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Business Observer Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021 8 months ago

Popular restaurateur chews on adding food truck

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Polk County ‘cottage’ entrepreneur, who built her business from her kitchen, gets ready to put trends on treads.
by: John Haughey Contributor

Consolidating to expand can be tricky, especially during a pandemic. But when Stephanie Archibald saw the 30-foot Ford Stepvan, the road to vertical integration opened before her.

“I had this guy and he turned it into a food truck,” she says. “I’m just waiting for them to call me and say, ‘Come pick it up.’”

Archibald owns SB&B Seafood Bar & Grill, a full bar and restaurant that now houses her retail fish market, Step’s Garlic Seafood & Fish Market, she operated in two Lakeland locations for nearly eight years. In March, Archibald closed Step’s Garlic Seafood & Fish Market, essentially moving it into SB&B Seafood Bar & Grill, which she opened in August 2019. SB&B employs five people, down from 10 before the pandemic and the consolidation. She plans to hire more people to staff the food truck.

“I consolidated both under one roof and one business license,” she says. “SB&B was taking care of Step’s Seafood” and, when a Ford Stepvan “came into my possession,” the time was right to “finally” put her restaurant on the road. “Sometimes, I’d rather have a food truck than an actual location,” Archibald says, “so the people who can’t come to me, we can come to them.”

There’s a hitch: She has to un-consolidate. “I have to register the food truck as a whole different business,” she says. “I didn’t think (bureaucracy) would be this hard. It’s a lot of time, a lot of money invested in this.”

But Archibald, 38, a Lakeland native, has been here before: She started the whole thing selling seafood out of her kitchen.

The 2001 Lakeland High graduate worked 13 years as a Lakeland Regional Health insurance specialist before realizing, “It was a dead-end job. I had to think of something else to do, so I sold seafood on weekends to make ends meet.”

Archibald’s mother often did hair and nails at home, and her father owned his own landscaping and scrap-metal operations. “My dad and mom, they were always entrepreneurs. My dad worked for himself all his life.”

 ‘It’s finger-licking good — it’s all in the butter, baby. They say it’s crack butter. They want to drink it.’ Stephanie “Miss Step” Archibald, SB&B Restaurant

And so, after 13 years in a cubicle, she vowed, so would she. “My friends got together and we cooked seafood on the weekend. It started to get very popular,” Archibald says.

Too popular.

“Someone reported me,” she says. “I had to get my business license” and find a location to operate.

This year, Florida lawmakers passed the ‘Home Sweet Home Act,’ which reforms outdated Florida regulations on selling “shelf-stable” homemade food. That “would have helped,” Archibald said. “It’ll help a lot of people” going forward.

The business license, however, proved valuable, she says, especially in Tampa Bay fish markets where, “I didn’t have a connection, not much of a discount even for being a regular.”

Walking through those same doors as a licensed business owner, “I was able to get more resources,” Archibald says. “I was able to get wholesale prices and not be on my own.”

Calvin Knight. Stephanie “Miss Step” Archibald is expanding, with a food truck in a vertical integration that incorporates her original retail seafood and specialty garlic-butter business.

Archibald’s menu includes Caribbean seafood dishes reflecting her father’s Virgin Island roots, traditional and southern African-American seafood dishes and at least one secret recipe: her garlic butter.

“It’s finger-licking good — it’s all in the butter, baby,” Archibald says. “They say it’s crack butter. They want to drink it.”

SB&B — named for first letters of each of Archibald’s children — offers catering and regular events such as Wednesday Ladies Night and Saturday’s ‘Boozy Bunch,’ which begins at 4 p.m. and features shrimp & grits, pork chops-and-waffles and bottomless Mimosas. “Our dishes are original creations unique from any other restaurant,” Archibald says. “We only serve fresh food. No preservatives.”

Archibald says among her lessons learned is “charge what it’s worth.”

“The biggest mistake is under-charging,” she says. “You cannot please everyone and charge what it’s worth.”

Finding new products and putting them on plates is also something she’s learned to do.

“I went to Houston and came back with an idea: smoked turkey legs,” Archibald says. “We didn’t have stuff like that around here. I did the research on my own. They do really good. When I start something, I’m setting a trend.”

Those trends will soon have treads. SB&B’s fluorescent-lime food truck will be seen at rallies, fiestas and near “the big call centers and warehouses” around Lakeland-Linder Airport for the Monday-Friday lunch crowd.

Getting on the road is just her first stop.

Archibald’s aim is to franchise ’Step’s Seafood’ for her entrepreneurial children. Her oldest daughter, Sha’Nya, 21, a Polk State University student, “knows how to run it, how to do everything,” she says.

But, alas, all’s fair in blood and butter.

“The only (thing) she doesn’t know how to do,” Archibald says, “is make the butter — and I’m not telling her that.”

 

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