Reflections of a Restaurateur

TJ Sparks of Maple Street Biscuit Company

An exclusive eskca interview with TJ Sparks (Community Leader) of Maple Street Biscuit Company, which was honored in our:
Tell us your origin story. How did you come to be involved with Maple Street Biscuit Company?

I am born and raised in Jacksonville Florida, and I’ve lived here my whole life. I went to a small private school here and I got my Bachelor’s degree in Communications at FSCJ. I’m married to Courtney Sparks, the most incredibly amazing person ever. We have four fur babies: two dogs (Ginny and Luna) and two cats (Lillie and Remi). Professionally, I did several different jobs before I found my way to Maple Street. I taught music for REACH Academy for several years while in college. After that, I worked for a local seafood distributor called Seafood Sales and Service, which is an absolutely incredible company – I learned so much there. After that, I got a job as a worship director with Celebration Church and spent five years leading worship teams there. About a year ago, I got the itch to do something different, and new. I searched for months trying to find a company that I would want to try out and I came across Maple Street Biscuit Company. People is my favorite part of any job and I loved their mission statement: “Help People, Serve others, Be a part of the Community”. I applied online with no previous restaurant experience, and just hoped I would hear back. They gave me a shot and I’m loving every second of being a part of this incredible company.

What were the biggest hurdles you encountered in your journey?

I’d say my biggest hurdle would be stepping into the food scene with no previous experience in the restaurant industry. I’ve had to learn how to lead a restaurant team very quickly and I often have to figure things out on the fly. Maple Street does an excellent job with training new Community Leaders, and thankfully, I have an incredible team that helps me lead a successful store.

What does the future hold for you and Maple Street Biscuit Company?

Maple Street is a company that I’d like to be a part of for a very long time. The way they treat their team members, and the guests, is so gracious and caring. I love working here.

What are your thoughts on the food scene in Jacksonville?

I personally think the food scene in Jacksonville is good, and getting better every day. There’s so many good restaurants starting to pop up downtown, and if you’re willing to be adventurous, there are a ton of privately owned restaurants that are just waiting to be discovered all across JAX. I think the future is bright for our food scene here in the River City.

What’s your best advice for aspiring restaurateurs?

My best tip for aspiring restaurateurs is simply this: focus on people. Make your food incredible because you care about people, treat your team well, provide the absolute best customer service, and make everything about the experience of your guest, and more importantly, your team. Your restaurant is only as good as the team you have running it. Never forget that.

Our readers love recommendations! What’s your favorite item at Maple Street Biscuit Company?

My favorite dish at Maple Street is a two-way tie between the Farmer (flaky Biscuit, fresh fried chicken, melted cheddar cheese, pecan wood smoked bacon, topped with our house-made apple butter) and the Squawking Goat (flaky Biscuit, fresh fried chicken, fried goat cheese medallion, and topped with our house made pepper jelly). Come see us and I’ll make you one on the house!


For more exclusive interviews, see our full Reflections of a Restaurateur series