Workspace: Alex Klempf tackling Cowford Chophouse and other key pieces of her father’s businesses
Alexandria Klempf is proud to be a boomerang.
One of the 20- and 30-somethings who left Jacksonville for other places, only to return when they realized there was much to miss about the River City.
Klempf’s back now, as one of the partners in Forking Amazing Restaurants, which was co-founded by her father, Jacques.
She is leading the company’s highest-profile project — the redevelopment of the historic Bostwick Building Downtown into the Cowford Chophouse.
But it was a six-year journey before she made her way home.
After graduating from The Episcopal School of Jacksonville, Klempf went west for a degree in literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Then northeast to Boston for her master’s degree at the University of Massachusetts.
Boulder and Boston offered something Jacksonville couldn’t: colder climates.
“I really hate the heat,” Klempf admitted.
They also gave her a chance to experience different parts of the country.
But ultimately she came back to Jacksonville,
Back to where she grew up in different parts of town, mostly in Mandarin and San Marco.
Back to teach freshman composition at the University of North Florida.
And back to her family, including her father, for whom she has worked since high school.
One of those jobs was wearing the mascot costume of Egg-Land’s Best at Jacksonville Suns games and in-store promotions from ages 15-20. Her father owned the Egg-Land's franchise for the area, which he recently sold.
Klempf laughs about it now but admits she learned a lot about branding, marketing and promotion from inside the egg.
It also was the start of working with her father, which she loves.
During summers off from college, she would work in different areas of his business. She’d research alternative methods of farming and the egg business, like sustainable agriculture and humane animal production.
“He didn’t give me anything specific to research. He just let me explore,” Klempf said. And he was always interested in the results.
She said she has learned much from her father, including the value of patience and being a good listener.
Klempf also believes her father is able to see things from the different viewpoints she brings.
She was in her first semester of teaching at UNF when her father called and said he needed her help to pull off his idea for a steak and seafood restaurant in the former First Guaranty Bank & Trust building at Bay and Ocean streets.
“My dad has always taught me to not pass up an opportunity, so I jumped on it,” Klempf said.
She’s director of operations for Forking Amazing Restaurants, which also owns Bistro Aix, Ovinte and Il Desco.
Klempf also watches over her father’s other investments as president of BAM Investment Group.
The name dates back to when she was growing up and when her father had an idea, he would exclaim, “Bam!”
The majority of her attention, though, is devoted to bringing the Chophouse to life.
Every decision goes through her. From construction details to the décor to the marketing and branding, they all will bear the younger Klempf’s vision.
“A project like Cowford takes managing a lot of small details and making sure they all work together to create a big picture,” she said.
The biggest learning experience for Klempf has come from being exposed to so many different fields and learning what it takes to get a project of this magnitude completed. It involves constant communication and teamwork.
Probably the most-asked question she gets is about when the restaurant will open.
After missing a few projected dates, her answer now about the massive undertaking is simple: “We’ll be opening only when it’s ready.”
While she lives in Riverside, Klempf spends a lot of time Downtown with her friends enjoying concerts, going to Jacksonville Jaguars games and attending other events.
She is encouraged by the success of Intuition Ale Works near EverBank Field, because she believes it is bringing people Downtown.
“When we were kids, my dad used to talk about going Downtown to the movies and doing different things,” she said. “We didn’t get to do that.”
The Chophouse is a project they envision as one of the jewels in the future redevelopment of Downtown, bringing more people and more interest to the city’s core.
“It’s exciting to be a part of this change and the future of the city,” Klempf said.
She’s happy she came home.
For those considering joining the Jacksonville boomerang movement, Klempf has two words: “Do it!”