Categorized | Publisher's Letter

The challenge within the challenge

It was a normal Wednesday for me while I was meeting some colleagues for lunch in the Tapestry Park area. After some noontime conversation, Tracy DeVack from Navy Federal Credit Union pulled me aside and said, “I have someone I want you to meet just across the parking lot.”

She briefed me on the vitals as we walked across the park to a business called Flame Broilers – a well-known restaurant concept out west, but new to Jacksonville and Florida for that matter. With 112 locations, they boast no MSG, no frying and no trans-fats.

It was packed at the time and it was obvious that Jackie Grzebin was very much a hands-on owner. From behind the counter, she was asking critical questions about drink selections and portion size to every walk-up customer. Good for her, but I didn’t think it was much out of the ordinary.

She was much too busy to chat at the time, but she did exchange a polite wave with Tracy after we were inside. In the few minutes it took to handle her counter duties, Tracy continued to fill me in.

“She is about as dynamic as they come. They have a second location opening at Phillips Highway and J. Turner Butler soon. Her husband is busy with his own career and she mostly bootstrapped the business with her own savings with a little help from her favorite credit union,” Tracy winked.

Finally, Jackie had some breathing room and came out to greet us. She was just as described: a pleasant, energetic business owner excited to meet someone new that had not been in her restaurant. That’s when I noticed she was nearly nine months pregnant!

We sat down for some conversation where she proceeded to tell me she left corporate America when her company in the mortgage business asked her to move one too many times. Her husband used to frequent the Flame Broiler restaurant by their former home near the west coast and casually mentioned that she should open one in Jacksonville. That was all it took to set her next career path in motion.

I couldn’t help but ask about the elephant in the room. “You are actively running one retail store and in the process of opening another while you are about to give birth? Are you worried that might be too much to handle?” I asked.

She obviously had thought this through and felt confident about the future. She explained that the timing was right for her business expansion and family expansion at precisely the same time.

I made the mistake of saying her husband must be involved in the business, as she was quick to point out that although he does help out on a limited basis, this was her business – and anyone that calls asking for her husband “the owner” gets an earful. We shared a laugh and I could tell she was proud of her accomplishments so far.

Thanks for providing some inspiration, Jackie. Your confidence will serve you well. I don’t doubt that you can handle it all – and then some. You sure don’t back away from a challenge!


Until next time,

Brian Barquilla


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