more rewarding to our guests in the end.

I also want someone who has compassion for others and easily assimilates with other team members. I learned many years ago, that one employee who has a bad attitude can quickly destroy a team.

My favorite questions are ones that Apple’s retail boss Angela Ahrendts uses in her interview process.

ME vs. WE
I want to gain insight into how they see themselves in the world.
• How big is their ego and what role does it play in their everyday life?
• Do they focus their energy on being an individual contributor, or on connecting and enabling a wider group?
• Do they care more about their own success or about the greater good of the whole?
Ask simple questions about their family, friends, peers, personal interests, sports, spirituality, and community to glean a better understanding of their true motivation and leadership attributes. This is usually the easy part, because people love to talk about themselves.

Two of our favorite quotes that sum up our leadership philosophies. See how the candidate responds to these:
A great coach used to say, “When ordinary people connect, extraordinary things can happen.”

One of my favorite quotes is from management expert Gary Hamel, who was once asked, “How will you know if you are a great leader?” He replied, “Turn around and see if anyone is following you.”

IQ vs. EQ
Now that they are comfortable and their guard is down, you want to understand how they naturally navigate in the world.
• Do they typically think or feel first?
• Do they instinctively use their head or their heart?
Ask a few business questions about how they handle challenging situations and optimize opportunities. Ask what their team and peers would say about them to gain deeper perspective on how balanced they are intellectually and emotionally.
Once you have satisfied that they are knowledgeable in their field, you’ll want to make sure they are culturally compatible. Are they empathetic, compassionate, caring and giving of their mind and heart?
A quote  from Maya Angelou is what you should be looking for in every hire: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” You want to sense if they truly care about the impact they make on people.

LEFT BRAIN (create pristine stacks) vs. RIGHT BRAIN (have a natural urge to sprawl and display)
You should then go a little deeper to discover what lens they look at the world through.
• Do they lean into analysis or their instincts? Do they get into details, or carry on a more conceptual conversation?
• Do they make linear decisions, are they a creative thinker, or do they use their whole mind?
Then go back to asking more personal questions, as you’ll find that you can better assess their left brain-right brain balance by understanding what they studied, what they do in their spare time.
• What do they read, watch, listen to?
• Do they light up when talking about the arts, their kids?
A company’s success is predicated on you putting the right people in the right place at the right time. You know what you need, and you need to find out who they truly are so both can thrive over the long term.

A good example of this is where we place our chef’s. Most new chef’s will tell you that they are equally proficient as a savory chef (cook) or pastry chef (baker). But through experience, I have learned that right brain persons make better savory chef’s and left brain people make the best pastry chefs.

Lastly, learn what guides them in the world, or frames their reference points.
• How much do they look to the past for trends, and how aware are they of the underlying influences impacting their business today?
• Do they have an opinion on the future and how their organization and strategies will need to evolve to keep pace? Are they adverse to or do they thrive on change?
This is how you should wrap up the interview, and before they leave it is important to let them know how you feel.
If you loved them,  tell them so and say you look forward to continuing the conversation. If they are not right for the position, it is best to be honest while you are together so they don’t get their hopes up. Always treat them as you want to be treated, and make sure they leave feeling positive even though they are not right for the current position. It is important we all sleep at night and that they leave with respect for themselves and the company.
Good luck, and remember: Building a brilliant team is your job. Nothing you do is more important or adds more value.

If they pass these questions, only then do we explore their actual hands-on capabilities.

J Stephen

Cinnamon May Be Much More Than Just Another Pretty Face!

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We use plenty of cinnamon in our cakes. Most home bakers don’t realize that there are many different types of cinnamon that produce many different flavors. The finest cinnamon is Saigon Cinnamon and that is the only cinnamon we use. It produces a rich, full bodied flavor that is much improved over the common cinnamon sold in most U.S. stores.

But, did you know that any cinnamon you use boosts metabolism in your fat cells?
In a study, recently published by researchers from the University of Michigan, researchers found that cinnamaldehyde (the base oil that gives cinnamon its flavor) has a direct effect on fat cells in humans.

Their tests confirmed that exposure to cinnamon oil triggered human fat cells to start burning calories through the process known as thermogenesis. In addition, that cinnamaldehyd increased the activity of not only the fat cells but also several genes, enzymes and proteins that are known to enhance fat metabolism.

