Brooks Reitz is a fine man. A man that I completely underestimated at the time of setting up our creative humans interivew. A clever chap, I thought. I was impressed at his gig of being the curator of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. - makers of small batch, American made and very delicious cocktail syrups. However, what I soon realised upon setting foot into the charming community that is Charleston, was that Brooks was far more than a syrup maker. Brooks, it seemed, was a household Charleston name. People wanted to talk about him, spoke very highly of him, and seemed to be overly excited and supportive of his role in the current local food scene. I very quickly learnt that not only does this guy own a cocktail syrup company, but he has also just opened a new chicken and oyster joint by the name of Leon's in downtown Charleston, plus he's got another cafe and many more brilliant ideas on the way.
Chatting with Brooks over breakfast at The Park Cafe and then on a stroll through Hampton Park was an absolute pleasure. Such a lovely guy. Friendly, interested, and happy to chat. Brooks told me that he was a drama and english major and a once hopeful playwright. There was a moment right then that I wondered if Brooks was still able to continue his creative interests in his found profession of owning restaurants and embarking on entrepreneurship. "It's the theatrics of a restaurant that I love the most" he said. "The lights, the music, the set design the atmosphere. Restaurants are like theater, like stepping onto a stage. And I get to create that". Clearly still a creative and clearly a much more clever chap than I ever gave him credit for. This man is unstoppable. And very nice company at breakfast, to boot.
What projects are you currently working on?
We are in the final stages of construction on our all-day cafe/coffeeshop called St. Alban, which should open late October/November. I'm in the midst of launching all of our new Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. products before the holiday season, which includes our Elderflower Tonic and Bourbon Cocktail Cherries, as well as some of our bar tools: muddler, jigger, copper cocktail cup, and bar tool roll-up.Finally, I am working on a new packaged food project, and considering a small design job with a restaurant in Maryland.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
It comes from so many sources: travels, magazines, newspapers, friends, hotels, music, art, restaurants - the list is endless. The world offers up so many opportunities for inspiration and ideas, all you have to do is open your eyes.
Why a cocktail crafter/mixologist and restaurant owner/entrepreneur?
There was a time when my major focus was on drinks/spirits and cocktails. I was drawn to it because it was new to me, provided a huge opportunity to learn, and there was room for innovation. Over time, I've found that I don't drink as much, mostly because I feel like hell in the morning, so I've made a natural transition away from that and on to other focuses. My interests now are in restaurants, design and entrepreneurship.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, would you be so kind to share some of your favourite artists?
Typically I find that music pulls me from what I'm working on - I end up focusing more on the lyrics than on what's in front of me. If I am playing something, I favor slower, quieter music: Bahamas, Jus Post Bellum, or Phosphorescent, for example.
Do you have a morning ritual?
Always coffee, and always breakfast. A little stretch is nice, and typically checking and returning emails once I'm fully caffeinated.
What's your idea of a perfect Friday night?
Cleaning the house, setting a soundtrack and having a glass of wine with my girlfriend before welcoming friends over for a long, leisurely dinner where we sit around the table telling stories, hatching plans and getting buzzed. Evening winds down with a pour of Bourbon as we clean up and move to the living room to unwind and digest.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I'm looking forward to going to Tokyo for the activity, the energy and the pace, and then exploring the surrounding cities and towns for the serenity that I understand exists in the quieter places.
Best piece of advice you've ever given or been given?
Never explain, never complain.
What's for dinner?
Tonight will probably be a big salad - we refer to it as garbage salad because we put so much stuff in it - accompanied by the leftover takeout from Leyla, a Lebanese restaurant in town. The place is always quiet and not necessarily the most comfortable, but it's always so tasty.
The best part about being a creative?
Not having to follow a script that dictates what you do for a living, or how you do it.
The worst part?
When you are self employed, there is always the nagging feeling that it will all fall out from under you at any given moment.
Day or night?
Old or new?
City or Country?
An equal mix of both - best illustrated by a recent trip to NY - we spent three days in the city, and then travelled upstate to the Hudson Valley for the weekend. The most inspiring, relaxing, wonderful trip.
Coffee or Tea?
What do you enjoy most about living in Charleston, SC?
The size and proximity to the places I spend my time. You can ride your bike across the city in minutes, and my home is close to my work, my office, friends houses, etc. It feels like a town at times, rather than a city.
Thoughts for the future:
Balance, health, friends, family, and continued pursuit of rewarding creative endeavors.