How Moving To A New City Opened My Eyes To New Things

  By: Andrew Chirico

It was a warm September afternoon in Chestertown, Maryland.

I was walking back to my room after class when I received an email from Anna Duffy, asking if I was interested in interviewing for a position as Taziki’s Digital Marketing Strategist. To be completely honest, being a New Jersey native, I wasn’t familiar with the brand or the food.

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My First Taziki's Experience

I'll always remember the first time I was able to take my family to Taziki's. It was all of our first time's which made it a very special afternoon. 

After doing my research, I immediately found the food and mission compelling.

Long story short, after a couple of interviews, I was offered the position with the option to move to the greater Nashville area. Before I tell you why I chose to take the job, let me give you a quick background story.

I became a creature of habit and routine for the past six years, which comes with both positive and negative effects. The positive was, I did well at school but the negative was, I stayed in the zone of contentment.

Taziki’s was an opportunity not only to build a digital department but also to break out of my comfort zone and try something new. It took a lot of hard thinking, discussions with family, pros and cons lists, etc. but ultimately, I realized this was my chance to grow.

I pulled the trigger and accepted in early November and have enjoyed every single moment. Yes, of course, I miss home, family, friends, my mom’s cooking (especially that chicken parm), but I’m doing what’s right for me with an amazing team at Taziki’s.

To be transparent with you all, there are times when I do think about if this was the right decision and I end up getting those thoughts quickly knocked down by my parents over Facetime. (Man, that app has been used a lot these last four months.)

These past five months have opened up a new world to me. I’m getting the opportunity to travel and see new places, eat different food, make new friends from work and my town, try new things (like running a marathon in Carmel, Indiana). The list goes on and on. If two years ago you told me I would be on a plane flying to WVU for work, I would have laughed at you and said, “no way.”

Moving to a new city can seem daunting, and it should. What I’ve recognized is that if you do something new with an open mind and with the right support from family, friends, co-workers, you will succeed.

This year I’ve been able to redefine what success looks like for me. Before it was staying within the guardrails of life, and now the growth that has come with saying, “yes” is making me the most successful version of myself. The next time someone asks you to do something, I challenge you to lean into a yes instead of a no. You might just find yourself in a new city, trying new things, and working for a company that you love.

I hope you enjoyed this post and would love to hear your story of when you tried something new. Connect with me on LinkedIn @AndrewChirico!

About Andrew: Andrew Chirico is a New Jersey native and recent graduate from Washington College where he studied Business and Marketing. He recently moved to the greater Nashville area to take on the role as the Corporate Digital Strategist. Andrew takes on all digital, social, and email marketing projects. 

 

 

Why I Love My Mom

By Keith Richards: 

This past week in honor of Mother’s Day, we have asked you what you love about your mom. As I reflect on my mom and her passing 6 years ago, I am reminded of what I loved about her. Wow, you name it! I loved it about her! My mom’s kindness was probably the biggest thing as well as her dedication to the Lord and my dad.

It was always J.O.Y. Jesus, Others, and then Yourself. She lived that out in her life and taught us how to do the same. My mom probably had one of the biggest hearts - and I’m not just saying that because I am her son - but she really did care for everybody. Growing up, I remember her always getting us ready for church on Sunday, and being a part of everything. Our home was like the Kool-Aid House where everyone came to play. If someone got hurt when we were playing, Mom was always there. They even called her “mom,” too! After we opened Taziki’s, Mom was still there. She cleaned tables before we opened and greeted guests.

   A life-changing memory of my mom was when I started working at Bottega in Birmingham and it just didn’t feel right. I didn't use the company culture and customers, and I decided I was going to quit. So I went out the back door. Before making this big decision, I called my mom and told her what I wanted to do. She said, “Son, you need to go back in there. You told the man you were going to work. You’ve never quit anything in your life so you need to take the opportunity he has given you and go back up there and work!”

She always based her decisions off of what God would want you to do. So I went back in and worked. If I hadn’t, I never would have found my love for people and cooking and ultimately opening Taziki’s.

