It is a story that began in 2004, when Chef Annie and daughter Lauren combined their talents to open a small carryout restaurant here on Marco Island. Lauren had gone off to college the previous year, but after a few short months, decided that was not the direction for her. Upon returning home to Marco, her mother Annie suggested they open this business.
With Chef Annie’s creativity in the kitchen and Lauren and Annie’s experience in the restaurant business — Lauren working as a hostess at the age of 14 and both having worked as servers at other restaurants — it seemed like a great pairing. “Now, I work any position, except the line. You wouldn’t want me to cook your food!” Lauren jokes.
With a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s degree in public relations, Annie’s other daughter, Nicole, handles the marketing, advertising, community affairs, special events and bookkeeping. She enjoys the restaurant industry, as well, and says, “I love people so I always work a few shifts a week on the floor so I can interact with our customers and get to know them better.”
Their combined love for the industry and their time in therestaurant business allowed them to see the mistakes others made and learn from those experiences. “We knew we could do it better,” says Chef Annie. “We knew we could offer consistent, good service and delicious food in a family-friendly atmosphere that would make people want to return again and again.”
The original restaurant focused on take-out lunch and dinner, and had a small storefront and a few employees, most of them family. It didn’t stay small for long, though, growing to include indoor and outdoor dining space, breakfast and catering. Chef Annie likes to give Cindy, a customer, the credit for the first expansion. Cindy asked Chef Annie to do a breakfast for her 72nd birthday and invited 70 guests. Yes, the breakfast was a huge success, and a new breakfast place was born on Marco Island.
“We started our business small and grew fast, as customers became friends,” says Chef Annie. “Why work for someone else when you can work for yourself and enjoy the rewards? You can be your own boss.” The move also allowed her to enjoy working everyday with family.
In 2011, the family was approached about expanding to a new location in the Esplanade. The move would increase their restaurant’s seating capacity by five times andenable them to offer waterfront dining. The women jumped on the opportunity, and renamed their restaurant Mango’s Dockside Bistro. Today, they still offer catering and have expanded to include a new retail shop.
For Lauren and Nicole, their experience of working with their mom has been inspiring. “She has inspired us to never give up no matter how hard things get,” Nicole notes. Lauren agrees, “Mom has always wanted the best for us. I am only 29 years old, and I own my own business. How many people can say that? She is always there with love and support.”
And, all three women have brought their significant others into the fold. “We have had supportive husbands,” say Annie and Nicole. “Both guys work in the business too.” While not yet married, Lauren’s boyfriend is a true source of support for her, as he understands the demands of owning a restaurant.
Still, owning a restaurant comes with its challenges, especially on Marco Island “Owning a restaurant isn’t glamorous,” Nicole admits. “It takes hard work, long hours and dedication. It is hard to find time to take time off or go on vacations.” Then, there is Marco’s seasonal nature. “Living on Marco Island, there is the struggle of the seasonality of the tourism business and the way it ebbs and flows. You have toadapt your business to it to survive,” adds Lauren.
There are also some pitfalls when you run a family business, notes Lauren. “Working any business with family is not easy,” she says. “There are good days and bad days, but we always seem to make it work. With all our strengths put together, our family makes an amazing team!”
For women interested in opening their own business, Annie, Lauren and Nicole advise that they get to know their customers, what they want and need, and then deliver it well and consistently. “That is the secret to success,” Nicole says. “You also have to have a goal and be willing to work hard to reach it. Don’t give up!”
Lauren agrees: “When we first opened Mango’s, a wise friend, Bill Nunn said, ‘It will get a little easier everyday.’ I didn’t believe it at first, but now I know it to be true.”
So, what is next on the menu for the women of Mango’s? “We want to see Mango’s continue to strive to give excellent service and provide delicious food,” say Lauren and Nicole. “We also want to grow our new retail shop and maybe have our own product line of gourmet food items. Perhaps, we will even open a second or third Mango’s location one day,” adds Nicole.