Bravo! turns 25. Jeff and Dan prove the dream is real

By WYATT EMMERICH,

IT’S HARD to believe it’s been almost 25 years since Bravo! opened. It seems like yesterday. My how time flies.

There’s a new book out titled “The Bravo! Way: Building a Southern Restaurant Dynasty” by local author Dawn Dugle. Jeff Good and Dan Blumenthal held a gathering last month at Bravo to celebrate the anniversary and the book. It was great to see so many familiar friends and faces.

My buddy Bob Crisler and I were the musical entertainment for the event. I played the banjo. Let me explain.

You see, Jeff, Bob and I were running buddies back in the day, the early 1990s.

At the time Jeff had a good gig selling computers for a company called NCR, which stands for National Cash Register, to give you an idea of how much has changed since then.

One day, AT&T acquired NCR and Jeff announced he was going to start a restaurant. We thought he was nuts.

I mean, nobody starts a restaurant from scratch, especially at a young age with no management experience. It’s a recipe for losing money. Something like 95 out of 100 restaurant startups fail.

We weren’t too worried about Jeff and Dan starting a restaurant and failing because they had no capital. They would never be able to raise the money to get started in the first place.

But they did raise the money. The hard, slogging, old-fashioned way. Locally. Investor by investor. Their target investment size was $10,000 per investor which meant they had to get dozens of individual investors.

Jeff would work the phones and get a small group of investors to his home, where he fed them northern Italian food they planned to serve at Bravo!. The wine pours were not stingy. After months and months, they raised the money. Truly, Jeff is an unusually talented salesman.

They picked a Highland Village location which seemed to be cursed. Five preceding restaurants failed at that location, most recently the Sundancer with its dark, hunting-trophy-festooned interior design – the opposite of the open and airy decor Jeff planned for Bravo!.

To rid the space of its curse, Jeff decided to have an exorcism party just prior to the start of construction. For entertainment, Bob Crisler and I played a specially adapted song to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies.

Fast forward 25 years later. Against all odds, Jeff and Dan succeeded and have now expanded to multiple restaurants. Bravo! is still their gem. The upstart new guys are now the old proven veterans.

With the book signing party a few days away, Jeff asked Bob and me if we would play the same song we played 25 years prior at the exorcism. He promised he had saved the lyrics.

I really didn’t want to, but I feared for the future of my Northside Sun trade out account with Bravo!, Broad Street and Sal & Mookie’s, which has fed my family for years. So yes it was.

Bob and I gathered to rehearse at my place. Jeff was at his office rummaging through old files where he was sure he had saved the lyrics, which he would soon text.

Alas, he found them not, forcing Bob and me to do a 25-year-later rewrite to the best of our recollection. A few glasses of wine spurred us on. It was a true Lennon-McCartney collaboration.

Bob had an old banjo with rusted strings. I fingerpicked the chords to the Beverly Hillbillies theme song.

We pulled it off. You can view the video on the Bravo Facebook page and choosing November, 2018 under Date Posted. It got some laughs.

 

The Ballad of Jeff and Dan

 

Come listen to the story of a man named Jeff. He tried to sell computers, but found himself a chef.

He said making pizza was the thing he had to do, so he called his buddy Dan and started something new.

Gnocchi . . . Tagliatelle . . . Italian food.

 

They had to raise some money so they fed us all some food. The plied us all with wine, and promised us the moon.

They said the restaurant space was the place we need to be, so we wrote some big fat checks and the rest was history.

Private placement . . . Qualified investor. . . Mucho moolah.

 

Now the boys have got a book detailing their careers. Let’s hope the publisher wasn’t paid in arrears.

In spite of their success of which we all are now endeared, we hope they’ll keep on cooking, for years and years and years.

Franchise . . . National reach . . . IPO!

 

I have since read the book chronicling their success. You can’t even begin to imagine the roadblocks, challenges and perseverance required to start and nurture a business in our advanced, competitive economy. It is not for the faint of heart. For most people, a stable career with a salaried job is the least stressful, most secure path.

But for a certain number of smart, high energy, driven, hardworking characters, nothing could be more rewarding than founding and growing your own business.

It’s incredibly hard, but that old American dream is still alive. My hat is off to Jeff and Dan for proving this to us all.