By Kathy L. Collins

Richard Gonzmart, the fourth generation owner of the Columbia Restaurant Group, which includes the iconic Columbia Restaurant, the new Ulele in Waterworks Park and the come back of Goody Goody which will open in 2016, was the guest speaker at the October meeting of the Government and Economic Advisory Council of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce.

The Government and Economic Advisory Council is comprised of representatives from the local business community. The council meets monthly. According to co-chair, Adam Banter, an attorney with the Brandon Legal Group, “We are the voice fighting for small businesses in the community. We hold events like this and get business owners and elected officials to come and talk about their experiences and what is happening locally.”

Christine Michaels, the executive director of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce added, “Businesses do not have the time to track issues. We try to be the watch dog for small business owners.”

Gonzmart shared brief stories of his family history and business. He told the group to “never be afraid to reinvent yourself and never give up no matter the adversity facing you.”

The Columbia Restaurant has been in business for over 100 years. It has survived Prohibition, the Great Depression, two world wars, market ups and downs and a myriad of cultural changes.

One of the stories that Gonzmart relayed to the group was about the building of Ulele. The story is an excellent example of Gonzmart’s business acumen and temerity. Gonzmart explained that the area where the restaurant was to be built was in decline. No one had hope for it, and no one thought that it was good idea and that it would entail too much risk.

“I was walking along the seawall and looked down at a pipe where spring water comes out. A manatee rose its head up out of the water,” he said. This is a place where manatees are rarely seen and Gonzmart took this as a sign to move forward with the project.

Gonzmart did not give up his plans. Ulele earns more than the Tampa Convention Center does in a year, according to Gonzmart.

“Never be afraid to commit mistakes. How will you learn to succeed?” said Gonzmart. For more information, visit

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