It’s been 35 years since Brian Harsany got his first job in the restaurant industry, and he never looked back. Brian started busing tables and washing dishes in 1983 while in high school, and later went on to major in hotel and restaurant management at Florida State University. His degree and experience took him into management roles at various restaurants, both family and corporately owned businesses.
Then, in early 2006, everything started going to the dogs – and cats, in his case.
Several months prior to that, he’d begun developing a concept for his own restaurant. After he and his wife, Jodi, heard about a piece of property from three different friends – three days in a row – the two finally got in the car to check it out. They immediately saw potential.
The property was on Canal Road in Orange Beach, and the Harsanys planned to open just one restaurant, which they would name after their rescue dog, Cosmo.
“We know that everyone loves their dogs,” said Brian. “Also, the name allowed us to have any cuisine we wanted. If we had given the restaurant an Italian, French or Greek name, everything wouldn’t have jelled.”
Cosmo’s Restaurant and Bar opened in May 2006. The colorful and casual setting paired well with its large and eclectic menu, which could satisfy the palates of foodies to the pickiest of eaters.
It wasn’t long before Brian’s and Jodi’s business plans started growing along with their crew of four-legged family members. Luckily, the property around Cosmo’s afforded them plenty of space to expand.
By 2010, Cosmo’s retail selection had outgrown the space in the restaurant. That year, the Harsanys opened Maggie’s Bottle and ‘Tail, named after Maggie, another adopted dog. The gift and bottle shop is attached to Cosmo’s and sells T-shirts, jewelry, local artwork and merchandise for dog lovers. There’s also an extensive selection of wine and beer, which is available for sampling. They had a need for a venue where guests could hang out and have a drink prior to sitting down for a meal, so they added Maggie’s Parlor as neighboring tenants moved out.
In 2016 came Luna’s Eat & Drink, named after another dog, Luna, followed by Buzzcatz Coffee and Sweets. The original legal name was “Three Angry Cats,” because the Harsanys thought their cats might be angry that no businesses were named after them. However, they decided to make their “doing business as” name Buzzcatz, since “it’s catchy, fun and marketable,” added Jodi.
Jodi serves on the board of a local organization dedicated to improving the lives of animals – Orange Beach Animal Care and Control Program. She and Brian often host events at their businesses to support the group’s mission.
Jodi’s work with the animal program is just one of many community and environmental service groups in which the couple is involved.
Orange Beach City Councilman Jerry Johnson said, “No matter what it is, even if it’s the last minute – if we need catering or people to participate in cleaning an island, Brian and his team are always there. It’s really the culture they have created within their company.”
Brian agreed. “We do a lot of things with our employees in the community, so we can get them involved and they can get a good grasp on what it means to be part of a community,” he said.
They also focus on serving their employees, offering insurance, 401K plans and free exercise boot camps.
“We put ourselves in their shoes and offer them what we’d want to have,” Brian explained, adding that by taking care of their employees, they in turn take good care of their customers.
“It is vitally important that we always execute and give the experience that the guest is expecting when they step foot on our property,” Brian said.
Outside of the restaurants and businesses at the Canal Road campus, the Harsanys also own GTs on the Bay, a family-friendly restaurant and hangout on Wolf Bay, as well as Cobalt The Restaurant, which is nestled under the Perdido Bay Bridge.
“When we first opened Cosmo’s,” said Jodi, “I never imagined all of the opportunities we would have.”
Brian added, “It is our pleasure to be business owners here and to be so involved in our community.”
You can visit Cosmo’s Restaurant and Bar, Maggie’s Bottle and ‘Tail, Luna’s Eat & Drink and Buzzcatz Coffee and Sweets at 25753 Canal Road in Orange Beach; GTs on the Bay at 26189 Canal Road; and Cobalt the Restaurant at 28099 Perdido Beach Boulevard.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)