Fat cells store energy in the form of lipids. This stored energy is used by the body during periods of food shortage, or converted to heat during cold periods.

But in todays society, where we don’t usually run into food shortages or exposure to cold, that same stored energy has nowhere to go and is instead converted into unwanted weight gain. Researchers at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute, believe that consuming cinnamon on a regular basis may be one way to make fat cells burn some of that excess energy.

Although the study looked not on an actual human bodies but at the fat cells directly, more research will be needed to confirm exactly how cinnamon actually effects the body but the implications of burning some of that excess energy is an exciting find.

So keep that cinnamon shaker busy. It just might help in the battle of the bulge.

Why we don’t offer straws at our international bistro



Guests who have had the pleasure of dining at our International Bistro in Forney, TX may have noticed that we NEVER place a straw in their drink. We do offer straws, but only upon request. Why? Read on…

Many would think that this is simply a cost saving strategy however, they would be entirely wrong. Straws are actually very inexpensive, but they cost us all down the line. There are actually two reasons for our “upon request only” policy. But first, a little history of the straw is in order.

The plastic straw is a simple tool originally designed to make drinking easier and “supposedly” hygienically safer. The first straws were made of rye grass. Produced naturally, they were, like most products produced before the 1900s, biodegradable.

Picked from the fields, the manufacturing process as described by the book The Small Grains was pretty basic; “After bleaching, the straws are assorted by hand, each individual stalk being examined, and the imperfect ones removed. They are then cut, the five lower joints only being utilized for drinking purposes. The sheaths are then removed, and the straw washed and bound into bundles ready for the market.”

Although widely used at their introduction, the problem with rye straws was twofold: (1) The straws affected the taste of the drinks and (2) they had a tendency to disintegrate into whatever beverage you were drinking.

The next iteration of the straw was the paper straw. Most baby boomers will remember the candy cane striped straw offered at their local malt shop. Although biodegradable, they had one serious problem. Made from paper and coated in beeswax, they didn’t negatively affect the taste of the beverage like rye straws, but they did eventually disintegrate in the beverages AND they were unable to stand up to thick shakes, malts and most recently slurpees. By the 1960s, along came the marvel of science, so popular that we continue to use them today in a multitude of shapes and sizes, the plastic straw.

But for Crumbzz, although it may be a marvel of science, the plastic straw harbors two negatives that are against everything we stand for.

If you noticed in the third paragraph of this post, we inserted the word “supposedly” when speaking about the sanitary benefits of drinking from a straw (versus drinking directly from a cup or glass). That is because multiple studies have shown, contrary to public opinion, drinking straws are actually LESS sanitary then drinking from the glass. This has to do with their storage and handling prior to use and the fact that most restaurants use sanitizers when washing dishes and glasses.

With no apparent sanitary benefits to using a straw, this brings us to the next big issue, the environment.  As most of our clients and guests know, we are laser focused on being a good caretaker of the environment. In fact it is actually a major part of our mission statement which states: “Crumbzz will be a caretaker of the environment, leaving as small a footprint as possible while sharing in its success by donating a portion of its profits to encourage fair trade, sustainable farming and environmentally sound practices.”

This doesn’t mean we should ban straws to prevent them from polluting the environment, but it’s clear we should carefully think about changing our drinking habits. Before you ask for that straw, remember that straw you use in your drink doesn’t biodegrade, and stays around forever, and usually ends up floating in the ocean, where it becomes a danger to all ocean living animals.

Now that you know it can actually be less sanitary than drinking from a glass, is it that much harder to drink your beverage from a cup or glass?

It doesn’t seem like a big thing but the world is changed by millions of little things and the problem with straws are that they’re so insignificant that we usually take them for granted. Perhaps we shouldn’t.

J Stephen Sadler

Considering a culinary arts school, before you do, read on.


We have hired several newly “minted” chefs directly from culinary schools usually through an internship program. In every case culinary students find their biggest challenge to be timing and pressure. They have the knowledge to create dishes from scratch (a valuable tool for an Executive Chef) but can only understand the pressures a commercial chef faces by working in an actual commercial kitchen environment. Don’t get me wrong, I continue to view the hiring of culinary students through intern programs a valuable tool and find qualified students who continue to advance in their career at our bistros and bakery. However, my first hand experience is that, despite all those newly learned skills and knowledge, only one out of three will make it in the industry.
Before you spend the money, you need to ask yourself three key questions that will tell you if you are right for the chef position
Question One –  Do you thrive under “blow and go” pressure and love having new challenges thrown at you from left to right? A yes answer allows you to move on to Question Two.
Question Two – Can you maintain a clear mind and balanced personality with the ability to inspire people to push themselves to the limit day in and day out? If you answered yes, fantastic! Move on to Question Three.
Question Three – Can you consistently produce quality dishes that not only taste great but also look fantastic each time?
If you have answered yes to these three questions, you may just be chef material.

