By Robert Waldner
Photos by Brian Miller
As the age old saying goes, “Oh, the opportunities available to the entrepreneur who uses ingenuity, good old fashioned know how, and some environmental and community consciousness…” Well, maybe it’s a little less-than prophetic, but it’s true. Ethical sourcing and management have become high priority for many business owners in recent years. One such restaurateur is leading the charge on local efforts, Tim Bucolo, owner and operator of Old City Market is building his St. Augustine business on the foundation of ethics and creativity.
From humble beginnings, Bucolo began working in the restaurant industry at the young age of 16 in South Florida. After receiving his business degree, the University of Central Florida alumnus began working for the foodservice contractor giant, Aramark. In 2009, he was promoted through the corporate ranks to Food Services Director at Flagler College, where he and his wife Catherine became absolutely smitten with the old world charm of St. Augustine. Though he had a promising corporate future, Tim could not ignore a longing to create his own culinary trademark.
“We knew that we wanted to be here, and that we wanted to do something unique,” recalls Bucolo. Hence, he and Catherine began putting the wheels in motion for their very own St. Augustine eatery. However, just as quickly as those wheels began turning, a detour opened up on Tim’s road to entrepreneurial success. After six years in St. Augustine, Aramark took Bucolo 600 miles and 2 years off course of his dream. In 2015, he was promoted to Food Services Director at The University of Tennessee in Knoxville, an opportunity that he and Catherine simply could not pass up.
“We really missed St. Augustine. In our off-time we were in our Tennessee apartment kitchen trying out recipes,” recounts Bucolo of how he never gave up on his ultimate goal. Making the most of his next two years, Tim sculpted his business plan, honed his cooking skills, and developed his menu in preparation for getting back to where his heart was.
Finally, in February he moved back to town, zeroed in on a location, and traded in his corporate suit for an apron. He recalls, “We had signed a lease in a different location which fell through at the last minute. This one (604 Anastasia Blvd.) was available, but someone was already closing in on it. I crossed my fingers and pitched my business plan to the property owners. They loved it and ultimately awarded me the lease.”
Open since June 17th, Old City Market is a pioneer in terms of both its mouth-watering cuisine and its efforts in community and environmental sustainability. “All of our beef is grass-fed and raised in Ocala. We have it here within three days after it is produced. We also use local, free-range chicken, fresh, local produce, and only Florida fish from the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico,” raves Bucolo of his community based resources. Taking it a step further than the ever-popular “Local, Fresh” business model so widely embraced in town, Old City Market does one HUGE thing that you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else…they are a 100% Zero Waste Zone.
Old City Market has partnered up with the environmentally-driven, St. Augustine grower, Dog Day Gardens to recycle all of their pre-consumer waste — things like egg shells, paper towels, and vegetable trimmings. Dog Day takes these items, composts them, and puts them back into the earth for a totally sustainable way to grow healthier, fresher, and more delicious produce. Understanding that no contribution is too big, Tim also uses 100% compostable flatware, cups, and straws. While the city is not quite yet capable of handling that level of compost volume, Bucolo emphasizes that, “Everything is still completely biodegradable. This means it will break down quickly at the landfill. I will never buy styrofoam as long as these materials are available to us.”
Not only is the Old City Market team all about saving local business and the environment, they are also about saving their customers a little cash. “You can order any Old City Grinder, a side, and a drink all for under $10,” says Tim with a sparkle in his eye.
You may ask, “What more can you expect from this guy who seemingly does it all?” Try breaking into the local datil pepper sauce market. Bucolo also makes San Augustin Datil Pepper Table Sauce. Calling it “mainly a hobby,” he created the brand four years ago as a savory, all-natural alternative to all of the “really sweet” sauces out there.
There you have it. Old City Market is making a big name for itself by leaving a tiny environmental footprint and bringing you delicious, fresh food.