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A Hunger for Hospitality

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An interview with Noble Fin owner Cliff Bramble.

Q: How long have you been in the restaurant business?
Cliff Bramble: I’ve been in this business for about 40 years. At first, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to stay in the restaurant business, because my first night I only made $5. But I learned to love it. It’s really exciting to me.


Q: What do you enjoy most about running a restaurant?
CB: What I like is that I can do a million different things, and I can watch people walk out happy. We’re in the immediate fix-it business. If something’s wrong, we should be able to fix it right away, especially if it’s a service or food related issue.


Q. How do you deal with family members and/or other partners in the business?
CB: If you’re dealing with partners or family who’s involved in the business, it’s important that everyone knows their responsibility and does it. It’s when people aren’t sticking to their jobs that the arguments start. My responsibility is not in the kitchen, and I don’t have much of a say there, though I may give my opinion.


Q. What advice do you have for new or potential restaurant owners?
CB: You have to pay attention to every little aspect, and labor is the first thing to pay attention to. It’s all about how you treat the employees, and how you pay them. There’s no question that talent is very tough to find, whether it’s for management, servers, kitchen staff or chefs. If you have someone who’s worked well for you a year or two, your goal is to keep them. If it’s an extra quarter an hour you have to give them, that quarter will save you thousands of dollars. ■

Feature image is of the restaurant Noble Fin and owner Cliff Bramble.
Restaurant photography by Photo by Cindi Fortmann

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Business

The Colorful Woven Threads that Make Up the Fabric of Our City: Part 3, Maurie Ladson

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Gwinnett County is getting more and more culturally and racially diverse. Remember the old adage ‘Variety is the spice of life’? In today’s climate of social unrest and world-wide protests for racial justice, we should move towards healing by getting to know our neighbors and broaching some delicate conversations. It can be scary and cathartic — and it can be a little heartbreaking, too.

The heartbeat of Peachtree Corners is strong because of the amazing people who live and work here. I reached out to some from a variety of backgrounds. Each of their accounts will have you shouting, Vive la différence!

No matter what their jobs, ages, political leanings, religious beliefs, ethnicity or color of their skin, each one has essentially come to the same conclusion with regard to moving forward through the turmoil that has been unleashed in the wake of George Floyd’s death. It’s a focus not on what divides us, but on what can bring us all together. It’s the inevitable acquiescence to an aphorism anyone can support — love is always the answer.

Maurie Ladson

Maurie Ladson is a Program Director at Corners Outreach, an organization providing a multigenerational approach to helping underserved children with specialized tutoring. Parents are given assistance with career paths, workshops, unemployment and anything they may need to navigate in the education system. Their goal is to achieve a 100% high school graduation rate among the students they serve.

Maurie Ladson, Program Director at Corners Academy, lunching with some of her students. Photo courtesy of Ladson.

Ladson clarified underserved as “communities or people living amongst us who don’t have all the necessary resources.” She explained, “They may not be earning a living wage. A lot of them are immigrant families. There’s a challenge with education and the language.”

Elementary, my dear

By focusing on elementary school students, the intention is to prepare them for success in middle school and high school. “Then hopefully, to higher learning, either a four-year education or, sometimes, they prefer to do some kind of trade,” Ladson said.

“We’re not focused on one demographic,” she continued. “We welcome all the children who need assistance. The mix varies. In Norcross and on our DeKalb side, we have a high percentage of Latino children. At our Meadow Creek location, there’s a mix of children — Indian, American, Hispanic.”

The Corners Outreach offices are located in Peachtree Corners. Ladson said that Executive Director Larry Campbell liked the name, “as the goal is to touch “every corner” of the community.” The organization partners with Title 1 schools in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, including Peachtree Corners and the surrounding areas, and helps 450 families/children.

Maurie Ladson leads a Pandemic Emotional well-being session with some kindergarteners and 1st graders through Corners Outreach. 2020 Photo courtesy of Maurie Ladson.

“We work with them during the normal school year; we provide after-school tutoringfor two and a half to three hours. We’re supplementing and enhancing what the school is teaching,” Ladson said. “There’s a big focus on reading comprehension and math. We then provide nine weeks of summer camp which focus on reading, math, games and a craft.”

School principals identify the children in most need. There is also input from counselors, teachers, teacher liaisons, center coordinators and ESOL [English to speakers of other languages] coordinators. “We also have volunteers that play a key role in our success. We’re so thankful,” she said. “Schools like Wesleyan, GAC, Perimeter Church and individuals in our wonderful Peachtree Corners community come out and volunteer their time.”

Masks with a purpose

Due to COVID-19, Corners Outreach was unable to tutor or assist families in person for some time. “We began communication via Zoom, WhatsApp, video chat, telephone calls. There was a big need to assist in setting up Internet. Many of the families didn’t have it,” she continued.

