Danville Express

Living - April 13, 2007


Couple gets off the treadmill for an exciting new venture

by Jordan M. Doronila

Goodbye working 9 to 5 and hello to independence.

Danville residents Lisa and Randy Gross quit their grueling jobs to start Local Flavor, a brand new multi-media restaurant guide that brings a virtual world of chefs and food in the San Ramon Valley - just a click away - to homes everywhere.

People can visit Local Flavor online and watch videos of restaurants in Danville and nearby. The Web site offers a teleplay of a wide assortment of interviews from chefs and owners on site, as well as glimpses of a variety of foods the restaurants offer.

Additionally, the informational service comes in a CD, which was mailed to 20,000 residents living in Danville and San Ramon. The interactive guide also comes with coupons for the restaurants it features.

"It's absolutely free to customers," said Randy Gross. "Danville is a perfect place for our product."

"We associate with only high quality restaurants," added Lisa Gross. "We are not going to McDonald's."

The restaurants featured on Local Flavor include Amber Bistro, Bridges Restaurant and Bar, Faz, Norm's Place, Forbes Mill Steakhouse, Alberto's Cantina, Guiseppe's Pasta and Grill and Mudd's Restaurant.

Currently, there is already a Local Flavor running and performing prosperously in Atlanta, Ga. The Grosses own and operate the Northern California brand.

"It was wildly successful," Randy Gross said, about the interactive guide's success in Georgia. "This validated what we had expected. It told us we were really onto something."

Lisa and Randy Gross met in college. Randy - a Danville native who went to school at San Ramon Valley High School - went to UCLA, where he met Lisa.

Lisa grew up in L.A. and went to Beverly Hills High School where she encountered future celebrities such as Nicholas Cage and cast members from the hit TV series "The Brady Bunch." She also went to school with Star Trek star William Shatner's children.

But, she said, she was not rich and was not friends with the celebrities.

"I don't feel like a Beverly Hills-type person," she said.

In high school, she played sports.

"I had a great time," she said. "I was on sports teams all the time."

She went to UCLA because her family traditionally liked the Bruins and the university was her dream school, she said.

"I wanted to be close," she said.

Randy and Lisa met on a ski trip when he was accidentally assigned to the same cabin where Lisa was staying. The two connected and hit it off, they said.

After graduating, Lisa went to Columbia University and received her master's degree in organizational psychology. She wanted to work in human resources.

"There's no city like New York," she said.

When Randy finished studying at UCLA, he went to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to get his law degree.

"I enjoyed it," he said, about the city. "It's so interesting."

The two maintained their relationship while they ventured off into different states, and they both agreed when they decided to have children, they wanted to be in California.

"We wanted to raise kids," she said.

They moved back to California, married in 1994, and have three children - Melina, 10; Ethan, 8; and Giana, 5. Randy worked as a lawyer in San Jose, and Lisa worked in the human resources department for General Electric, also in San Jose.

They both worked for several years before finding that their jobs had smothered their lives, leaving little time for their children.

"It was very time consuming," said Randy Gross. "Being in law was a good place to start but it was not where I wanted to end up."

"I knew what the life would be like," he said, noting that he had worked as a paralegal before becoming a lawyer. "It's very hard."

Eventually, they decided they wanted to spend time with their children, and they gradually reduced the amount of time they committed to their jobs. Soon, Lisa quit her job. Randy started his own law practice in Danville.

"We were ambitious," said Lisa Gross. "I got so involved with my kids."

Through one of Randy's clients, he met the owner of Georgia's Local Flavor, which was developed and owned by ICT Media. The Grosses saw how it worked, and they were impressed. It provided detailed information about the personalities of the chefs and owners of restaurants. And they saw that this interactive multi-media guide was widely received.

Randy and Lisa worked out a deal to form their own Local Flavor brand in Northern California. They did research, demonstrations and inquired from restaurant owners and managers how they felt about that way of advertising. Much of the development of the service was funded by the couple.

The Grosses said they were enthusiastic about their idea, which helped them communicate their passion for the service to restaurants.

They did the preliminary legwork for their business in 2005. And they started it last year.

Currently, they have 15 restaurants in Danville, Blackhawk and San Ramon participating in Local Flavor, right in their back yard near Tassajara Hills Elementary School.

"It's pretty up here," said Lisa Gross.

Local Flavor charges an initial start-up fee of $495 and then a monthly fee of $495. For more information, telephone 1-888-20-LOCAL or visit www.localflavor.com

Contact Jordan M. Doronila at jdoronila@DanvilleWeekly.com


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