George Guito 50th Anniversary Celebration with The Columbia Restaurant
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Published on Jun 28, 2012
Congratulations to George Guito on his 50th Anniversary with The Columbia!
Way back in 1962, John F. Kennedy was President, Johnny Carson took over hosting duties of The Tonight Show, and a young boy named George Guito came to work at the Columbia Restaurant. 50 years later, George is still working at The Columbia Restaurant, he has never worked anywhere else.
Florida's Oldest Restaurant, the iconic 107-year-old Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, honored General Manager George Guito for his 50th Anniversary with the 4th and 5th generation family-owned business at their Employee Appreciation Dinner on Tuesday, June 26th, 2012 with a video that paid tribute to his amazing career.
The music accompanying the video is "The Yellow Rose of Texas," performed by Cesar Gonzmart.
It all started when third generation family member Cesar Gonzmart ( co-owners Richard and Casey Gonzmart's father) took a chance on the then 15-year-old George by letting him clean the restaurant. At first Cesar thought George was too young to work, but George begged him to give him a chance. He was paid $35 as a "porter" to mop floors and clean bathrooms six days a week.
George became a busboy before long and worked odd jobs at the restaurant. Cesar returned his loyalty and found a way to reward George and the restaurant. He sent George to butcher school and paid the bills. George became a certified butcher, and began cutting all the meat for the kitchen.
While working in the kitchen, he learned how to buy produce and supplies, and to cook. When the chef retired, he temporarily took on the cooking.
Over the years, he has installed dishwashers, wired the computers, fixed the fountain when it flooded and hung the chandelier. He has worked every job in the restaurant except tending bar and performing in the Flamenco dance shows.
Today George knows how to cook everything on the award-winning restaurant's menu. At his home in West Tampa, paella is his signature dish.
In 1992, as Cesar Gonzmart was dying of pancreatic cancer, he insisted that George, who he had practically raised as his own son, become general manager of The Columbia of Ybor City. And that's where you can find George today. His nickname is "The Mayor of Ybor City."
The original Columbia Restaurant was founded in Tampa's Historic Ybor City in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez, Sr. It began as a 60-seat corner café known for its Cuban coffee and authentic Cuban sandwiches, frequented by the local cigar workers. Additional locations include St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, the Historic District in St. Augustine, The Pier in Downtown St. Petersburg, Sand Key on Clearwater Beach, Central Florida's town of Celebration, the Columbia Café on the Riverwalk in Tampa and the Columbia Restaurant Café at Tampa International Airport. All Columbia locations are owned and operated by 4th and 5th generation members of the founding family; except for Columbia Restaurant Cafe at Tampa International Airport which is operated in partnership with HMSHost. Please see www.columbiarestaurant.com for more information.
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