An attorney, a real estate investor and a serial restaurateur walk into a bar … no, this is not the opening of a joke, it’s the reality of the founders of Next Level Brands.
The founding team is made up of Joseph Guggino, an attorney and investor, Andrew Wright, founder, chief executive officer and managing partner of Franklin Street, and Jeff Gigante, former co-founder of the Ciccio Restaurant Group, and the mastermind behind the roster of restaurants that have opened under the Next Level Brands name, including Forbici Modern Italian, Boulon Brasserie, and most recently, Union New American, the latter two of which were both designed by Montreal-based architecture firm Atelier Zebulon Perron.
BUILDING THE TEAM
Gigante brought in someone he knew had a mind for real estate and investment, Andrew Wright.
“Andrew basically said, ‘Look, Joe, I don’t know you, but if Jeff loves you, I’m going to love you.’ And then he said, “I have a great deal of confidence in Jeff. I want you guys to think about [it/this] do you want to have a restaurant? Or do you want to have a hospitality brand? Do you want to own a restaurant? Or do you want to build a company?” Guggino recalls.
WRIGHT GUY, RIGHT TIME
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Wright moved to Tampa after college when he was offered a job through a friend.
“It was the lowest-paying job offer, a sales intern position. But I went golfing at Westchase with a couple of my buddies and I hit a hole-in-one on the 11th hole. I’m a terrible golfer, I mean I’m not good now, but then I was atrocious … I took that as a sign,” Wright recalls.
For the next 10 years, Wright made a name for himself in the real estate world.
“In 2002, I started doing my own deals,” Wright says. “It was during the condo conversion craze. You would buy something for $100,000 and sell it for $200,000. It was just a great time and, as a midwestern kid coming from a solid middle-class background, all of a sudden, I’m making a ton of money. It was just crazy.”
With an entrepreneurial spirit, he says he always had, he began the business plan for his own firm, which he would name, Franklin Street, in 2006.
Named after a well-driven street in Tampa, the firm had name recognition nearly immediately. A testament to Wright’s genius way of thinking, which has served him well in his career.
“The Franklin Street business plan was to have your transaction business, your offensive business, but also to have your annuitized revenue. Your reoccurring income, that’s the stability of it,” Wright says.
Franklin Street now has hundreds of employees and nearly $10 billion in current transaction value. In 2023, he was named one of Florida’s most influential executives in Florida Trend Magazine’s “Florida 500” list.