Originally from Long Island, Mike Goodman, co-owner of Captain's BBQ, started his career in the wholesale bakery business. His father was a pastry chef who owned his own business. When his father's partner became too ill to work, Goodman bought out his shares and joined the family business. When his father retired, Goodman took over. He eventually brought in a partner and sold half the business in 2003. After six more years in the business, Goodman's partner bought him out and Goodman headed south.
"We were familiar with Flagler County from previous vacations," Goodman said. "It seemed like the obvious place for my wife, Grace, and I to 'retire'. On one of our previous visits, I met a guy named Christian Herrera. I was at a restaurant with Grace, talking about fishing, and he over overheard our conversation. Long story short, he invited me to go fishing with him the next day and we've been friends ever since."
Goodman continued, "It didn't take long after moving to Florida to get bored of retirement. I started thinking about launching a new business. That's when we saw that this building was empty and had a vision for what it could become. We put in an RFP and won the bid. That's pretty much how it started. I contacted Chris, who's also very much a foodie, and he was interested in becoming an equal partner with my wife and I."
According to Goodman, whether it's a BBQ restaurant or a wholesale bakery, good business practices are the same no matter what industry you're in. It's all about delivering an exceptional customer experience, a quality product and giving your customers what they want. Nevertheless, as Goodman shared, there were and are some new challenges they've had to overcome.
"The first thing was getting the food right," he said. "We started experimenting at least seven months before we opened. I bought a small smoker and we'd practice four or five times per week. We'd make little tweaks here and there. It's all experimentation. There was definitely a learning curve, but we got through it. The other challenge, especially in the beginning, was growing the business with a limited staff. For a while, it was just Chris, myself, one other employee and Grace. There were times when I was pulling pork for six hours straight. The ongoing challenge with a restaurant is staying relevant and continuing to grow. You can't remain stagnant."
Located in a county park, Captain's BBQ started off as more of a bait shop than a BBQ restaurant. Over time, more food moved in and more tackle moved out. Today, it's more a restaurant with a limited supply of bait and tackle. Through word-of-mouth and by utilizing social media and sites such as Trip Advisor, Captain's BBQ has developed a reputation for succulent St. Louis style ribs, slow smoked tender beef brisket, a variety of homemade cheesecakes and great hospitality.
Looking ahead, Goodman, who primarily works on R&D and customer relations, would like to continue growing the business while allowing his partner, Christian, to be in charge of day-to-day operations and employee relations. When asked about the possibility of a second Captain's BBQ, Goodman responded, "If we can find the right location."
What advice does Goodman have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "In general, a lot of people go into business underfunded," he said. "Don't let this happen to you and don't go into business if you need a paycheck. We didn't take one for almost two years. You have to put in blood, sweat and tears. Don't count on your new business to be a cash cow. It takes time. As it relates to the food business, serve a great product at a fair price, train your staff to be friendly and welcoming and always be innovative."