After we decided to open Taziki’s, my mom’s advice was still a huge influence in my life. She told me, “Take care of Amy and work hard. The people will come and God will provide.” She was a constant encouragement and always reminded me of Joshua 1:9 which says:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

My mom was always a huge supporter of Taziki’s. Being a good cook, it was definitely a compliment. Looking back, some of my mom’s favorite dishes include the Greek Salad with grilled chicken, Salmon Feast with rice, Roll-ups with fruit and not chips, and she loved the Shrimp. I am forever grateful for the influence she was and continues to be in my life and Taziki’s.

Growing Hope at Taziki’s

By: Meagan Campbell

One of my favorite times to walk into the Birmingham stores are in the mornings because I’m greeted by the sweet, smiling faces of employees with Down Syndrome. They are busy cleaning tables, rolling silverware, and picking grapes off the stem. Some of these people have been with Taziki’s 3 to 4 times longer than I have! If I walk into Chace Lake, Daniel comes to give me a hug, ask me how I’m doing, then tell me he has to get back to work. If I walk into Lee Branch, I get a smile and hug from Mark and Erica, and then an (expected) eye-roll from Brandy, Keith’s first hire with Down Syndrome. These employees are a huge asset to each of their stores.

Why did we start hiring individuals with disabilities? At first, for no other reason than Keith’s friend Cindy Vinson was finding a job placement for one of her students. Then later, we saw that we didn’t want to operate the store without them. These employees complete their tasks full of contagious joy; joy that every store needs.

Basil grown by HOPE students from Shelby County High School with their teacher Marisol Lilly.

 Basil grown by HOPE students from Shelby County High School with their teacher Marisol Lilly.

Basil grown by HOPE students from Shelby County High School with their teacher Marisol Lilly.

So why wouldn’t you hire an individual with a disability in your business?

The HOPE Project began with Keith hiring Brandy more than 12 years ago and has grown into something so much bigger. HOPE stands for Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment; individuals find enrichment through gainful employment, whether that is working at a store or growing herbs for a restaurant.  We now see HOPE grown by special needs programs at local schools and non-profits; it’s so simple, yet so purposeful. They grow herbs and we buy them to use in our food.

So why do I help with the HOPE Project? Observing these individuals work is such a tangible way to see good, purposeful work. I want to help people grow in all aspects of life, and connecting individuals, schools, and restaurants together is a wonderful way that I am able to do that.

Employees from almost all of the Birmingham locations celebrating 20 year’s of Taziki’s!

 Employees from almost all of the Birmingham locations celebrating 20 year’s of Taziki’s!

Employees from almost all of the Birmingham locations celebrating 20 year’s of Taziki’s!

Our plan is to make all of the education about the HOPE Project available, strengthen the web of mentors who have started other HOPE Projects, and be an example to the restaurant industry. We can make a difference, it just starts with hiring one.

Are you interested in making a difference? Here are 5 ways you can get started.

  1. Support local businesses that hire individuals with disabilities.
  2. Look at what types of jobs individuals with disabilities can do in your business and reach out to your local employment agency that places these special individuals. Focus on ability—what they can do, not what they can’t do.
  3. If you’re a restauranteur, connect with a local school or non-profit and see if they would want to grow herbs for your restaurant.
  4. If you’re an educator or non-profit leader, brainstorm restaurants that serve fresh herbs and reach out to them to see if they would be interested in buying herbs from you.
  5. If you want more information, check out wegrowhope.org.

About Meagan:  Meagan Campbell is from Birmingham and graduated from Auburn University with a BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management. She lives in Birmingham and work with Taziki’s Home Office in the training Department and coordinates for The HOPE Project. She has a heart for the least of these.

Live The Good Life With CEO Dan Simpson

Written By CEO Dan Simpson:

Going on vacation is not a big part of my childhood memories, but it was always an adventure.

My dad was focused on starting a new life and building a house in rural Maine after leaving 12 years in the police force in Philadelphia and my mom was putting in long shifts at the hospital where she worked as a nurse to pay the bills. I am in the middle of five kids, so there were seven mouths to feed. After our initial fast start in the city lights of “MoTownPhilly”, my siblings and I were thrown into the adventure that awaited us up in rural New England on forty acres that became our playground.

