Her real name is Vivian Kehrer, but to most she’s known as Sarasota Sally. If she’s not dining at the dozen or more restaurants she helps to promote, she’s posting about restaurants on FB or going to the next locally owned restaurant to see if she can help them. And when she’s not doing that, she’s organizing food events or promoting celebrities like Mrs. Florida.
She naturally brings people and restaurants together and makes it an event. She could be Marketing Mary or PR Paula. There’s no doubt she’s a walking, talking restaurant and people promoter. And another prime example of a typical retiree in Sarasota that seems to be busier than when they were in the midst of their careers.
Her business sarasotasally.com is set up to be a win-win for locally-owned restaurant owners and potential consumers…or foodies as they’re often described.
Sarasota Sally picks only locally owned restaurants she deems worthy of being in her club. Consumers go to her website to sign up for free birthday meals, coupons and deals. Or they can join her Friends of Sally dinner club that meets every Tuesday evening with a group of passionate foodies at the specific restaurant of the week. It’s a great idea for a fun night out of dining out at a new place and meeting others. Restaurants pay a ‘reasonable’ fee for Sally’s service, which includes a full page review on her website; a link to their website; endless Facebook posts featuring food and events; holding and helping organize events at the restaurants and whatever else she comes up with to drive business.
“I’m on Facebook a lot,” says ‘Sally.’ I have close to 5,000 friends now and the business has at least quadrupled since I bought it. We have 8,000 foodies!”
She was ‘born into the restaurant business’ in New Jersey she said as her grandparents and parents owned eateries and import/export food businesses. She has owned, worked in and managed a good number of local restaurants during her career in Jersey and Sarasota prior to her purchase of Sarasota Sally. To name a few: Sarasota and Bradenton Ale Houses; Shoneys, Bay Village, the Boatyard, and her own Filippone’s Pizza and Pasta (in the 90’s). She and Donna Powell coordinate the Taste of Sarasota and are currently pulling together A Taste of Venice.
SarasotaSallycom wasn’t Vivian’s brainchild. It just kind of plopped in her lap.
“I just happened to be talking to the woman who owned it over lunch and she was at a point where she wanted to let it go,” Vivian said. “I looked at her, slapped my hand on the table, and said ‘SOLD!’”
She called her husband shortly after and said, “I just bought a business.” Just like that.
“The birthday club really works,” Vivian said. “I really enjoy dining out and meeting people.” And how does the rest of it work so well? “I can’t really tell you, it just does.”
“I’m the mouthpiece of this business, but my husband is my right arm,” Vivian continued. “He does all of the computer work, writes the stories, does some photography…while I manage the rest… I’m the mouth,” she laughed.
Go to www.sarasotasally.com and sign up. The offerings are much better than regular online birthday clubs, particularly with the free birthday dinners. It’s a chance to meet other dining out enthusiasts and explore new locally-owned restaurants every Tuesday night if you like. Keep an eye out too for Sarasota Sally on Facebook to see what’s happening daily, whether it’s a special baby lobster dinner at Angelos or a Mrs. Florida dinner open to the public with free apps and desserts. There’s always something special to look forward to with Sarasota Sally.
“She’s my number one friend in the world,” says Angelo DiFiore, an amiable character, jokester and authentic Italian chef whose new restaurant has become Sally’s ‘official office,’ compliments of Angelo. The office comes complete with linen table cloth, a window seat, and all the delicious food she and her guest can eat.
Angelo went on to say, “I don’t have to advertise…what I pay her for four months I make in a night.”
Angelos just opened in June and by the looks of it on this summertime Wednesday night the word is out. Sarasota Sally’s been talking again.
Other restaurants included in this members-only club are: Surf Shack Coastal Kitchen, the Terrace at Surf Shack, Cafe Baci, Goodfellas Cafe & Winery, Dutch Valley, Harry’s Sports Bar & Grill, Saltwater Cafe, Palermo’s Pizza, Opa! Opa! Authentic Greek Restaurant, Taste of Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant, Angelo’s Restaurant, and just in – Webber’s Hot Dogs.
A Taste of Venice is being organized by Sarasota Sally and Donna Powell and is happening August 30th at the Venice Hotel Vanezia (formerly Ramada), 425 US 41 Bypass, Venice, from 5 to 8 p.m. Eighteen restaurants are signed up so far.
Aside from adding more restaurants and foodies to her club, Sarasota Sally has her sights set on branching out in Venice and Bradenton. While her name may have to change with the market (Venice Vivian? Bradenton Barbie?)… she says she’ll cross that bridge when she comes to it.
“I saw her posts at 1 o’clock in the morning yesterday,” Angelo said, continuing to describe Sarasota Sally as the best thing since sliced bread. As we were about to leave, by the way, he insisted we sit back down and let him cook tableside baby lobster and prawns…ahh, the perks of knowing Sarasota Sally.
Visit www.sarasotasally.com to become a member of the Friends of Sally dinner club and sign up for the birthday club. Call (941) 504-8983 for more information. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll receive a weekly email on that week’s featured restaurant. Be sure to check out her Facebook page regularly, as well, for last minute promotions.
Photos by Patti Pearson, Vivian Kehrer