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Photo by: Isaac Babcock - Tatame Sake Lounge lights up Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, May. 20, 2010 7 years ago

Tatame Sake Lounge brings together food, art

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Tatame offers affordable sake and food in Winter Park
by: Brittni Larson

Many Winter Parkers don't know it, but they've got their very own sake lounge.

The owners didn't even know Tatame Sake Lounge existed. Couple Jeff Jaclin and Jessica Sterner stumbled upon it while looking for a new business opportunity.

"We were looking for something we could do and might have fun doing," Jaclin said. "It just happened."

Jaclin, always his own boss, was looking for something different when the recession hit his other businesses. Neither had ever worked in the hospitality industry, let alone owned a bar or restaurant, but when Sterner walked in six-year-old-Tatame about nine months ago "something hit her." Jaclin went with his fiance's gut and took the plunge.

Surprisingly hidden despite its bright green exterior paint, the lounge was quite a deep plunge for the two, who decided to take on a business already in trouble.

"You're taking a business that in effect was actually losing money when we took it over," Jaclin said.

Over the past nine months, the couple said they've started making a slight profit. They're tackling the lack of visibility with new signage and a sometimes lack of customers with a product not found anywhere else in the area. The lounge offers 21 different cold sakes, which Sterner infuses with fruit flavors herself, along with a variety of more traditional hot sakes and an appetizer menu for recession-budget wallets. Food offerings range in price from $3 to $7 and a generous pour of sake for around $7.

"It's hard to get people to come out — they don't have the disposable income they had two years ago," Jaclin said.

A similar local bar, the Peacock Room, has shared the same type of hardships. Their business is down 20 percent from last year, mostly because people just don't have the cash to go out drinking three nights a week like they might have before the recession, manager Tania Bernard said.

According to the two lounges and businesses close by, including Tatame's neighbor, All Fired Up, a paint it yourself pottery place, the key is Internet marketing.

Facebook is one of the best ways to attract business. Jaclin and Sterner send Facebook "friends" invitations to all the events they host at Tatame, which is what they think is the best way to draw in customers.

The couple has something to offer a person of any interest. There's jazz night, Latin night, acoustic singers and all-out rock bands. Sterner's favorite is their Dr. Sketchy event, a live sketching session they do once a month. Exotic models — be they drag queens, superheroes, or retro housewives — model for dozens of local artists at the bar.

"The goal is to support the local art and music community," Sterner said.

"It's what we do here, it's what we stand for," said Aubrey Walker, manager of Tatame.

Not only do local artists get to show their stuff, but the owners do too. Sterner loves to flex her creative muscle while inventing and shaking new "saketinis" for customers.

That fun, but intimate atmosphere, is what sets their place apart from others, the owners said.

Customers agree.

"I love that place," Bernard said. "I would consider them very swanky and upper-crust, but not hoity-toity like other Park Avenue places."

And while the purchase might have been a spur of the moment thing for the couple, they have discovered a passion for the place that won't let them give up on it. At least one of them keeps a positive attitude at all times, Sterner laughed.

And when energy is in short supply — they work from when their three children go to school in the morning until 2 a.m. most days — they dream of the future when they'll have multiple Tatames. Until then, they're enjoying the atmosphere along with their customers.

"When she peeks out of the kitchen and sees everyone having a good time, she gets excited," Jaclin said of his fiance.

Visit the Tatame Sake Lounge website for a menu and information on live music and other events.

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