Wednesday, May 16, 2012

President Obama Woos Congressional Leadership With Hoagies From DC's Taylor Gourmet

Crazy, cool, unforgettable: Co-owner Casey Patten dishes all the details of the Presidential hoagie run...
President Obama used hand-crafted sandwiches on Wednesday to symbolize the importance of small business ownership and his Congressional 'To -Do List' with a morning run to DC's Taylor Gourmet ahead of his White House luncheon for Congressional Leadership. The visit included a small-business round table with Taylor co-owners Casey Patten and David Mazza, whose Italian deli and market on 14th Street NW specializes in authentic Philadelphia-style hoagies. The President bought six to go for his luncheon guests, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). (Above: The President holds his own hoagie; Patten is center, Mazza at left)

"I'm going to offer them some hoagies," said the President, clad in a dark suit with a red tie.

He ordered a 12-inch Spruce Street hoagie for himself, which has roast turkey, prosciutto, roasted red peppers and sharp provolone on house-made bread, co-owner Patten told Obama Foodorama.

"We get requests from Congress all the time for hoagie platters, but never have they been hand-delivered by the President," Patten said, laughing. "Nor have we ever been lucky enough to have the President sink his teeth into one of our delicious creations."

The hoagies are named after Philly landmarks and streets, and the President also ordered one 9th Street Italian; one Cherry Street; one Locust Street Expressway; one Arch Street, and one Philadelphia Landfill, all 12-inchers. The President paid cash for his $62.79 tab: "I have to pay, it's my rule," he said. (Above: The President hands Patten his money as Mazza looks on)

"I asked him to sign the receipt," Patten said. The President obliged, then raised his hoagie aloft.

"This is a serious-sized hoagie," he said.

Patten said he was honored by the President's twenty-minute visit, both nervous and thrilled. It began at 10:30 AM when the motorcade roared up to the tented-off store, screened for protection. Secret Service presence was heavy, of course.

The small business roundtable...
The President removed his jacket as he got down to business with the roundtable discussion, held at a table in the center of the funky store, which is dotted with recycled tables and has walls of reclaimed wood, with lampshades made of buckets. Participants included Small Business Administrator Karen Mills, Kathy Rachels, president of DC's seven Yes! Organic Markets, and Brian J. Smith, owner of Francis Lee Contracting. (Above: The roundtable)

The President put everyone at ease, Patten said.

"His demeanor has a calming effect, and once you talk to him for a little bit, it's like talking to a friend."

All the roundtable participants have benefited from SBA loans and counseling, the President said, and Congress needs to act on his To-Do List to ensure that other Americans can live out their own dreams of small business ownership. The President hailed his companions as "outstanding examples of American entrepreneurship."

"We work very hard, and to have the President say that means a lot," Patten said.

After opening their first shop in the District in 2008, the 14th Street location is Taylor Gourmet's fourth outlet, and it opened in January. Two more locations will open this summer, and SBA loans helped fund the projects, Patten said. He grew up outside Philadelphia, and has lived in the District for a decade. He and co-owner Mazza have been friends since childhood.

"It’s their ingenuity and their hard work that’s allowed them to be successful," President Obama said. "But organizations like the SBA have also made a difference."

The President told the group he would like to help them more with tax relief, a key point on his To-Do List.

"We'll see if Congress is willing to act," President Obama said. “My message to let’s go ahead and act to help those that sustain momentum for our economy. There’ll be more than enough time for us to campaign and politic. Let’s make sure that we don’t lose steam at a time when a lot of folks like these are feeling pretty optimistic and are ready to go.” (Above: The White House graphic for the To-Do List)

Patten said he's totally on board with the To-Do List, but the President's personal touches were what made the visit memorable.

"The coolest piece was the President wishing me 'happy birthday,'" Patten said. He is 32 today.

The President also signed autographs and posed for photos with staff, and he even wrote a special note for the kids of Taylor's Director of Operations, Patten said.

"All in all it was a great day, something I'll never forget, and treasure always," Patten said.

Patten said business was booming after the President departed with two bags holding his to-go order at 10:56 AM.

"We've seen a lot of new faces today," Patten said.

As for re-naming a hoagie after the President?

"We're all gonna get together later tonight and discuss a few things," Patten said, adding that it's a likely option, since the visit was historic. "It's pretty crazy!"

Patten and Mazza were alerted last Friday that they might be the lucky hosts for the President's roundtable, and he said they knew it would be a go on Monday.

An aide for Boehner said the House Speaker "was very pleased with the sandwiches served" at the White House luncheon, but a readout of the meeting from the Speaker's office shows the President and Boehner clashing over the debt ceiling. According to the readout, when Boehner asked the President if he was proposing that Congress increase the debt limit without corresponding spending cuts, the president replied "Yes." Boehner then told President Obama, “As long as I’m around here, I’m not going to allow a debt ceiling increase without doing something serious about the debt.” (Above: The receipt with the presidential autograph)

By 1:29 PM, the President's visit to Taylor Gourmet was already the subject of a post on the White House blog. The White House website has a webpage devoted to the President's To-Do List, which includes a count-down clock Congress' summer recess.

The transcript of the President's full remarks is here.

The White House video of the roundtable:

Info: The Taylor Gourmet the President visited is located at 1908 14th St. NW, Washington, DC, 20009. Phone: 202-588-7117. The website is here.

From the White House, the business owners' backgrounds:

Casey Patten & David Mazza, Founders and Co-Owners Taylor Gourmet
Philadelphia natives Casey Patten and David Mazza are founders and co-owners of Taylor Gourmet, an Italian deli with four locations in the Washington, DC metropolitan region. As the chef and creative partner, Casey is knowledgeable in quick-serve and casual dining. He has been involved in the service industry since 1995. David is responsible for the business planning and has a background in real estate. They opened the first Taylor Gourmet location in 2008. Casey and David were approved for an SBA-backed loan that helped them purchase their third location on 14th Street NW in Washington, DC. They will open a fifth location this summer and plan to hire more than 25 new employees. Casey and David are residents of Washington, DC.

Brian J. Smith, Founding Principal Francis Lee Contracting
Brian J. Smith is a founding principal at Francis Lee Contracting, a three-year-old general contracting firm that specializes in construction. The company employs 14 people and is headquartered in Washington, DC’s Ward 8. Brian has twenty years of experience in the commercial real estate development and financial services industries. With the help of SBA counseling, the company has experienced tremendous success, seeing an annual revenue growth of over 75%. Brian plans to hire additional employees this year and purchase needed construction equipment. Brian is a resident of Arlington, Virginia.

Kathy Rachels, President of Yes! Organic Markets
Kathy Rachels is the president of Yes! Organic Markets. Kathy was born in Korea and immigrated to the United States in 1971. She went into business with her two brothers Gene and Gary Cha, opening their first Yes! Organic Market on Columbia Road NW in Washington, D.C. With the help of two SBA-backed loans, they were able to purchase two separate additional locations, 3425 Connecticut Avenue NW and 4100 Georgia Avenue NW in Washington, DC. Today there are eight locations in the Washington, DC metropolitan region. Kathy has plans to open an additional store and higher more employees. Kathy is a resident of Arlington, Virginia.


*Photos by AP/pool; White House video