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Local business credits Gainesville culture for its success

Local Gainesville business owner Melanie Floyd believes she found the key to success by creating an innovative business plan for her protein bar, Gainzville Hub, now entering its second year and thriving.

She believes that the key was creating an environment that not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but also a culture that sets it apart from its competitors.

Floyd, 34, opened the local nutrition business at the beginning of 2022 with her husband Manuel “Manny” Floyd, 39. Their goal was to start a business that unites their passions of nutrition and fitness with a loving culture based on building personal connections with their customers and staff.

“Protein bars you can find anywhere,” she said. “The culture is very hard to find, especially in Gainesville. What marks us differently is love, a different love. I saw an opportunity to make a difference in the community.”

Nestled in downtown Gainesville on Southwest Second Street, Gainzville Hub offers a cozy environment to relax, study and enjoy an assortment of foods. Customers can find classic protein shakes as well as protein smoothies in many flavors. Both are meal replacements. Açaí bowls, churros and waffles are tailored to the customers’ wants and needs, and they can choose from multiple fruits, drizzles and toppings.

Upon walking through the door, customers are greeted with drawings of hopscotch on the ground that lead them to the service counter. They never fail to be greeted with a “How are you doing? Talk to me,” by Floyd, as if she has known them her whole life. That’s the kind of culture that she pushes for in her business.

“It’s the culture that we have created,” she said. “It’s everything. Aside from this being our business, we don’t see people as a transaction. We see a person.”

University of Florida graduate Brittany Jones, 23, was a frequent visitor of Gainzville Hub during her college years. She makes sure to visit every time she comes back to Gainesville from West Chester, Pennsylvania.

“I genuinely always wanted to come back because the shakes are delicious and healthy,” Jones said. “But also, because I loved giving my business to such amazing people.”

The Floyds are quick to point out that culture is important but the products they sell must be top-notch. In contrast to many other local nutrition businesses, Gainzville Hub offers a unique variety of foods that leave customers wanting more. The restaurant is known for its high-protein, low-calorie options that are all plant-based.

UF sophomore Emily Paraiso, 20, is a frequent visitor of Gainzville Hub because of what she describes as their friendly environment and healthy foods. She also credits them for promoting a healthy lifestyle.

“They’re very active on their social media promoting healthy food options,” Paraiso said. “They’re happy to answer any questions about ingredients and focus on a high-protein selection.”

UF freshman Hamza Ahmed, 18, came to Gainzville Hub for the first time after a friend recommended it to him. Now, he has recommended and brought more of his friends so they can enjoy it. “I get the açaí,” Ahmed said. “The waffles are good too.”

The Floyds’ marketing-oriented business plan has resulted in gross sales have gone from $120,000 in year one to $300,000 in the past year.

Business plans haven’t always been successful for the family. The Floyds began their business career in their hometown of Miami.

She was an X-ray technologist at a hospital but decided corporate life may not be the way to go. She and her husband decided to open a protein bar inside a boxing gym.

When COVID-19 hit, the business suffered, and they had to let it go. Health is extremely important to the family which prompted this business idea.

“Nutrition leads to longevity,” she said. “You can have as much money as you want, you can have whatever career you want, but health and wellness will always be important.”

As inflation increased, they saw an opportunity to try their hand at their nutrition business once again, except this time, they wanted to try somewhere new.

“This was our ticket to do something adventurous, so we sold our property, we closed our eyes and picked a random place in Florida and landed in Gainesville,” she said.

Floyd received much criticism from many friends and family as they asked her why she would leave her stable job at the hospital to move to Gainesville. She said she didn’t listen to them and decided to go for what she wanted to do.

“I believed in ourselves,” Floyd said. “You can never go by other people’s opinions. You don’t let other people’s opinions determine your future. So we just went for it.”

Leaving their lives in Miami, the Floyds landed in Gainesville with no previous knowledge of the city. They wanted to be in a college town because of the diversity. Floyd said she credits the college students' energy that she “feeds off of.”

She also attributes the city of Gainesville’s support of small businesses as a driving factor in their decision to relocate here.

Success here was not overnight. As they began experimenting with recipes, they both came down with COVID-19, resulting in a loss of taste. They had to rely on the help and advice of other people to see if menu options tasted good. It took some time for the recipes to take shape, with their popular açaí bowls taking nearly two months to perfect.

With the success of their business, they were able to open a second restaurant on West Newberry Road called The Hub at Newberry. Gainzville Hub is well known as a husband-and-wife, family-oriented restaurant.

But the dynamic changed as the couple had to manage both restaurants. Floyd focused on Gainzville Hub while her husband managed The Hub at Newberry. As a result, they recently decided to close the second store, bringing the husband-and-wife team back together.

“What we created, it was Manny and me,” Floyd said. “We created this love, this family in Gainzville Hub, and the moment the second shop opened, people felt off when we weren’t together.”

The ups and downs for the Floyd family have been worth it in Floyd’s eyes as she said the business has affected them “emotionally, financially, mentally and spiritually.”

Her husband said this business also has affected their children’s lives.

“We’ve had to learn how to run a business with no previous experience,” he said. “Our kids' lives are impacted as well, and they’ve learned about hard work and how a business is run.”

In the future, Floyd said she has goals of multiplying, stating she “understands more about deciding location, demographics and understanding the finance aspect of it.” She also wants to open in other college towns.

As the business begins its second year, Floyd hopes for new adventures and partnerships, including opening within the UF campus.

“We want to leave a legacy by leading and showing the way to others,” Floyd said. “I also want Gainzville Hub to be an opportunity to taste new things, feel better and be more open towards the community of health and wellness.”

Kathryn is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.