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Houck joins Columbia Restaurant Group 

TAMPA, Fla., Aug. 31, 2015 – Jeff Houck joins the Columbia Restaurant Group after working most recently as the marketing and public relations director for Locale Market in St. Petersburg. He previously spent 25 years in journalism, including 12 years as a food editor, writer, columnist, blogger and podcaster for The Tampa Tribune.
He joins Angie Geml as a second marketing and public relations manager, working with both the Columbia brand and new concepts.
“We are expanding rapidly,” said fourth generation co-owner and president Richard Gonzmart. “We have more work than we can handle with our existing staff. Jeff brings a vast knowledge of food, coupled with recent marketing and PR expertise – as well as knowledge of multi-media so vital to today’s communications. We’re lucky to have him.”
Houck also worked at, the Palm Beach Post, the Florida Times-Union, the Anchorage Times and the Pensacola News Journal. His has won awards from the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Florida Press Club, the Alaska Press Club and the American Academy of Nursing. In 1998, his work was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Houck grew up in St. Petersburg, spending many days in the kitchens and lounges of his family’s restaurants and bars in St. Pete Beach. His great-grandfather Bruno Reitano emigrated from Italy at age 17 and became a butcher and restaurateur in Baltimore, Md. He migrated to Pass-a-Grille in the 1940s to build the Keystone Hotel and Motel and the Keystone Lounge. On weekends, Reitano would drive across the two-lane Gandy Bridge to visit the Italian Club in Ybor City, only a few blocks west of the Columbia Restaurant.
“Joining the Columbia Restaurant Group is a great honor,” Houck said. “As someone who comes from a Tampa Bay family restaurant background, it feels like I’ve come full circle.”
The Columbia Restaurant Group consists of four concepts including Columbia, Ulele, Cha Cha Coconuts and Goody Goody.
The Columbia was founded in 1905 and is Florida’s Oldest RestaurantSM. Locations include the flagship restaurant in Tampa’s Historic Ybor City, additional locations include St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, the Historic District in St. Augustine, Sand Key on Clearwater Beach, Central Florida's town of Celebration, the Columbia Cafe on the Riverwalk in Tampa and the Columbia Restaurant Cafe 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.
Cha Cha Coconuts is a tropical bar and grill that opened in 1989 on St. Armands Circle in Sarasota.
Ulele, the newest member of the Columbia Restaurant Group, opened in 2014 on the Hillsborough River in Tampa Heights.
Goody Goody will open in Tampa’s Hyde Park Village in early 2016. An exact date has not been announced.
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