“Our organization was able to place Chromebooks in the community for children to be able to do their homework. It was still challenging because in a lot of cases they’re sharing either a phone or a hot spot. With two to four children in the family of various ages, needing to do homework with one device, that was difficult.”

To help underemployed parents, the organization developed Masks with a Purpose.

After surveying the parents, they found they had 101 mothers with sewing skills that could be used to provide much-needed masks in the community.

“They sew masks and earn a living wage, $4 per mask,” Ladson said. “We launched the Corners Store on June 22 so people can go online and purchase a mask to support our cause.” To purchase a mask, visit cornersoutreach.org. If you don’t need a mask, you can help by giving a donation.

“We’re looking to donate 1,000 masks to farmworkers and 10,000 masks to children in poverty, who can’t afford to buy three or four masks or have the throwaways,” she said. It’s a great cause,” she said. You can donate masks to the effort through their website.

Beauty in all colors

“I’m Mexican American,” Ladson said. “I’ve been in Peachtree Corners for 20 years. My husband is black, dark-skinned African American. People might look at us a little differently. I’m different and I’m good with it.” She and her husband Ron recently celebrated 20 years of marriage.

Having frequented several places of worship over the years, they most recently identify as Protestant and have been attending North End Collective.

Ladson said she witnessed some social injustice in the workplace during her career in banking. A Peruvian teller was the number one salesperson in the bank, exceeding her numbers, yet it was an under-performing white American teller who inexplicably was moved to another location and offered a raise.

“I think in Georgia, Atlanta and in Peachtree Corners, we still have room to grow,” she continued. “I’ve seen a different level of acceptance, if we’re going to call it improvement, absolutely.”

Having been on the receiving end of surprise when people learn she’s of Mexican descent, Ladson wishes people would realize that Mexicans, too, come in all shapes, sizes and colors. “If we just open up our minds a little bit, there’s room for so much beauty and intelligence and so many differences,” she said.

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The Colorful Woven Threads that Make Up the Fabric of Our City: Part 2, Dr. April Hang

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Dr. April Hang, PharmD

Gwinnett County is getting more and more culturally and racially diverse. Remember the old adage ‘Variety is the spice of life’? In today’s climate of social unrest and world-wide protests for racial justice, we should move towards healing by getting to know our neighbors and broaching some delicate conversations. It can be scary and cathartic — and it can be a little heartbreaking, too.

The heartbeat of Peachtree Corners is strong because of the amazing people who live and work here. I reached out to some from a variety of backgrounds. Each of their accounts will have you shouting, Vive la différence!

No matter what their jobs, ages, political leanings, religious beliefs, ethnicity or color of their skin, each one has essentially come to the same conclusion with regard to moving forward through the turmoil that has been unleashed in the wake of George Floyd’s death. It’s a focus not on what divides us, but on what can bring us all together. It’s the inevitable acquiescence to an aphorism anyone can support — love is always the answer.

Dr. April Hang

Dr. April Hang, PharmD hails from Petersburg, Virginia and is of Filipino heritage. Her dad was in the Army, so her family traveled a lot. She spent a long time in Germany, where she learned to speak a little of the language, and she studied at Virginia Commonwealth University – Medical College of Virginia School of Pharmacy.

Dr. Hang is Catholic and attends St. Monica Church. Her husband is Buddhist and their three children have been baptized in the Catholic faith.

She opened Peachtree Pharmacy at 5270 Peachtree Parkway in 2012. It’s a compounding pharmacy were medications are customized. “Our clientele is diverse. We serve Hispanics, African Americans, white Americans, Asians. We have seniors all the way down to babies and pets that we take care of,” Dr. Hang said. “We offer compliance packaging for convenience. It’s helpful for seniors. We put medications in labeled blister packs. They can be organized by day or sorted by morning, afternoon, and evening if necessary.”

And, she said, Peachtree Pharmacy delivers, which is especially important for high-risk patients.

“Compounding is an out-of-the box option for patients who have exhausted all their options and want to try something else. We do carry some traditional medications as well,” she explained. “It takes time to make everything. You have to make sure all the ingredients are included. You’re not just pouring pills out and counting them. You actually have to melt something down, make lollipops, gummies, lozenges or capsules. We have to do our math calculations carefully to make it the exact strength the physician wrote it for.”

Dr. April Hang, PharmD, makes hand sanitizer from scratch.

Mom-preneur

“I’m first generation American, as well as the first person to start my own business in my family,” Dr. Hang said. She attributes her drive to her dad, who always endeavors to find a solution.

She said that she feels welcome here. “It’s like a small town. That’s why I love Peachtree Corners,” she said. “A lot of our patients are like family to us. This is a great city, a great place to have a small business, especially with Peachtree Corners expanding.”

