This week’s vendor spotlight features 10 Questions with Stephanie Swanz, owner of Empamamas. Launched in 2016 as a food truck, Empamamas found a home at Armature Works in 2018. The establishment serves up not your average Empanadas, along with tacos, Bang Bang chicken tenders and more, in the North end of The Heights Public Market. The signature Tampa Girl, a Cuban sandwich stuffed inside a crispy, flaky empanada shell, has won multiple awards and we can see why. While we are temporarily closed, check out 10 Questions with Empamamas and be sure to give them a follow!
1. Where are you from originally?
Empamamas: I was born and raised in Tampa, FL but spent 13 years in Gainesville, FL for college and worked in hospitality after graduation … Go Gators! I decided to move back to Tampa in 2015 to start Empamamas
2. Why did you decide to pursue a career in the restaurant business?
Empamamas: I have been in hospitality ever since I can remember, so it was a natural fit. I love food, the energy of the business and most importantly love making people happy. More than the industry itself, I always knew I was destined to be my own boss. Entrepreneurship drives me and excites me more than anything else. Being in hospitality is an added bonus.
3. Can you tell us more about your concept?
Empamamas: Empamamas started in 2012 when I was working with a country artist helping with marketing and booking. I would make empanadas for shows as a means to bring acts together. I continued making them for friends and family who encouraged me to go into business for myself. I was good at my job, but I knew that being an entrepreneur was for me.
One day I woke up, sensed the time was right and decided I was ready to make it happen. I left a good job and moved back home to Tampa and start putting together a plan for Empamamas. I originally thought about focusing on catering but decided a Food Truck would be the best avenue for us. It provided me a way to take my product to people and not wait for people to come to us.
In 2017 we approached Armature Works about being a vendor and in 2018 were approved to be one. We have loved every minute of being at Armature Works and work hard to say thanks to everyone for their support, each and every day.
4. What three words would you use to describe your brand?
Empamamas: Unique – Playful – Strong
5. What are your three favorite menu items?
Empamamas: Tampa Girl “Cuban Sandwich” empanada
Chicken Tacos add Queso for the Chips
Bang Bang Fingers and Fries
6. What is your favorite menu item that no one knows about?
Empamamas: Bacon Wrapped Plantains with Yeehaw Sauce – We don’t carry these often, but they are so good. We do carry them on occasion and will update everyone on our socials when we do!
7. How do you see your business growing?
Empamamas: I plan to grow Empamamas one day at a time. People ask me all the time, why don’t you have more than one location already? The reason is because simply put I haven’t felt ready yet. I think sometimes businesses try to grow too fast. I personally think it is extremely important to build the foundation well before duplicating anything. I have worked diligently over the last four years to improve our processes, our business model, marketing, food quality and more. We’ve worked hard to get where we are now where growth makes good sense.
8. Why do you like having your restaurant at Armature Works?
Empamamas: From the moment I saw the blueprint for Armature Works, I knew it would be an absolute home-run. Armature Works has turned into Tampa’s most desirable food hall, event space and destination. Working as a food trucker for 2 years taught me how important a good location is and Armature Works simply put is the BEST. My favorite part of Armature Works is the opportunity to always capture new customers while serving our returning and most loyal friends at the same time.
9. What advice would you give someone who would like to open their own restaurant?
Empamamas: Don’t do it…. just kidding! The restaurant business is not for the faint of heart. The ups and downs can be stressful, the margins thin, and the day to day grueling. It also can be the best thing you’ve ever done. There is more to it than just good food. Your brand and message are going to be delivered just as much as your food is, make sure it is consistent, you know who you are, stay grounded and never stop telling your story.
10. Any messages to the community or anything else that you would like to add?
Empamamas: We want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who has continued to support us during this time. We cannot wait until the day Armature Works opens back up. In the meantime, we are temporarily operating out of King of the Coop in Seminole Heights. Visit the links below for pick-up and delivery options, gift cards, Tampa Girl tanks, hot sauce and more.
Follow Empamamas on Facebook here.
Follow Empamamas on Instagram here.
Follow Empamamas Website here.