A couple of months back I visited the The Boathouse Restaurant in Disney Springs. I had an amazing experience, and in the process of writing an article about my experience there I had the opportunity to read about the history of the Boathouse and its visionary creator: Steven Schussler. Some of you might not know this but Steven Schussler is the man behind restaurants such as the Rainforest Café and T-Rex and the National Best-selling Author of “It’s A Jungle In There, Inspiring Lessons, Hard-won Insights and Other Acts of Entrepreneurial Daring.”
So when I was offered an opportunity to interview Mr. Schussler, I jumped on it. I didn’t really know what to expect. I don’t do interviews very often, and when I do it’s not with a businessman of his caliber, so I was a little apprehensive.
But before I get into my conversation with Steven Schussler, I want to give you a little background on the Boathouse. The Boathouse is a theme restaurant, following the same concept as the Rainforest Café where you have a meticulously decorated restaurant attached to a souvenir store, all designed to create an attraction that is an escape for the mind. When you are in one of Steve Schussler’s restaurant/attraction, you are nowhere else. Everything is designed to transport you and your family to a happy place where you will make memories.
On to my conversation with Mr. Schussler… He is a fascinating individual. A true creative. You don’t get to talk to too many people like him; people who create. He uses a laboratory in which working scale models of his amazing concepts are built and evaluated. There is always 6 or 7 concepts in the works, and at the moment it is Aerobleu. A unique restaurant/retail concept based on the 1939-1959 era. Steven points out that the most important thing that all his concepts revolve around is family. To Steven family is everything and providing escapism to the whole family is the ultimate goal.
The Boathouse is a reflection of Steven’s fascination with boat which he calls “floating pieces of artwork”. It is a concept where “Art Deco meets Nautical” with a Ralph Lauren feel. A unique concept attached to a retail store which as Steven explains was named the Boatique. The Boatique sells nautical themed souvenirs, including a bathroom ducks. The bathroom ducks were Steven’s idea and sold more than 7,000 units in less than 1.5 year.
In addition to the Boatique, there is another attraction at the Boathouse: Amphicars. Yes, you heard that right, amphibious cars. An abandoned car concept from 1962 that Steven Schussler brought back to life at the Boathouse (after a few safety adjustments, of course). Steven explained that Disney had reservations about amphibious cars in the beginning but after seeing the crowd’s reaction to the test car when first brought in, were instantly convinced.
Steven explained that the Boathouse boasts the largest kitchen in Disney Springs with over 6,000 square feet of space. No wonder the food is so good with a kitchen that size! Pair that with an experienced operator and you have the winning recipe that fuels the Boathouse.
After picking his brain about the Boathouse, I asked Steven the obvious question: Which is your favorite restaurant concept? I wasn’t surprised when he replied “you can’t pick a favorite in your children”. But when pressed a little he said that his favorite is always the latest running project, which at the moment is the Boathouse.
When asked about where his ideas come from he told me that they come from everywhere, from multiple life experiences. His mother was an artist and his father was a salesman, so maybe it is this combination of experiences that gave him his creative/artistic side and his ability to conceptualize great business ventures. The thing about exceptional people is that they never seem to really know why they are exceptional; and maybe that’s what makes them exceptional.
I walked away with a lot from this interview with Steven Schussler. We all hear motivational talk, we all read the motivational memes on social media, but it is a whole other thing to hear it directly from the mouth of someone who’s lived it. Someone who tells you that when you put your mind to something, however crazy it is, you can achieve it. I also learned that creativity still exists, and that if your idea sounds crazy to some you should keep at it until the world proves you right.
For more information, check out his site HERE.
Check out his book, It’s A Jungle In There.
Check out my article 4 Reasons to Visit the BOATHOUSE® in Disney Springs.™