THC and CBD advocate

One of the things Dr. Hang has gotten involved with is the effort in Georgia to make low THC oil (less than 5%) available to patients suffering from chronic pain, cancer, PTSD, HIV, autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s and other conditions. “I feel like [CBD/THC] oil can help several patients,” she said. “It’s yet another alternative for people.”

She said that doctors can help a patient get a medical card for it. “Everything has been passed in Georgia, and there is a THC oil registry here now, but there’s no access. I think there are over 14,000 patients registered. They have the card, but there is no place where they can go buy it yet,” Dr. Hang said. “We’re just waiting for the infrastructure so people can start applying for manufacture and distribution.”

Unfortunately, the process to get access has been delayed due to COVID-19. It’s likely to be another year or two before access is available for patients.

Diversity at the pharmacy

Dr. Hang welcomes students of diverse backgrounds, some from out of state, who do rotations at her pharmacy. “Most of the time, I say ‘yes,’ because the students are up-to-date on the new things. They keep you updated,” she said. “I try to make it practical for them. They work in the store. I take them to a marketing event. I like to do a couple of little health fairs. I mix it up for them so that they see what we actually do. I didn’t get that when I was in pharmacy school.”

There have been times when a staff member has had an unpleasant interaction and they feel that some racism was directed towards them. “I have one full-time pharmacist, three part-time pharmacists and three full-time pharmacy technicians. One is Asian and the others are African American,” she said.

“When COVID-19 had just started [appearing here], there was a client looking for N95 masks; she wasn’t a regular. She was upset we didn’t have any N95 masks. She told my pharmacist, who is black, “I don’t know what you have to say that is going to carry any value.”

As Dr. Hang was cleaning the store one day, an older lady came in, looked around and asked, “Why is everybody black in here?” She said, “I don’t see anything wrong with that. There are standards and testing that you have to pass in order to be in this position. Everyone here is qualified.” Dr. Hang added that she has never had issues with racial tensions personally. “It’s a little disheartening that it still occurs,” she said.

She suggested a city-wide cultural festival to help improve racial tensions. “If we can learn more about our neighbors, we’ll be able to understand them better. There are a variety of cultural backgrounds in Peachtree Corners, so let’s celebrate them!”

“When I’m at Peachtree Pharmacy, I post on Facebook, “Come by and see me. Come give me a hug!” Customers come in and tell me, “I miss you so much.” It’s nice to catch up with a lot of the regulars,” she said.”I always post: Free Hugs not Drugs!”

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Arts & Literature

Noble Fin Owner Cliff Bramble releases inspirational book about the restaurant industry

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Cliff Bramble, a Georgia Restaurateur and business owner, has debuted his first book. It is
called “Within Our Walls: An Inspirational Story For The Restaurant Industry.” It is a hands-on, no-nonsense story of his planning and opening of his first three restaurants while he was co-owner of Rathbun’s, Krog Bar, and Kevin Rathbun Steak in Atlanta. Most recently, Cliff owned Noble Fin in Peachtree Corners.

Cliff says, “Now is the perfect time for this book. The restaurant industry needs inspiration and needs help. With our industry hurting, this book may lift the spirits of many people in the industry who are needing inspiration as well as inspire those interested in opening a restaurant or business. Restaurants are relentless and will return, and when they do, they will be better than ever.”

Cliff has taken his years of restaurant experiences, business knowledge, and hands-on approach to business and documented it in this inspirational, fun book. His passion shines through in every page. There is information on the search for restaurant space, challenges in getting funded, general contractor information, marketing of the business, budgeting, and funny stories of moving into a gentrifying area of the city. Interesting stories that include being broken into, meeting the local characters, a single general contractor working on the entire build-out, or standing in line waiting for what he thought was a liquor license, but it really was an adult entertainment license line. (He was the only guy in line) Any person in the business world would relate to this and may use it as a learning tool.

A recent review from Rico Pena from Pena Global says, “This is such a great book, especially for the current times. Whether you are in the food industry, self-starting, business owner, manager, or seasoned entrepreneur, this is a must-read. I highly recommend it. It will change how you see business and provide you with a clear, no bull, real-world application for business.”

One of the chapters highlights the Friday night experience when a tornado twisted through downtown Atlanta. After arriving at one of his restaurants after the tornado, Cliff arrived to find broken chairs, people bleeding while lying down on the hard concrete, and broken glass all over tables. There were also two inches of water covering the floor. This chapter alone ropes you in and makes you want more.

Within Our Walls is sold on Amazon and its partner sites and can be purchased in Amazon’s Kindle format or a paperback version. It can also be purchased at Hungryhospitality.com.

Source

Press Release from Hungry Hospitality LLC

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