Rosewood Market, a signature Columbia business, has changed hands because of a casual conversation a year ago between longtime owner Basil Garzia and Bryan Tayara, the new 29-year-old operator.
But loyal customers of the natural food store and deli-restaurant won’t see many changes in the bohemian atmosphere nor the staff, many of whom have worked at the Rosewood Drive market more than 20 years, both men said Thursday.
“I’m very excited,” said Tayara, whose family has been the food business in Florence for about three decades, starting with a fruit and vegetable open-air market. “But I’m more relieved,” he said after the ownership change was announced on Facebook. “I’ve been carrying this secret around for so long.”
The secret grew from a chat he and 67-year-old Garzia had last year on one of the twice-a-week trips Tayara had been making here to deliver seafood from his father’s Orangeland Seafood restaurant in Florence to sell to Rosewood Market customers.
“He said, ‘I’m tired,’ ” Tayara recalled Garzia remarking. “ I said, ‘Well, do you plan on running this place forever?’ ”
That question set the wheels turning in Garzia’s brain. He decided that Tayara had the right mix of being a reliable hard worker and having a personality that blended with the market’s customers and with his, Garzia said.
“I think they are in good hands now,” said the New York state native who moved to Columbia in 1970 and opened one of its first vegetarian restaurants, the Basil Pot, in 1973. “I’m still the landlord, so I’ve got to beat the rent out of him and fix the roof,” Garzia said with a chuckle.
Tayara went to culinary school and said he was a line chef at Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant, Spago Beverly Hills, during his early 20s.
“Today’s my first official day,” Tayara, whose family is from Beirut, Lebanon, said of his new business venture. “I’m looking forward to watching my two little girls grow up here.” Now-single, Tayara has daughters 3 and 4 years old.
Among the market employees who are staying, Garzia said, is chef Benoit St. Jacques, a French Canadian turned U.S. citizen who has worked with Garzia 26 years.
“One employee told me she grew up here,” he said. “She’s been here for 20 years. I have four employees who have been here 20 years or more.”
Tayara said he plans no major changes in the market, but is contemplating rearranging the shelves, applying a fresh coat of paint and perhaps giving employees identifying aprons so customers can spot them more easily.
The seafood will move inside, however, as the market upgrades its refrigeration system, both men said.
Garzia’s career in Columbia switched from the Basil Pot to Rosewood Natural Foods, which he opened in 1982 a block from Rosewood Market’s current site. The original site is now Rockaway Athletic Club, a restaurant and bar. That means Garzia has been a Rosewood Drive staple for 33 years.
Many of his customers have become friends, he said. “Thanks for letting me be part of the community,” Garzia said in a message to his clientele. “As people are fond of saying, ‘I’m not a Southerner, but I got here as fast as I could.’”