Now you can move on becoming a chef.
Culinary school is a valuable (but not necessary) tool if you plan to move up to Executive Chef. As mentioned above, it provides you with valuable knowledge on the “how to” of creating and in some cases, saving dishes. It will also give you a pretty good idea if you want to be a savory chef (cook) or pastry chef (baker) two very different professions.

Working in a commercial kitchen is a “required” tool to get in and move up in the industry. And we’re not talking in a chain, which will only teach you how to heat up and serve food.
If you plan on making this your career, it’s better to start out in prep for free in a fine dining restaurant then get paid to work as a “head chef” in a chain.

If you have answered yes to my three questions, get into a fine dining restaurant doing anything you can. Watch, listen and learn. Move up through the ranks. Experience is a more valuable asset than culinary school at this stage. Don’t get me wrong, culinary school is a valuable arrow to have in your quiver, but experience is the bow. It will tell you if you’re cut out for the business, what area you excel in, all while providing you with added chits for your resume. Think of experience as the cake, culinary school as the frosting. It should be the finishing touches to position you in a very rewarding industry that, although extremely challenging is also extremely rewarding.
Good Luck.

J Stephen

Why do all restaurant waiters tell me their names?

Watress Two Older Guests

The answer to this question is simple…. Tips. Research has clearly shown that when a server states their name they become a real person to the guest. When they kneel down, touch your shoulder, speak to your kids, they further personalize themselves, all resulting in increased tips.

You might stiff a faceless “food deliverer” but almost never a person you are acquainted with.

This may sound like a cold hearted fact but doing these things is actually a win/win for all parties. The server makes more money (usually) and believe me they work hard for every penny they get, the guest feels special and the proprietor has provided a service that will assure their guest will come back to that special place that treats them so well.

Where the system breaks down is when the process is institutionalized. When chain restaurants all “train” their staff to follow “standardized” welcoming rules, they become rote and lose their meaning. Servers then “blindly follow” their “training” without thinking because it’s the “rule”.

At our Forney, TX European Bistro, we ask our servers to treat people like they have just come in to visit them at their home. Do those thing that will personalize you to your guests, but do them because you mean it, just as if you are talking to a friend.

Not easy to do when you have a line of guests waiting to be seated, looking for refills and awaiting their dishes. But that’s the art of being a professional server. Understanding who needs attention and the attention they require is an art not a process. Chains who are all about systems and controls often lose site of that fact.

J Stephen

Eating alone at a fancy restaurant. One simple change can make a difference!


I personally like to eat alone on some occasions, especially when I’m working on business issues that I need to think through. One of the things I do hate is when hosts make you feel like a loser when they ask “JUST one?” The question makes one feel as if, you really can’t find even one more person to dine with?

At our European Bistro in Forney Texas,  I always have my team ask “will anyone be joining you?” When the guest says no, we say “great, let me clear these settings so you have a bit more room.”

I believe this simple change makes our single dining guests feel welcome and comfortable.

J Stephen

Do many/any nice restaurants serve meals to a table “one-at-a-time-when hot” vs. all-at-the-same-time? What is the general restaurant trend around this?

Server Delivering Food

Our chef’s are all classically trained from Le Cordon Bleu. Although classically trained, when they start with us (or any restaurant for that matter) the most challenging task they immediately face is the ability to create AND provide all dishes simultaneously. This is when most aspiring chef’s “wash out” (decide that being a chef is not for them).

