116 117 TAZIKI’S MEDITERRANEAN CAFÉ two millennia ago, is sharing a great meal in the company of people one loves and respects. It was also in Greece that Richards fell in love with a small café, where good food and good company were the catalysts for providing the deeper, richer, and more meaningful happiness that Aristotle had earlier described, and that he now hoped to recreate in America. “After our trip, I wanted to open up a little Greek café, similar to what we had experienced,” he recounts. “Of course, we had no money, but that didn’t stop me. We ended up taking an equity line of credit on our house.We had $50,000 and we had to make it work - failure was not an option.” On the contrary, over the years, Richards’ gam- ble has proved to be a consummate success. “I created a menu and we found a 1,100-sq.-ft. spot in Birmingham,” he continues. “I knew night would be a challenge, but I knew I could get the guests in at lunch. I was a café manager at a white tablecloth restaurant in Birmingham, so I had a good following of guests who appreciated my hard work and knew that I was going to give them great service.” Richards also had a host of imaginative Greek and Mediterranean recipes for grilled meats, gyros, sandwiches, soups, sal- ads, and original sauces made use of simple, but wholesome and tasty ingredients. “It took us about three months to build the store out and we opened our first location in 1998,” says Richards. “We starting getting guests asking us to build another store closer to their homes, so we opened our second location in 2002; it was a little larger –2,800 square feet. A lot of the stuff, I did myself. My dad and my broth- er and mom and sister always pitched in. They either painted or ran wiring; doing whatever they could do to help the cause.” That same year, Amy became pregnant with what turned out to be the couple’s first set of twins. “So, we had two restaurants going, and then our guests requested that we come fur- ther south. So, we did that.We opened our third restaurant in 2005 and she was pregnant again with another set of twins.”With a growing family to take care of and three restaurants to run, Rich- ards decided to focus on what was already a very full plate, and he says that he “blew the whistle” on further expansion. However, in 2008, he began responding to several interested partners, who wanted to help him grow the Taziki’s brand. “We found the right partner to do that - it was actu- ally a local restaurateur in Birmingham. So, with that, we started our license agreement, and we’ve grown and we’ve grown. Then we turned into a franchise company.” Today, there are 83 Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafés across 16 states – a combination of franchises, Taziki’s-owned restaurants, and joint ventures. And Richards reports that number could grow by 20 units by the end of this year. Some of the