What does Naples Rib Company have that other restaurants don’t? Great ribs, a good-looking restaurant, and one simple, yet maybe overlooked aspect: the heartwarming, welcoming staff. They are like family, a family who cares and works hard for one another. And no family would be complete without a vivacious, outgoing brother—that’s where Joel Palmer comes in.
Joel will be leaving Naples Rib Company to move to Knoxville, Tennessee. Joel took the time to sit down with us to talk about his time at the restaurant, the impact it’s made on his life, and what’s next for him.
Tatiana: How Long have you been working at Naples Rib Company?
Joel: I started Labor Day of 2009.
T: So that would make you how old?
J: 18 years old, right after I graduated and was going to city college. I actually interviewed against two other guys who had brothers who already worked here. I had two brothers working there at the time too.
T: Really?! And you beat them, right…
J: Yeah! I had no work experience, I didn’t even have a phone at the time. [Naples] called my home phone. I remember when I got the job, [my family] didn’t tell me I got the job. I actually thought I didn’t get it. I went to a church camp that weekend, no phones allowed, no internet, nothing. I came home that weekend to my mom saying, “Oh by the way you have work tonight.”
T: And what was your first role?
J: I was a busboy. I used to break things all the time.
T: All the time? It mustn’t have been too bad because they promoted you.
J: They did! I cut down on it that’s for sure.
T: That makes sense then. I know as we get older we tend to gravitate here and there to different jobs. What has made you stay all this time?
J: Honestly, you can make money anywhere, but this became more of a home than anything else. It was one of the first places outside my home that really felt like home. Everyone was super welcoming, and I think the one thing that really defines this place is: unconditional family. Doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from; everybody just enjoys each other’s company.
T: That is so cool and rare sometimes to find, especially in your first job.
J: Absolutely. And it helps that you also get a free meal and a free drink.
T: That I bet that does help! So you’re actually getting ready to start a new adventure.
J: I just need a culture shift and a change. I’ve been at Naples for nine years and in Long Beach for 27 years. And mix in other jobs, I’ve just been here too long in the city. And it’s a beautiful city, but I’m going to Tennessee.
T: And you’ll be in what city?
J: I’ll be in Knoxville. It’s going to be cool to be an oddity where people will go, “Hey you’re different. Where are you from?” I know nothing about it. I know EVERY street corner in Long Beach, just show me a picture of any place in this city and I can tell you where it is. It’ll be nice to go somewhere that I don’t know everything. It’ll all be a fun adventure.
T: What is something you learned at Naples Rib Company that you can take with you not just to a different state but anywhere you go in life?
J: The one thing I’ve learned here most is to generally respect everybody. I think there is such a culture barrier in a lot of restaurants between the kitchen and the front of the house. [Naples] has shown me how similar we are as people—it has given me such a fresh perspective in that sense. It’s all about how you treat people, and they are treated great here.
That fresh perspective is what makes Naples Rib Company the perfect place for family. It was started by a family who has maintained the mentality that every member of their staff is a crucial part of why Naples Rib works. When you lose a member it can be hard, and filing that spot is no easy feat. Joel is a significant presence who will be missed by those who frequent the restaurant often; but like any family, he will always have a home to come back to.
For more information on Naples Rib Company, including their menu and reservations, visit http://www.ribcompany.com/