Scott Pastor has a message to any entrepreneur considering giving up in this maddening economy: Perseverance really can pay off.
Pastor actually has the scars on his chest to prove it. That's because in May, Pastor, 41, had a heart attack literally one day before he was scheduled to open a Tasti D-Lite franchise in a Sarasota mall. He has since been fitted with a stent in his chest and is back to working everyday.
But that was only the first of two roadblocks thrown in front of Pastor. Turns out a fire burned through a neighboring store one day before a planned grand opening celebration of a second shop. The mid-November blaze caused thousands of dollars in water and structural damage to that store on St. Armands Circle. Pastor was forced to close that Tasti D-Lite through at least the rest of 2009.
The Sarasota store, in the Westfield Southgate Mall, opened in May — two days after Pastor's heart attack. Pastor declined to discuss sales so far or 2010 projections. But at this point, considering his health and the fire, it's understandable that Pastor says he says he's not too stressed about making it through the economic downturn.
“Even in a recession, people still want to treat themselves to an indulgence,” says Pastor. “You can't give up everything.”
And Pastor isn't giving up his dream of building a mini Tasti D-Lite empire on the Gulf Coast, and later in the rest of Florida. Pastor spent about $800,000 in franchisee fees, build out and renovation costs to get the two stores ready to open. He's already scouting Manatee and Sarasota counties for other locations and he's also talking to executives with Tasti D-Lite's parent company about buying the development rights for all of Florida.
Pastor is the first franchisee in Florida for Tasti D-Lite, which has run a company-owned store in Miami Beach for several years. The Franklin, Tenn.-based company wraps its marketing around selling frozen deserts that it claims are lower in calories, carbohydrates and sugar than regular ice cream.
Tasti D-Lite was founded in 1987 in New York City and has since developed a cult following among its rabid fans in the metro New York area. The company's treats have been featured on several TV shows, including Donald Trump's The Apprentice and Sex in the City.
A New York-based private equity firm bought the chain in 2007 and by 2008 it sought franchisees in several states, including Florida, Texas and California. The company's chief executive, Jim Amos, previously grew Mail Boxes, Etc. into a 4,000-store chain.
Pastor and his parents, Irwin and Sylvia Pastor, were also behind a big business before getting into Tasti D-Lite. The family ran a $100 million, 500-employee Pepsi bottling and distribution plant in upstate New York for more than 50 years before relocating to the Sarasota area a few years ago. The Pastors sold the company to Pepsi Co. in 2003.
Irwin Pastor, who splits his time between New York and Sarasota, remembered trying and liking Tasti D-Lite once on a trip to New York City. So the Pastors jumped at the chance to get into the franchise program when the company announced it last year.
“We wanted to bring something different to Sarasota,” says Scott Pastor. “People are always looking for something different as compared to ice cream.”
— Mark Gordon