Name: Diego Ibañez
Where were you born? San Juan, Puerto Rico
What are your community activities? (church or faith-based involvement, local, regional and national professional organizations, non-profits, etc.)
a. Vice President of Restaurants, North Central Florida Chapter, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association
b. Chair, Gainesville Downtown Owners and Tenants, Inc. board of directors
c. Gainesville Chamber of Commerce
d. Member, BNI Chapter 212
e. Previous member, Artwalk Gainesville advisory board
List any awards you have won for community service:
Although I have not won any individual awards for community service I’ve received numerous acknowledgements and recognitions for my businesses’ involvement and contributions to the community.
6. What is your definition of success? I believe that there are many material ways to measure success. Wealth, acquisitions, status, title. To me though, true success is a matter of daily accomplishment. When you end your day knowing that you have given it your best; that you haven’t left anything on the table, then you have been successful. If you have provided for your family and don’t have any regrets then you have been successful. Of course, if you look out your window and are happy to have a new Bugatti parked in the driveway then you have probably been successful at something.
7. What is your greatest professional accomplishment? When I moved back to Gainesville in 2000, I took on the challenge of carrying on the legacy that my parents had established in the community. The infusion of ideas and passion for the restaurant industry that I brought helped us recover from the aftermath of 9/11 and weather the recent recession that closed so many other businesses. Although I don’t take full credit for the success of my business I believe the work I’ve done has been the difference maker.
8. How do you exemplify the spirit of a Forty Under 40 professional? I believe that I exemplify the spirit of the award through my dedication to my profession, my family and my community. I am passionate about the history of downtown Gainesville and its future. I believe Gainesville is a very special place, that it should not be the “next” Austin or Boulder but the “first” Gainesville. I am committed to my family and the reputation that they have built in this community. I think Gainesville has a fantastic culinary scene which needs to be promoted as prominent feature of the community. While it is great that Gainesville ranks highly as a place to live and to raise a family, I think we can do better. Through community involvement and leadership I hope to see this accomplished.
Businessperson who has most inspired you: I would say Danny Mayer, founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group in New York. I respect his confidence as an innovator in the restaurant world and his commitment to giving back. He understands that for his enterprises to grow and flourish the community that supports his endeavors must grow and flourish. I appreciate his dedication to quality and the way he surrounds himself with like-minded talent. He exemplifies the philosophy that when one door closes another one opens. Instead of seeing unsuccessful ventures as failures he sees them as lessons on what not to do next time.
10. Best advise ever received: My dad use to tell me “it’s about the journey, not the destination”, my mom always says “we don’t need weathermen to tell us it’s raining, we need carpenters to build an ark.” and Buckaroo Banzai once said “no matter where you go…there you are.” The best piece of advice though would be “Be part of the solution not part of the problem.” I feel like it can be applied to every situation on a daily basis.
11. Greatest professional challenge: My biggest challenge is to carry on the legacy and reputation of my family’s business while keeping it fresh and current in the present market.
First job: My first job was working the counter Saturday mornings at my parent’s bakery.
13. What color crayon would you be? Why? I think I would go with a classic. Red. It’s bright, passionate, it stands out, and it commands attention. Red is a confidant color, it inspires. It is a color for caution but also a beacon to warn of danger, a sort of look-out. I would have said orange and blue but that’s not a crayon, it should be though.
Favorite after-work drink: I like a Grey Goose and Soda with a lime although lately I’ve been appreciating American craft beers.
15. If I had a magic wand, I’d: I would solve homelessness. I would provide homes and jobs to those displaced by the recession, treatment for those that are destitute as victims of addiction and counseling and direction to the transient population that chooses to live outside of society. If that is beyond the scope of the wand then a black Bugatti would be nice.
What is your favorite Gadget? I’m not really a tech person so I would have to say my favorite gadget is my phone. I am amazed by everything that can be done with smartphones. I’m constantly amazed by the new apps being developed. With my business being downtown I get to interact with many of the people working in the new tech start-ups. Many times the projects they are working on seem like no-brainers but will advance the fields they are meant for by leaps and bounds, all on a device that you carry in your pocket every day!
How long have you been in Gainesville? I’ve lived in Gainesville for most of my life. My family moved here in 1981 and other than a few years in the late nineties I’ve been here since.
18. What do you love most about Gainesville/Alachua County? When I had the opportunity to move back to Gainesville from Los Angeles in 2000, I didn’t hesitate for one moment.
I have always loved the diversity offered by Gainesville. There is cultural diversity, diversity in politics, in styles, in art, in music. There is a balance of natives, of transients and of new residents looking to establish roots. All this diversity makes this quiet southern college town a dynamic and exciting home. Now that the downtown is experiencing a renaissance with the new tech community and Gainesville is evolving from a place where people come for school to a place where people come for work and to live I am as proud as ever to be a Gainesvillian!
19. Three things people would be surprised to know about you: One, I worked as a production assistant on a Spanish language sit-com when I lived in Los Angeles. Two, I taught English in Madrid for a year and bartended at night at an Irish Pub. Three, my son’s birthday is 10/11/12.
20. Advice you would give a younger you: I would say “be daring, don’t hesitate, don’t over analyze. Always look for opportunity and don’t be afraid of being too forward in jumping on it. Don’t be afraid of asking, the worst that anyone can say is no.” I feel that I have achieved a lot in life so far but had I heeded this advice I would have gotten here sooner.