BRANDON — Lennise and Omar Germany believe they have the essential ingredients to create and sustain what nearly a half dozen other businesses could not during the past 10 years at 905 E Brandon Blvd.
At least four restaurants and a gaming center tested the waters at this veiled location, that is set back from Brandon's busiest thoroughfare and hidden from the view of passing cars by a row of trees.
The couple has expanded its catering business, Livy O's, with a new physical location and event space they are calling The Studio. It's a lounge-type retreat with a New-Orleans vibe featuring brick walls that Omar individually placed, and low lighting as an ode to Lennise's grandfather who lived in NOLA.
Their secret sauce for success? Faith, food and family – featuring a flair for all of them.
"Every business that was here couldn't make it because they couldn't get traffic," Omar said. "It's not a problem for us because we don't rely on walk-in traffic. We bring the traffic."
The couple met in 2006 and in 2010 both left behind career-focused ambitions — Lennise from Tampa General Hospital and Omar from medical school — to pursue this family business.
It's named for the oldest of four children the couple have together. Olivia, 8, is nicknamed Livy and she has a trio of younger siblings: "little" Omar and twins Olena and Obree.
Jamaar and Key, older brothers from a previous relationship, also have helped inspire this truly family-owned and operated business where even the kids will work special events like weddings and banquets. Key is an aspiring chef in the culinary program at Riverview High School.
"Our goal is to keep families together," said Lennise, who credits God for much of Livy O's success.
That's why the Germanys expanded their private "At the Table" family dinner occasions to every second and fourth Sundays at The Studio.
At home, the event is what the children call "family meetings" and the only device allowed is the television remote.
Whoever is holding the controller gets to talk about their topic of choice and the rest of the family is required to listen.
At The Studio, Lennise wants to bring a touch of a restaurant experience with menu items of her choosing, since she's the one who prepares the family-style meals from Livy O's diverse menu.
Choices range from cold hors d'oeuvres like seafood deviled eggs to hot snacks like mini beef empanadas to soups, salads and entrees that include "kick'n bourbon chicken," mojo roasted pork shoulder and braised oxtails.
Omar said people often inquire if the African-American couple serves soul food. They do, but with a healthy twist. Lennise, a healthcare professional at heart, can't ignore that African Americans suffer from health-related diseases at a disproportionate rate.
"You don't have to put the whole pig in your collard greens," she said. "Instead of pork, use turkey; and olive oil instead of lard. Your heart and your taste buds will thank you."
The Studio at Livy O's features live entertainment every first Friday of the month and hosts cooking classes. Visit livyos.com or call (813) 494.0820.
offers expanded hours
More healthy food came to Brandon earlier this year as Lime Tree Produce brought an indoor farmer's market to the former Teacher's Helper building at 624 Oakfield Drive.
After a few months of being open, offering fresh, quality produce, Lime Tree Produce recently changed its hours to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Visit facebook.com/LimeTreeProduceBrandon/ for more information and coupons.
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