By Kara Pound
Photos by Brian Miller
Ryan Kunsch always knew that in order to be successful, he would have to be his own boss. As the owner and founder of SARBEZ! (formerly PLANET! SARBEZ!), a bar-slash-music venue serving up a menagerie of grilled cheese and craft brews, Kunsch opened the late-night gathering spot in January of 2014 with a business loan and a dream.
“Things take a long time to grow — especially things that have potential in lasting a long while,” explains Kunsch. “I knew that I wanted to own my own business at a young age and I didn’t want to wait until I was 40 [to start] and finally get it going in my 50s when I’d be too tired to run it.”
Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Kunsch made his way down to St. Augustine in early 2011 after visiting his sister, who was attending Flagler College. “I instantly became attached,” he says of the area. “I was ready for a change and had the opportunity to go to school, so I chose Flagler.”
Husband to Glenn and father to daughter Raleigh and son Gabriel, Kunsch is working hard to make sure SARBEZ! is a success. Named after “zebras” spelled backwards, SARBEZ! is consistently booking regional musicians and national touring acts thanks to the help of some of his personal connections and collaborations with local music bookers.
“There was a void that needed to be filled,” explains Kunsch. “There are lots and lots of great places, but very few had the vibe I was looking for. Where was the energy? Where was the art? Where was the passion? And the good music?”
“It was aggravating to me to see the artists that were spilling their hearts out were the ones stuck on the street,” he says. “I thought maybe if I took a risk and opened up something unique and passionate, maybe others would follow. The locals are your family. They provide the sound for the entire town; without them, we wouldn’t be able to call ourselves a music town.”