What’s in the water in Pensacola causing a revitalization as I have never seen? I had an inkling of what the catalyst was and set out to find it. I started on Palafox Street where we often go to the Saturday market to eat and shop with all the other happy people and dogs.
We headed for the Bodacious Olive, a place we’ve poked our heads in a time or two and I wanted to learn more about this interesting store at the corner of Palafox and Main Streets. I had scheduled a visit with Noelle White, Director of Retail Operations, to learn more. My suspicions were proven right but I had no idea of the magnitude.
It all begins with Quint and Rishy Studer. They are the secret sauce behind the metamorphosis in Pensacola. There are others, too, but the Studers are the catalyst. A little over ten years ago, they established The Studer Family of Companies with the goal of “improving the quality of life in the communities we serve.” In this case, it's Pensacola and Janesville, Wisconsin, their hometown. The Studer Family of Companies is a mission-based group of businesses that invests every dollar it earns, over expenses, back into their community.
Quint and Rishy wanted to revitalize downtown Pensacola into a place where businesses thrived, and people of all walks could gather and feel welcome. They authorized a study to determine where to start. It turns out the corner of Palafox and Main Streets was ground zero. They purchased the corner building that had been seriously damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and stood vacant until 2010 when they bought the property and began extensive rehabilitation to become the cornerstone for Pensacola’s revitalization.
Rishy Studer wanted to promote healthy living and brought elements of things found in larger cities to Pensacola. She opened Bodacious, the olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop that offers a collection of gourmet kitchen items, specially selected wines, cheeses and meats, gifts, event space, and cooking classes. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and always eager to help you learn about everything they feature.
Upstairs is the gourmet kitchen shop where I met Susan. She has been with Bodacious from its inception and is responsible for hand-selecting every item the store sells. The shop offers a beautiful array of specialty meats, cheeses, and other delectable goodies as well as custom-made charcuterie platters and a diverse selection of wines. Each week, wine vendors come by to meet with staff to discuss high-end to moderately priced varietals. “Teaching clientele is a big part of what we do,” says Noelle.
Next to the kitchen shop is the Events Kitchen where Bodacious cooking classes are held throughout the week, and the schedule of classes and events can always be found on the shop’s Facebook and Instagram sites. They have visiting chefs that cycle through teaching classes on making sushi and regional specialties. The focus is usually on healthy cooking.
The shop also hosts wine dinners once or twice a month and has a family-style table set up, so people get to know each other. To observe Halloween, Bodacious will host a Vampire Dinner on October 19 for $98 per person. “Enjoy a bloody good time!” it says on their Facebook page. The Events Kitchen may be booked for birthday parties, corporate retreats, and business conferences for up to 70 guests. They have one of the only public balconies in Pensacola and customers are welcome to enjoy the balcony the thorough out the day if an event is not being held.
Bodacious roasts its coffee beans in-house from beans sourced from all over and the coffee can be purchased at the store. Bubba’s Sweet Spot is next door, so named because of the Studers’ partnership with professional golfer, Bubba Watson. The store has handmade chocolates, candy, and ice cream. So Chopped is the salad bar café downstairs. The store also makes custom-curated corporate gifts during the holidays and takes orders throughout November.
The Studers are also revitalizing Pensacola through several event venues throughout the downtown area including 5eleven, and the Blue Wahoo Stadium on the waterfront a couple of blocks away, one of their busiest event venues.
The couple also opened Bodacious Book Store and Café on Intendencia Street which features a lighthouse inside and a children’s storytelling every Saturday morning. Book Club is every first Tuesday of the month. They established the Studer Community Institute which encourages early learning education before children reach school age, with the intent of making Pensacola “America’s first Learning City.”
The Spring is the entrepreneurial hub the Studers opened in Pensacola to help foster new business. Carmen’s Lunch & Tapas Bar next door to Bodacious has been voted Pensacola’s Best Lunch spot for the past nine years. The Studers held an online contest to bring a restaurant downtown just as Bodacious was opening and offered a year of free rent. Carmen’s won and the rest is history.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Studer Family of Companies continued to pay all employees throughout the pandemic, and they provide their employees with professional development opportunities and ongoing leadership training.
As I was leaving, I stopped by the Bodacious olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop and the staff encouraged me to sample some oils and blends. It was an enjoyable educational experience and, of course, I purchased a couple of bottles of each of the blends we tasted and have a new appreciation for the taste and benefits.
Throughout my visit with Noelle, I was struck by what two individuals can do to transform an entire downtown area by treating people well. It’s been their mantra for a long time, and it works. Their vision and leadership are certainly refreshing. They are a dynamic team, humble, and with a deep love for the community in which they live. You can see it all over Pensacola.
When you visit, be sure to notice the sculpture and historical plaque just outside the entrance to Bodacious. That’s Quint Studer’s dad!