Delivering dishes on time goes beyond one dish and one ticket. It includes the monitoring of multiple tickets all with multiple dishes. Most chef’s use several timers to help achieve this. Our kitchen features multiple staff members, all gliding from task to task, reacting to multiple timers, to assure that each table is served as quickly as possible in a timely manner. Granted, we make all our dishes from scratch which only add’s to the complexity of the assignment and in order to cut down on the complexity and time to provide dishes, many kitchens pre-make many of their dishes. However, the basic challenge still remains.
A great example of this is the following scenario for a seemingly simple party of five breakfast at our European Bistro in Forney, TX: Our sample order consists of five dishes; (1) waffles, (1) pancakes, (1) soufflé, (1) eggs Benedict and (1) oatmeal.  Seems simple, right? Well lets give you a little insight into just what goes into crafting those dishes.
Our chef’s know that the waffles take 4 minutes, the pancakes 11 minutes, the soufflé 20 minutes, the Eggs Benedict 4 minutes to poach the eggs, 16 minutes to bake the crab cakes and the oatmeal takes 8 minutes to cook, 1 minute to slice the fruit and 3 minutes to brûlée. In addition, our chef’s are usually working multiple dishes at the same time.
This simple breakfast seems quite simple to the guest but involves great training on the part of the chef.  Now take that same ticket and multiply it by 20 tickets all in queue at once with some parties as large as 20 people! I believe that will help you understand what it means to be a chef and just what goes into providing those SIMPLE dishes all at once to your table.
Being a chef requires two often conflicting capabilities, intense focus as well as the ability to multi-task while under great pressure.
To assure all dishes come out simultaneously all cooked to perfection is the magic that separates the chef from the cook.
J Stephen

Where… What… When


Photo of the actual headline a photo on July 29, 2014 in Time Square NYC

As most of you who follow our posts know, we are big believers in PR over traditional advertising (ad placement). With that in mind, we thought you would be interested in a recent pr article we posted with the media. It’s an excellent study in getting the word out on your company in today’s media fragmented world.

For several years, we have been sending what we call Diplomacy Cakes to world figures who are in the middle of a dispute. With each cake is a gift card made to look like it came from the other aggrieved party, suggesting that they get together to discuss their differences.

The cost for this program is our cakes, packaging and shipping. We get no monetary benefit in return. On the surface, this might seem like a financially foolish move. But, there is value and sometimes that value can be much greater than the money we would receive from a two cake sale. You see when we send out these cakes, we also send out a pr piece to the media. On occasion, we may get some local media coverage but usually, they’re not picked up by the national media. But every once in a while you strike gold!

A case in point is our most recent Diplomacy Cake venture.

On July 29th, we sent out a pr piece on our latest shipment. On that date, we posted the following news release:

Is there a simple way to get Putin and Obama to agree on something?

Chef J Stephen Sadler of Crumbzz thinks so

With the recent events in Ukraine further highlighting the increasingly frosty relationship between Russia and the U.S., diplomats from both countries are looking for any areas of mutual agreement. Chef J Stephen Sadler, the Executive Chef and owner of Crumbzz, an artisan crumb cake provider from Dallas, TX, thinks he has the answer. “Instead of breaking bread together, I say, let them eat cake”. And Chef J Stephen puts his money, or in this case his cakes, where his mouth is. 

For the past several years Chef J Stephen’s company, Crumbzz, has been shipping his artisan created old world cinnamon streusel crumb cakes to warring factions around the world. “There may be disagreements that can’t be bridged, but everyone loves home made crumb cake and if you can get warring parties sharing in even one thing, that’s a start”, says Chef J Stephen. 

This isn’t the first time Crumbzz has shipped their diplomacy crumb cakes to disagreeing parties. Obama has been the lucky recipient three times, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have each received two Crumbzz cakes as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who have each received one.

Crumbzz does not restrict the gifting of its diplomacy crumb cakes to political parties. Corporate America is well represented by Apple’s Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and GE’s Jack Welch, media’s Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC and Roger Ailes Fox News Channel CEO have also received cakes. Even Hollywood and the sports world have received their share including; Kobe Bryant, Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr., to name just a few.

In an interesting twist, Crumbzz attaches a gold leafed gift card with each diplomacy crumb cake stating that the cake came from the warring party and suggesting that they get together to discuss their differences.

Lately, Chef J Stephen has been re-thinking his policy of sending his cakes to warring factions. With just a hint of sarcasm, Chef J Stephen states that “We may be fomenting world turmoil by encouraging world leaders to create an issue just to get another free Crumbzz Cake. Maybe in the future, we’ll send them a note stating that they’ll get their cakes once they settle their issues.”