We were pioneers. We hiked into the woods to find the best tree to climb or stream to fish. We built forts and got lost in our imagination, converting piles of moss and bark into delectable recipes that we cooked into a feast fit for a king!

It was not all fun and games though, as we kept a massive garden that required weekly weeding, but also yielded a bounty of root vegetables and canned goods for the winter. And speaking of the winter, we chopped, split and stacked ten cord of firewood each summer to keep us warm through the snow and cold that was always just around the corner.

I remember my older sister, Becky doing most of the cooking in our home. I learned to make an apple pie one Thanksgiving and have fond memories of my mom baking bread or setting up the crockpot with pork-chops, sauerkraut, whole apples and onions to cook all day. The few times we did go on a “vacation”, it was back to Pennsylvania, to the Pocono Mountains, where my grandparents retired. We’d walk into an oven-warmed kitchen with my Grandmother’s strawberry-rhubarb, apple and peach pies lined up on the table – evidence that she was working in the kitchen all day and preparing for our arrival. My grandfather was a chef in Philly and a cook in the Navy and he and his bride clearly shared the love for food.

Years later, when I met my wife, Kim, I discovered we too shared a love for food. After moving to Nashville, where we still live with our three kids, we formed a supper club (Kim prefers to call it a “dinner club”) which has been going on for over a decade! We meet monthly after the host decides on an international destination inspired menu. We challenge ourselves by picking recipes that are out of our reach and pair it with wine and cocktails and desserts. Everyone contributes and we have a myriad of shared memories and stories we will always cherish.

We’ve also discovered how a love for food dovetails into a love for travel, as there’s nothing like tasting homemade pasta in Florence, Italy, enjoying coffee in Antiqua, Guatemala, or entrecôte sauce au vin in Bordeaux, France.

That said, my humble beginnings bring me back to the simple pleasures that can be found in making a salad picked from our three 4×8 raised box gardens in our Nashville backyard. This, to me, is the essence of what it means to live the good life. Grand or small, it starts with gratitude and curiosity. We always have something to be thankful for. If we view life as an adventure, it is. If we savor the good moments or create them, our lives will be filled with eudaimonia, or what the Greeks called the good life.

Reflecting On Twenty Years

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March 7th, 2018 was a day in my life I thought may never happened. Last Wednesday we celebrated 20 years of Taziki’s and it’s been amazing to reflect on all the blessings that have occurred in two decades. It all starts with my beautiful wife, Amy, as we took our first trip to Greece and decided that we wanted to bring back the food, flavors, and culture that we experienced. After returning to our home in Birmingham, Alabama we started building our dream (literally). We took out a line of equity on our house and used that money to refurbish an old Sneaky Pete’s into our first restaurant in the Colonnade off Highway 280 in Birmingham.

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My mom worked on the floors, my dad helped me rewire the place, and I can still hear my sweet little nieces running around the restaurant before we opened. I was just 33 years old and so excited to see my dream come to fruition. We opened in March of 1998, an after the first couple of months, I knew we were building something that could be pretty special. During our construction of our 2nd location we became pregnant with our first set of twins, and during the construction of our 3rd location we were surprised with another set of twins.

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By greeting each customer that walked through our doors and spending a little extra time listening, we have not only created great memories but also great friends. We were fortunate in building our first store and making it successful, which turned into two and then three, and now I sit here today typing this knowing that number 83 is about to open next week. I can look back on 20 years and think of countless ways that God has blessed me, but one of the proudest moments was walking my 15 year into his first job at Taziki’s, showing him how to clock in and get started on his first day of employment.

Taziki’s hasn’t just been a job that has kept me busy. It is an accumulation of partners, employees, and friends that have grown my family to stretch across 16 states. One woman in particular, Cindy Vinson, introduced me to Brandy, who was the first of many people with special needs I employ. Brandy is one of the most hardworking and intentional employees I have, and I can count on her to do her job 100%. Without creating a relationship with Cindy and understanding the need to employ special needs, I would have never co-founded our HOPE program.

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Last Wednesday it was incredible to serve 200+ people free signature pasta and take the time to hug my wife in the same spot I did 20 years ago. We are excited to see what the next 20 years brings!

-Keith Richards