Nonetheless, Crumbzz will be at it again, preparing to send Russian President Vladimir Putin his second cake and Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko his first. Add’s Chef J Stephen, “Hopefully they can use our cakes as an excuse to call each other and start their conversation about how much they enjoyed their cakes”.

A funny thing happened with this release. The headline “Crumbzz Crumb Cakes sends Diplomacy Cakes to Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko” along with a picture of our gift cakes, hit the Thomson Reuters big screen in Times Square!

What happened from there is true grass roots marketing at its best. With little or no marketing budget, one press release caused our phone to ring off the hook. People from across the country wanted to know how they too could send a pair of Diplomacy cakes to friends and family members who were in dispute.

Don’t get us wrong, not all calls were for orders.  We get plenty of emails and letters from people who think its a great idea and just as many who think we’re crazy. We’ve also gotten some wonderful letters from folks, thanking us for providing a tool to help them break the ice. But, the bottom line is, we’re getting plenty of attention from many folks who had never heard of Crumbzz before our release. To assure we maximize our coverage of this event, we even sent a follow up press release letting the local media know about our fortunate placement in the heart of New York City.

What made this release so newsworthy? Key words is the simple answer. No one cares about a crumb cake like we do. And believe us, although your product may be the highlight of your life, unless it’s another iPhone, no one will care about your product either. But key words on trending issues make news. And we used plenty. Vladimir Putin and President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and GE’s Jack Welch, Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC and Roger Ailes Fox News Channel CEO,  Kobe Bryant, Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. and of course Petro Poroshenko the President of Ukraine, were all mentioned. Each one of those names is trending and is picked up by thousands of media sources.

Was the program designed to generate media attention? No, the idea actually came over the dinner table while discussing an ongoing disagreement with a family member. We decided to send one of our cakes along with a note. And then like a bolt of lightning, it hit us, if it could work for our family, why not for other’s. Sending it to well known protagonists is where the pr value of the Diplomacy Cakes came in.

A Diplomacy Cake may not be the right strategy for your company, but you get the idea. You must stand out from the pack to get attention. In our case, sending Diplomacy Cakes fits our brand, is produced at minimal cost for potential maximum return and is, to be quite honest, fun to do.

J Stephen

3-Steps To A Vibrant Downtown


Most cities want to have a vibrant, destination downtown. Few find the keys to succeed in that goal. Why? One of the reasons is how they look at the problem. As a member of our towns downtown business association, I participate in several city downtown re-vitalization discussion groups across our state. The common theme on the posts is one of regulation. Clean it up and they will come… in droves.

It’s understandable that, as a public servant, city personnel’s first inclination is to respond to the challenge based on what they have been trained to do best… regulate. But you can’t regulate your way to success. Trying to revitalize a downtown by cleaning up the decrepit buildings through diligent code enforcement, is only one part of a successful plan.

Code enforcement covers the “penalty” portion of the equation but does little to “revitalize”.  An excellent analogy would be the removal of drugs from a drug user. Although an important element in their rehabilitation, it will never be successful without providing an alternative that replaces the urge. As with the drug user, decaying downtowns need an alternative to further decay and that alternative is a robust “business focused” incentive program.

Because there are no competitive do-or-die pressures similar to what a business person operates under, it is extremely hard for cities to view downtown re-vitalization thorough the prism of a businessperson. Accordingly, most cities view incentives as give-aways with no clear return on investment.

In addition, the political ramifications can be daunting. On the surface, incentives can easily be made to look like special interests and corporate payoffs by political opponents. It takes a strong politician, who is committed to re-development to stand up against those who would use those very incentives as a campaign issue. Even when a business has been “landed” and is doing well, it is extremely hard to show that the incentive was the difference maker. That is why so many towns “talk” re-vitalization, but don’t have the will power to move forward on a comprehensive re-vitalization plan.

Unfortunately, you will never get business participation with more regulations. Because of their very nature, business abhors regulations. Anything that slows them down and prevents them from running their business, will be viewed instinctively as an unnecessary hindrance.  That doesn’t mean cities should relinquish all regulations It simply means that they use them along with a robust incentive program.

In addition, it’s imperative that the city get the business community involved before exercising radical changes (e.g. polling existing proprietors about unsightly storefronts or dilapidated buildings). If the city makes the business community part of the solution, they will have a much greater chance of buy-in and success.

Cities must think like a business owner. Not an easy task for those who have been in the public sector most of their lives. “If I was a business owner, what would it take to get me involved?” That should be the first question a city should ask. “If I’m struggling to make ends meet, what could I, my co-owners and the city do that would provide me with the best return on my investment”.

The city must understand that since the city will still exist if an investment goes south but a business would quite possibly go out of business if that same plan fails, the level of scrutiny is much higher in the business world. When offering incentives, cities must not look at them as a city giveaway but instead should look at them as the business  owner. The question should be, what is the level of risk for me, the business owner, versus the level of return for me. If the risk level, relative to the return, is too great, the plan will never move forward. Ask yourself, if I lost my job because the program was a failure, would I be so quick to engage?

In most cases, businesses will have to see some level of success (or some type of guarantee) before they will commit. Creating incentive programs alone will not do the trick. The city must be engaged. It must not only be an active participant but, especially at the onset, be the driver, with business buy in and participation at every step, to make it happen.

In addition, the city must publicize the progress that has had a direct effect on the business owners bottom line (present or future), not just the city’s goals. No one wants to jump on board the titanic, even if it has the best deck lounge chairs. Everyone want’s to be part of a winner. Let all know, when you have a winner.

Unfortunately, that means that a city often has to initiate and fund the first moves, building a track record that can show quantifiable success. It doesn’t always have to be in the bottom line. New benches, event signs, tree lined streets, street banners, downtown events all show that the city is alive and moving forward. Renovation incentives, rent concessions to attract new businesses. Building facade incentives to “gussy up” existing businesses. All must be part of the mix.

Even the smallest success should be documented. Events, new facades, new business openings, new product mixes are newsworthy if presented in the proper vein. Get input from your local proprietors, talk to visitors and then send out a press release, using their quotes, to the local newspaper. Make sure your news articles are always written in the third person.

A discussion of why more business activity, equals more businesses, which in turn, equals more residents, that in the end, produces more papers sold, blogs read, etc. will help motivate your local newspaper, blogger, etc. to post all your press releases. The articles should speak about the success of the event (e.g. how many people attended, quotes from visitors and store owners, etc.). Your intent should be to create excitement. Show the success, through the eyes of  existing and potential business owners. Every one of those articles should be part of your press kit and new business package.

The next step is to build a coalition of business owners that will actively promote the town. Make sure you have doers not joiners at its head. In Forney, we created the Forney Downtown Business Association. Members are focused solely on downtown Forney. The camaraderie that has been established between the city, the EDC and the FDBA has resulted in fantastic changes in the downtown area. In its first year, the FDBA has successfully applied for and received hot funds to purchase street pole banners and event banners, purchased and installed building outline lighting for the entire downtown area (a project that required the use of city and FDBA membership funds), and is in the process of applying for TXDOT funds to line it’s streets with trees, bushes and planters (a project that the city is working closely with the FDBA to create a master going forward plan).

The success of the FDBA would not have come without the direct assistance and nurturing by the city and the EDC. The city removed all obstacles and assisted in funding on many of our projects.

Understanding that the funds spent today would nurture the new organization and in the end, help move towards its goal of creating a vibrant downtown, the funding is viewed as an investment, not an expense. The EDC provided the focus and wherewithal to get the organization off the ground, it rallied existing members to actively participate, and it funded the FDBA’s formation. All of this was necessary to assure the success of the effort.

The result, the downtown area now has several, very publicized, events, local residents and visitors alike, visit the downtown area at night to see the building lights, our street light banners and event signs are in the planning and design stage and we are now working on our master plan for our downtown planting.

That’s all great but the real “SO WHAT” is that we now have several new businesses opening, five existing businesses have used the facade incentive monies to red-do their buildings and signs, and the EDC is talking to an ever increasing number of potential new businesses who want to be “where the action is”. A great example of where this has led involves a new farmers market. Forney has been trying unsuccessfully for years to attract a farmers market to its historic downtown. It now is working with two that want to locate their businesses in the downtown area.

The bottom line here, is that the city must jump in with both feet (no toe dipping). It must show a commitment to spend the money, cut the regulations and lend a helping hand whenever and wherever it will make a difference. And, it must celebrate it’s victories by sharing them through a focused public relations program. Only then will you get full participation by the local business community. They may not wan’t to jump on the titanic, but they also don’t want to miss a boat that’s ready to sail into a successful and vibrant downtown.


J Stephen